Hands on | Strange Brigade

Strange Brigade was one of the first games I made my way to during EGX 17. The four-player cooperative title had piqued the interest of a few people on the team, specifically its mulitplayer nature combined with the turn-of-the-20th-century setting. I, however, knew little of the title.

Rebellion Developments hadn’t skimped on the stand at the show. The booth for Strange Brigade was designed to resemble an Egyptian tomb, complete with decorations and a model blimp floating above, as well as the obligatory wall-mounted screens for game footage. The set-up matched the level which was on show — a dusty Egyptian tomb, albeit one overrun by demons and undead guards.

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The game, for those unaware, feels like an odd blend of Left 4 Dead, Warhammer: Vermintide, and Gears of War‘s horde mode, all muddled up into an Age of Exploration setting which only occurred in pulp fiction — the echos of which we see these days in the likes of Buckeroo Banzai, Big Trouble in Little China, Indiana Jones, and Tomb Raider. That said, Rebellion themselves confessed that the game was designed as a hybrid of Left 4 Dead — as a heavy influence — and their own Zombie Army Trilogy, however it’s more that simply a hybrid. It’s fun.

Once you select one of the four characters — a Maasai warrior (the one I choose to play), engineer, soldier, or Oxford scholar, you are thrown into the action after a humorous cut scene explaining the situation. Strange Brigade blends surviving waves of old-school, supernatural enemies (mummies and a giant minotaur in the section I played) and figuring out its co-op friendly puzzles, a similar style to that of Tomb Raider. Strange Brigade can be played on your own, but just like Left 4 Dead it can also be played by having fun with other people.

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Rebellion also owns the comic book 2000 AD and has announced that they are doing a spin-off book of short stories from the game. It will cover all the adventures of Strange Brigade and how they came into being. I guess the idea with it is that if people latch onto these characters, and they like them, Rebellion will certainly take it a lot further. More game modes or DLC perhaps, but maybe stories in other mediums too.

Once you start playing Strange Brigade, you realise how tongue-in-cheek it treats itself. And as you’d imagine, each character has their own unique weapons and equipment, although none of them seem particularly powerful when you’ve got a horde of mummies trying to chew your face off. I was told that you can level up and customise both characters and weapons, but that wasn’t part of the demo so it’s impossible for me to say how much of a difference this will make. Instead, I focused on making use of many environmental traps (from spinning blades to fire pits) and powering up my special move, the meter of which is filled every time you cause damage. There are so many bad guys that in an intense battle it takes barely ten seconds to charge, which in turn allows you to keep your combo meter going almost indefinitely. For the character I played, her special move was a an area effect fire bomb centred on her which kept even the hardest enemies at bay long enough to take down.

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The section of the game we played was taken from the main story campaign, but the dev I spoke to has hinted that there are substantial other modes as well. However, he wouldn’t be drawn on whether any of them are competitive rather than co-operative, just that there are other modes to encourage that.

We don’t know exactly when Strange Brigade will launch, but when it does it is set to release for PC, Xbox One & PS4.

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