Strange Bri­gade

Be­longs in a mu­seum.


Deep in the bow­els of a sa­cred tem­ple, my buddy has been stabbed to death. An an­gry mummy – com­pletely and right­fully pissed off that a bunch of dicks are steal­ing their gold – is chew­ing on his face un­til his corpse dis­ap­pears. He reap­pears in a sar­coph­a­gus near me. I open the door, and out he pops, good as new, back into the fight. He shoots the mummy that had pre­vi­ously killed him be­fore the un­dead sap can climb off the tiles.

When it comes to mak­ing ex­cit­ing com­bat mo­ments, an in­stant-respawn sar­coph­a­gus isn’t ideal. Any other co-op shooter would have play­ers fall wounded to the ground, un­able to get up un­til a friend fights their way over and ap­plies a ban­dage. This forces play­ers to stick to­gether. It’s ex­cit­ing, it mixes things up, it forces play­ers to stay mov­ing.

The sar­coph­a­gus, by con­trast, tele­ports a dead team­mate out of trou­ble and into the back of the room. I was stand­ing next to the sar­coph­a­gus, shoot­ing zom­bies and ca­su­ally hit­ting a but­ton to bring friends back to life. It’s a weak way for a game to en­cour­age team­work. Then again, that’s how Strange Bri­gade han­dles most things.

Four ad­ven­tur­ers – a mer­ce­nary, a pro­fes­sor, a war­rior and a me­chanic – walk into an air­ship. This is the Strange Bri­gade, a team that goes a-plun­der­ing, raid­ing tombs, solv­ing puz­zles, and shoot­ing the un­dead. Each mis­sion helps un­lock bet­ter weapons and new spe­cial abil­i­ties so the Bri­gade can kick more ass on the next mis­sion.

The raid-loot-up­grade loop is a com­fort­able one, but I’ve never seen it look as sparse as it does here.

The char­ac­ters are more or less iden­ti­cal, so no mat­ter who you pick, you can use the same equip­ment. This flex­i­bil­ity makes sense, ex­cept any­one can be any char­ac­ter in any game, even if that char­ac­ter is al­ready taken.

For such a sim­ple con­cept, it’s amaz­ing that Strange Bri­gade is fun at all. A lot of it comes down to the shoot­ing - Re­bel­lion spent a lot of time fine-tun­ing its guns with the Sniper Elite series, so each shot feels punchy. The en­e­mies all started look­ing the same af­ter a while, but the most im­por­tant thing about a horde is its size. Sur­viv­ing against huge odds, reach­ing the end just as I’m down to my last hand­ful of ammo, is al­ways a thrill.

Strange Bri­gade takes place in Egypt, in a rip-roar­ing fantab­u­lous news­reel ver­sion of the ’30s. There’s a strange ra-ra jin­go­ism go­ing on. But the set­ting is mostly an af­fec­ta­tion, an ex­cuse for Re­bel­lion’s scriptwrit­ers to re­ally rub on the raz­zle daz­zle.

En­joy­ing Strange Bri­gade de­pends on how much fun I can have with my friends, and noth­ing at all to do with the game. And that’s too bad, be­cause my friends will fol­low me around to bet­ter games – games where the ad­ven­ture has some­thing to say and the ac­tion has new ideas to ex­plore.

I be­gan to ache for a new idea, a sur­prise that would pull me back in

The pow­er­ful blast of the shot­gun has a pleas­ing, chest-deep BOOM to it

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