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.