st range bri­gade

Is this co-op shooter a trea­sure, or a bit of a relic?

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Chris Burke

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.

Strange brew

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

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