At first glance, there’s not a lot that a pugilist from Lancashire, a demon hunting Maasai warrior from Kenya, a British soldier of fortune and an Oxford scholar with a passion for the ancient past have in common. However, in Strange Brigade by Rebellion this peculiar foursome make up the secret division of the same name that is funded by the Department of Antiquities. The purpose of the Strange Brigade is to find and eliminate any mystical threats to the interests of the British Empire. As luck would have it the Witch Queen Seteki, who was overthrown and sealed in a nameless tomb by her people 4000 years ago, was recently dug up by an archaeologist. The Queen’s spirit did not wake up in a good mood and it is up to the Strange Brigade to prevent her and her army of the undead from taking over the world.
Rebellion has already shown that they know how to craft a great co-op shooter with the release of Zombie Army Trilogy and Strange Brigade builds upon this formula. The game is set in the 1930s and fully embraces the adventure serials of the time. The game can be played alone, of course, but it was clearly designed for a team, which is where it really shines. Players must make their way through treacherous ruins while killing the undead, solving some puzzles and collecting all the treasure that they can find. The game shares a lot of similarities with the Zombie Army titles but has plenty of new tricks up its sleeve as well.
Strange Brigade is played in the third person, which allows players to see their chosen character in action. However, the differences between the characters are more than just cosmetic too. For example, Archimedes de Quincey, the former scholar, is the only one who can open Ancient Alcove Doors, while Frank Fairburne is not just tougher, but can cause splash damage with his headshots. These four initial characters were later joined by four more DLC characters who are also included in the Deluxe Edition of the game. These included a Texas cowboy, American aviatrix, Japanese naval officer, and Maharani huntress.
Each character in Strange Brigade has access to a primary weapon, handgun as well as grenades and a unique amulet. The amulet is charged by collecting the souls left behind by slain enemies and can then be used to perform a special attack. Some of these special attacks definitely feel more useful than others, but new amulets can be unlocked via skill points that are earned through the discovery of relics. The game features several different period-appropriate weapons for the characters, such as the Audley A40 Examplar, Gehri-Delgane S1, .303 Huntsman, Eastleigh M1 and more.
There are also a few special weapons such as crossbows and blunderbusses that can only from special chests if you have enough gold. These weapons only last until they run out of bullets, though, and cannot be reloaded from ammo caches like other guns. You can, however, upgrade your normal weapons with special gems that are hidden away in treasure chests. Each weapon has a limited number of slots for gems, so you’ll need to pick which combinations of speed, armor-piercing, life-stealing, bullet ricocheting and other abilities you want for it.
The enemies you face range from the usual mummified corpses to skeletons, giant scorpions, minotaurs and other undead miscreants. They are a surprisingly resilient lot, so aiming for the head and throwing your explosives, dynamite, Molotov cocktails or whatever other grenades you have equipped is recommended. However, each level also features a handy assortment of traps that can be used to thin out the hordes somewhat. All of them can be activated with a quick shot and watching enemies get impaled by floor spikes, burnt to a crisp by flame traps or decimated by spinning blades is quite satisfying. Just be careful if you are playing with friends as they are also susceptible to trap damage. The game even tries to lure you over to the dark side by including a Steam achievement for killing a team member with a trap! Don’t worry, though, as you can quickly revive friends by freeing them from the nearby sarcophagus where they end up after death.
In addition to shooting hordes of enemies Strange Brigade also slows down occasionally for a spot of puzzling solving and item collecting. Although the levels are quite linear you will notice a couple of paths branching off towards hidden areas. These require you to solve a quick puzzle before you can plunder the riches that they hide. Generally, the puzzles only require you to pay attention to your surroundings to find whatever combination is required to open a door, but you’ll also run into memory match and pipe-dream style puzzles occasionally. What is more puzzling, though, is how the game shares things between players. Coins are required to buy new weapons or unlock certain things, but gold is not shared between players, which means tempers can flare if you end up with a greedy person on your team. On the other hand, The relics, hidden cat statues and reading material that can be found are shared between players. Then, strangely enough, the hidden canopic jars dotted around the levels are not shared and whoever finds them will have to point them out to other players. The inclusion of all these collectibles does give the game some replay value and with three difficulty settings, they make for a good excuse to play through the campaign again on a harder setting.
The season pass for Strange Brigade adds three campaign levels to the game and these are just as good as the ones in the main campaign. The levels in Strange Brigade are quite beautiful and each one is packed with a ton of detail, especially when using the highest visual settings. The adventure will take you through hidden valleys, dig sites, abandoned tunnels, ancient shrines, remote mountain villages and more before a showdown in a very unique location. While all these level looks great there is a bit of a sameness to them, which is unfortunate. This is especially noticeable when you reach the pirate section of the game. Here the game takes a break from all the Egyptian stuff for some Pirates of The Caribbean inspired action, which looks and feels very different to the rest of the levels. It also shows what would have been possible with a bit more variety.
The game allows players to choose between DirectX12 and Vulcan for the visuals, which is a nice touch and the details for everything from the textures to the shadows and reflections can be adjusted. Players can also enable or disable features like motion blur, ambient occlusion, tessellation, and obscurance fields to get a good balance between visuals and framerate. From a technical standpoint we did not encounter any bugs in the game and everything, including the online co-op, ran without a hitch. Rebellion has done a great job with the audio in Strange Brigade as the music is a good match for the setting and pulp serial feel of the game. Characters also have their own quips, but it is the very British narrator with his penchant for alliteration that steals the show. He has a quip for virtually everything the Strange Brigade does as well as irrational hatred of cats that frequently had us laughing out loud.
The controls in Strange Brigade will be pretty straightforward although to anyone who has ever played a third-person shooter before, but the game does have a few quirks in this regard. Firstly, there’s no way to hip fire in this game, so you have to aim down your sights before you can shoot. Thankfully, there is an on-screen indicator that will alert you to enemies creeping up on you while you are aiming. Secondly, there’s no run button, so you have to hold down one of the movement keys until your character starts running. More alarming is the fact that the “throw grenade” button is tied to the “Shift” key, which most players associate with running. We had to remap this key to prevent us from accidentally lobbing a grenade while trying to sprint away from enemies. Finally, players can perform a dodge roll with a quick tap of the spacebar, which is handy for evading enemies.
Overall, Strange Brigade is a great game, but to get the most out of it you really need to team up with some friends for the co-op action. There’s still fun to be had in single-player, but it can’t really compare to the co-op, provided you play with people who co-operate instead of grabbing all the gold and health potions. Even after completing the campaign there still “Horde” mode and “Score Attack” modes that provide some additional fun. We also recommend getting the Deluxe Edition of the game as the additional DLC maps are definitely worth it. There’s nothing revolutionary about the game, but it does provide plenty of action-packed fun.
- OS: 64-bit Windows 7, 64-bit Windows 10
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 2200G or Intel CPU Core i3-2100
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 7870 (2GB) or NVIDIA GeForce 750 Ti (2GB)
- Storage: 35 GB available space
- OS: 64-bit Windows 7, 64-bit Windows 10
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or Intel CPU Core i7-3770
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: AMD Radeon RX570 or Nvidia GPU GeForce GTX 1070
- Storage: 35 GB available space