The Bri­tish Empire goes to war against the un­dead


THE FACT THAT the Bri­tish Empire hosted an in­ter­na­tional team of para­nor­mal trou­bleshoot­ers—em­pha­sis on shoot­ers —is un­recorded in the his­tory books. Thanks to Re­bel­lion, then, a de­vel­oper whose com­mit­ment to his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy can­not be ques­tioned, es­pe­cially af­ter the tes­ti­cal- shoot­ing grat­i­fi­ca­tion of Sniper Elite, for bring­ing it to light.

Strange Brigade is a co-op shooter pit­ting you against swarms of Egyp­tiant hemed zom­bies, and as such loses some­thing if played solo. It’s also ag­gres­sively Bri­tish, with three of the ini­tial four char­ac­ters com­ing from the heart of the Empire, while the fourth, a bit of a stereo­type, is from a col­o­nized coun­try. A pre-order ex­clu­sive ex­tra char­ac­ter adds di­ver­sity, while the first DLC char­ac­ter—an all-Amer­i­can rodeo rider—has al­ready been an­nounced.

The game seems de­signed to drain your wal­let, as the trickle of free ex­tra maps is dwarfed by the “sea­son pass” con­tent, avail­able for a few bucks each.

There’s a plot of sorts, with mys­te­ri­ous go­ings-on in Egypt and miss­ing ar­chae­ol­o­gists be­com­ing a case for the Strange Brigade. The team’s at­ti­tude to the un­dead is to shoot them in the head first and ask ques­tions later, which is just as well, be­cause they come in thick swarms, pro­pelled by the magic of a rein­car­nated death god­dess.

Each char­ac­ter car­ries an amulet that is pow­ered up by the souls of the newly re-dead, and can re­lease a slightly dis­ap­point­ing area-of-ef­fect at­tack, which varies from char­ac­ter to char­ac­ter. More ef­fec­tive are the recharg­ing grenades, which can rain fiery ex­tra-death on the hordes ev­ery 30–40 sec­onds. Weapons are lim­ited at first—of course, there’s an ex­tra weapons pack for a small fee—but are up­graded with gems, if you find them.

One char­ac­ter—the pro­fes­sor—is bet­ter at find­ing trea­sure than the oth­ers, so be­comes es­sen­tial if you’re look­ing to make money. Chests open for a fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion, dis­pens­ing se­condary weapons that are highly ef­fec­tive, but im­pos­si­ble to reload. Solo play­ers, al­ready pe­nal­ized for try­ing to play a co-op game alone, have to spend ad­di­tional time hunt­ing along all the mul­ti­ple routes through the lev­els, though the tim­ing-based puz­zles that must be solved to progress make al­lowances for run­ning speed. Some AI bots to help you out would have been a nice touch, as would the in­clu­sion of split-screen co-op—the lat­ter very much out of fash­ion, as it not only takes more re­sources to run on the host PC, but be­ing on­line only, forces all play­ers to buy their own copy of the game.

Bat­tles come down to arena fights against the un­dead, who pour through ev­ery en­trance. The area-of-ef­fect weapons and en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards, such as sus­pended spiked logs and whirling death blades, make thin­ning out the num­bers eas­ier—as does the ten­dency of ranged en­e­mies to stand next to ex­plo­sive bar­rels, some­thing that has quashed many a videogame civ­i­liza­tion.

Strange Brigade is beg­ging to be played in a party of four, but even two friends can have a blast tak­ing down the mum­mi­fied men­ace. It’s bare-bones for now, but re­peated play to power up and swal­low­ing some DLC should make for a com­pelling co-op ex­pe­ri­ence.

Spe­cial weapons, such as this blunderbuss, give huge fire­power but can't be reloaded.

Puz­zles aren’t that chal­leng­ing, but are anice dis­trac­tion.

An­cient dry ban­dages are in­cred­i­bly flammable.

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