Strange Brigade is a parody of genres that has inspiration from all forms of media and not just other games. The presentation for the game is in the form of a classic TV Show where the main cast is a group of secret service agents who are on the hunt for popular archaeologist Edgar Harbin. It can give you a good dose of nostalgia with its story mode which begins with a simple discovery leading to a world-saving event. It is a multiplayer game with a strong focus on the co-op elements but there is thankfully a way to play offline as well.
Strange Brigade’s story mode offers a style similar to the 1930 era TV shows. The main story deals with the search for archaeologist Edgar Harbin who appears to have gone missing for days on one of his expedition. It is later revealed that he stumbled upon the tomb of a powerful queen from Sahara Africa, Seteki. She was brutal and unforgiving during her rule which forced her people to take arms for their freedom and they threw the government, sealing her soul in a tomb. This was accidentally opened thousand years later by the archaeologist Edgar Harbin that leads to his eventual death. His corpse is found in the first campaign mission for the game’s story mode which also introduces the players to Seteki.
The story mode in Strange Brigade is a mixed bag. It offers co-op mode with up to 4 players in the party, or you can also play it offline if you don’t have anyone to play together. I would absolutely recommend against doing it since this can make you hate the game instead of appreciating its design, which revolves around co-operative play. If the co-op element is removed altogether, the experience is rather dull since you kill a lot of the same enemies for the umpteenth time just to get to the next part of each campaign level. The good thing here is that the game keeps sending a new type of enemies along your way, which are all revealed in a cool intro the first time you meet them.
For most of the campaign missions, there is plenty of combat scenario mixed in with puzzles that will need you to co-operate with each other. There are time-limited puzzles requiring you to solve them quickly, or others which will need you to carefully analyze and work together with a partner to solve them. It gives a nice stop-gap between all the mindless horde killing that you have to do at certain points during the main story scenario. This is not to say that they are not fun, but there is a limit to how many times you can always kill the same enemy again and again.
My main complaint with the game was how clunky it controlled when we compare it to other third person shooters. I am beginning to think that it was entirely intentional from the developers because there is some similarity with the controls to their past games like Sniper Elite 4 and Zombie Army Trilogy. After all, this is a spiritual successor to their Zombie Army Trilogy, it makes sense for them to stick to the same gameplay design, but the animations could have given a little more work because rolling around and controlling the character makes you feel like they are on ice or a slippery surface.
As you play more of the game, the design starts to make sense. Strange Brigade has a tendency to get chaotic at times. It starts to throw out so many enemies at the players that it can get crazy. We are obviously not talking about a number reaching in the hundreds but still, there are more than dozens of enemies that can start to make you feel surrounded. The game even informs you if your co-op partner gets surrounded by the enemies so it feels rooted in the design. The shooting is satisfying and the third person targeting works fine although the weapon design is rather uninspired.
One thing that is immediately clear after playing the game is a lot of importance gets placed on the player’s movement. You move rather fast but running triggers automatically after walking for a while. This could work better with a manual button for sprinting but it goes well with the dodge roll that will come in handy during many tight situations. The enemy design itself is also rather disappointing and it feels like most are just minor variations with only 1 or 2 forms of attacks. There are a large variety of enemies available though, so when the game mixes them into a horde that you have to eliminate, it gets a lot less forgiving. That said, the shooting is fairly basic in execution. You have a standard primary and secondary weapon along with a weak melee attack that comes handy if you are running low on ammo.
Each character carries their own strength and weakness. They get a special amulet charge move that requires you to claim the souls of the slain enemies by keeping a button pressed. This reminded me a lot of Onimusha series. This amulet charge attack depends on the skills that you have unlocked for the character, but it can prove useful for fights with a tougher variety of enemies and can also clear a large group of them rather quickly. It is also easy to recharge this since you keep killing enemies leading to more souls and if you use this carefully, you won’t have to wait long between each move.
All said Strange Brigade is a fun co-op game that comes recommended if you want to experience something different from the battle royale craze this generation. It has a rather average shooting mechanics but the puzzles are well designed and can prove fun to figure out. There is also a basic upgrade system that also gets you to unlock new weapons, but this could have benefited with more unique types of the weapons. The replay value for the story is not that great if taken as a single player game. You can go through the main campaign level to find new relics and get gold for equipment upgrades, and then there is a horde mode along with score attack mode. Both these modes are good if you have friends or a partner that can tag with you together to play through them.
Strange Brigade Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Strange Brigade is a cooperative third-person shooter video game developed and published Rebellion Developments. It was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on August 28, 2018.
This is a breath of fresh air in the current online-focused battle royale infested games market. Strange Brigade tries to mix third-person shooting with a dose of puzzle solving and it does that with an emphasis on co-op. The design of the game is rather bland when played alone but as a co-op game, it has a strong foundation that is both chaotic and tons of fun.