STRANGE BRI­GADE

Look at me, mummy! Now stay still while I shoot

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTENTS - Jim_Crikey

The ti­tle sounds like a name an emo band would give their fan­base, but no! The epony­mous bri­gade of strange­ness is, in fact, His Majesty’s Su­per Se­cret Ser­vice (okay, that’s not the ac­tual name, but it should be). En­gag­ing in rip-roar­ing ad­ven­tures in the 1930s, the quar­tet is called in to bat­tle (with guns) an an­cient evil, and you’re com­ing along for the ride. The aes­thetic, all sun­shine and sandy an­cient civil­i­sa­tion (com­plete with im­prob­a­ble mech­a­nisms) is rather Un­charted. Game­play, how­ever, is firmly in co-op shooter ter­ri­tory. You may have al­ready de­cided that you know ex­actly what to ex­pect here and, to an ex­tent, you’d be right. But Strange Bri­gade has a few tricks up its im­pec­ca­bly tai­lored sleeve.

The fun­da­men­tal cy­cle is typ­i­cal of the genre. You progress ever-for­ward through a level pep­pered with en­e­mies, trig­ger a wave of foes ev­ery now and then that you have to de­feat be­fore you can move on, and over­come a boss fight and/or siege event at the end. All of that is done well, but it’s the ex­tra touches that en­sure it stands out. Un­usu­ally for the genre, it’s played from a third-per­son per­spec­tive, though this shouldn’t be a huge sur­prise from the de­vel­oper of Zom­bie Army Tril­ogy. This of­fers a wider field of view than usual, a small but im­por­tant boon in a game that throws dozens of en­e­mies at you from mul­ti­ple an­gles. What’s re­ally un­usual – and equally wel­come – is the ef­fort Re­bel­lion’s put in to present the cam­paign as a sin­gle-player ex­pe­ri­ence.

CAM­PAIGN MAN­AGER

There are story cutscenes be­fore, dur­ing, and at the end of each level (they’re all skip­pable, don’t panic). The nar­ra­tor will also reg­u­larly chip in with tongue-in-cheek com­ments dur­ing play, yet this is only the be­gin­ning. The lev­els could eas­ily have been de­signed solely with off­line play in mind, be­ing full of paths and cor­ners to ex­plore or ig­nore as you wish, and mul­ti­ple puz­zles (some op­tional, some not). It’s a cam­paign with meat on its bones.

The all-im­por­tant com­bat and van­quish­ing of mytho­log­i­cal beast­ies is, thank­fully, great fun. Each of the four char­ac­ters has a few unique at­tributes, and a unique amulet power charged by killing en­e­mies and then ab­sorb­ing their souls (er, we are the good guys, right?). For ex­am­ple, the ex­cel­lently-named Pro­fes­sor Archimedes de Quincey can find some loot the oth­ers can’t, pre­sum­ably thanks to his back­ground as an ar­chae­ol­o­gist, and has an amulet that un­leashes scarabs that home in on en­e­mies. Plucky Lan­cas­trian Gra­cie Braith­waite, mean­while, has an amulet that drags an en­emy in for a pow­er­ful melee

“FULL OF PATHS TO EX­PLORE OR IG­NORE, AND MUL­TI­PLE PUZ­ZLES.”

strike, and sees her grenades recharge faster. In most re­spects, though, all mem­bers of the bri­gade han­dle the same.

You carry one pri­mary weapon, one in­fi­nite-ammo pis­tol, and one grenade type. Every­body has ac­cess to the same ar­moury, and there are op­por­tu­ni­ties to change your load­out dur­ing a level if you find it’s not work­ing out for you. You can find gems that act as weapon mods (good), though the weapons them­selves don’t vary as much as you might hope (bad). Strange Bri­gadely enough, I don’t re­ally care.

STRANGER DAN­GER

Whether you’re play­ing a story level or one of the Horde stages, there are plenty of en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards around to help you out. An im­por­tant part of the ex­pe­ri­ence, there are spin­ning blades, flam­ing floor pan­els, ex­plo­sive bar­rels (this is a videogame, af­ter all), and fiery lamps to shoot and thin out the num­bers with. But, uh, try to make sure your team­mates aren’t too close when you trig­ger one of these toys. They won’t thank you if they are.

Speak­ing of the team, about 90% of my time so far has been spent play­ing solo (read my in-depth on­line re­view next is­sue), which is tes­ta­ment to how much fun it can be off­line. But here’s the thing – there’s no friendly AI. Play off­line, and you’re on your own, with the nar­ra­tor reg­u­larly com­ing out with lines such as “well done, team!” that’ll make you feel piti­fully lonely. Whether you’re be­ing strange alone or with oth­ers, how­ever, it’s a bri­gade worth join­ing.

A lovely place for a hol­i­day. Apart from all the un­dead out for your blood.

INFO

FOR­MAT PS4 ETA OUT NOW PUB RE­BEL­LION DEV IREBELLION

Be­low En­e­mies lunge when they get close. Keep ’em at bay with your boom­stick!

Right Sur­vival is al­ways eas­ier with a friend or three (and well-placed oil lamps).

Above left You’ll find these cat stat­ues through­out the game. Shoot them!

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