st range brigade
Is this co-op shooter a treasure, or a bit of a relic?
Mummy! There are a lot of undead creatures wrapped in bandages coming towards us, and we’re down to our last bit of health before it’s bye-bye daft British colonial-era adventurer chap. Luckily, our three hardy companions are on hand to help knock these dead Ancient Egyptian blighters for six, and sally forth for some more rip-roaring adventures in Rebellion’s tongue-in-cheek co-op shooter. Tally ho, and put the kettle on.
‘Old fashioned’ is the best way to describe Strange Brigade. Stylistically it’s pitched somewhere between Indiana Jones and the 1930s chapter-serials that inspired his films, and the tea-and-crumpets Britishness of old Boys’ Own adventure stories. The gameplay itself is also comfortingly familiar, in the way that ‘old fashioned’ things usually are. Fundamentally it’s a Metroidvania style puzzle-shooter involving zombies. Not exactly the most out-there premise in Xbox-land. But where it doesn’t exactly innovate so much as get things right, is in its four-player experience, as you and three mates run around blasting mummies and giant scorpions with blunderbusses, revolvers and clonky old sub-machine guns.
The Strange Brigade are mysterysolving mercenaries who have left the drab grey, austere reality of 1930s Britain to travel the world in a giant airship, parachuting into a colourful Africa not to colonise the shit out of it, but rather fight hordes of undead that have been raised by a malevolent Ancient Egyptian Witch Queen.
The core team comprises a bloke’s bloke, soldier Frank Fairburne; posh but kick-ass scholar Archimedes de Quincey; painted female Maasai warrior Nalangu and Rosie the Riveter-style engineer Gracie Braithwaite. Each character has a unique ‘ultimate’ power courtesy of a magical amulet, plus their own melee attack, but each is as capable in a fight as the next.
Their mission is to defeat the Witch Queen, via puzzle solving and killing (re-killing?) everything that comes at you. It’s not deep storytelling, but it is helped along by an over-the-top narrator with a plummy Pathé-News voice whose near-constant stream of commentary veers from the useful to the sarcastic to the actually-shut-up-now. The Strange Brigade themselves aren’t short of perky dialogue either, as they express their delight at finding ammo or treasure, pull off a head-shot or unleash their special moves. It’s a talkative game, alright.
But really, it’s about shooting everything in sight, for which there is a broad variety of death-dealing weapons, from your basic revolver to several types of machine gun and heavier weaponry like flame throwers and blunderbusses. The undead are