REVIEW – After giving us several years of Sniper Elite, Rebellion expands its deck with Strange Brigade, an addictive cooperative shooter that invites us to form a team and stand up to the infinite monstrosities and supernatural forces of Seteki, the Witch Queen.
Fun without too many complications: Strange Brigade is a simple and direct shooter, of those that lend themselves to invite friends and get to play immediately. There are no levels in between, nor too many obstacles to progress and unlock new maps and ways to play. The new thing of Rebellion turns completely in action, and the certain thing is that at that level it works very, but that very well.
We know that comparisons are often odious, but to give you an idea of the type of game that is we would say that it is closer to Left 4 Dead 2 than to Killing Floor 2 or Warhammer: Vermintide II. However, the idea of all of them is the same: survive countless hordes of enemies, using weapons, traps and powers. The parents of Sniper Elite walk the same path with complete ease as if they had worked in this type of game for years. Moreover, as a master chef, he also experiments with new ingredients: puzzles, special weapons or even the typical “treasure goblin”. All with good results.
Moreover, what kind of content do we have in Strange Brigade? The appetizer is a campaign of nine missions where we interpret the Strange Brigade that gives a name to the game: a small group of adventurers and investigators willing to take Seteki, the Queen Witch, back to the dark grave from which it left. Although it does not lack replayability, the highlight is undoubtedly the horde mode and a fun time trial component that will most likely keep you glued to the screen for a good few hours. If it does not seem enough, do not worry: its managers have already anticipated that they will update the game with free content in a monthly key, in addition to the season pass.
Crusade against horrors
Technically, you could install the game and start playing directly by the horde mode, but you know how it goes: normally, the starting point is the campaign. Moreover, at this point, I have mixed feelings. Everything about the gameplay seems very solid, well worked and in some aspects even outstanding; but to the narrative, I do not even find sense. Moreover, it seems that Rebellion does not take it very seriously and has no problems with jokes that makes you think if you wanted to make a story from the beginning.
Those who want to delve into the narrative can expand what is seen in the campaign with diary entries of the adventurers.
The fact is that each mission begins in grainy and black and white cinematics to get us into the heart of the matter, which is generally to learn more about Seteki before hunting him down. Then, the Strange Brigade unfolds in the jungle, temple or pyramid to complete the mission. There is an incredibly annoying narrator who accompanies us at all times, putting bad jokes with a shoehorn and commenting on our progress. Even those as foolish as getting an unlockable.
Everything else is frankly well designed and better executed: during the mission, the action is interrupted only with brief cinematic and some other joke, all of the good taste, fortunately, where we are presented with new enemies. We will not find any markedly open map, but all offer us the possibility to deviate a bit to find secrets, unlockables or potions, ammunition and money. Allow me to take a moment to underline how well you do here, okay? Because at this point it shines like few others.
When you play, say, Uncharted 4 or Rise of the Tomb Raider, you expect to find encrypted puzzles here and there. The action stops, you start to think, you solve the problem, and the same thing follows a section of shots or platforms. Strange Brigade similarly does this, but with a twist: the puzzles are much more dynamic and allow the player to solve them in their way. How is that? For example, adding a component of randomness (the puzzle is the same, but the resolution varies each time you enter the mission), giving you the opportunity to organise with your friends to solve it or maintaining the shootings during the resolution of the problem.
Let’s go with something more illustrative. In the first mission, there is a puzzle on a door (A) with three engravings, which you have to shoot in a very specific order, but that order is drawn randomly after a more distant door (B). You can not shoot from B to A, so you should memorize the code, take a picture of it or write it down on a piece of paper to play it on the first door. If you’re playing with a friend, he can either tell you the code directly or play a joke on you by telling you wrong. Almost all the puzzles in this game give us a small margin of freedom to solve our own way, and they are often incredibly funny. Even more so when you’re dealing with monsters at the same time you solve them.
This type of emergent and free gameplay is present throughout the game, encouraging us to be creative with the traps, talk with our friends and combine the destructive power of our entire arsenal. Of course, you can play the campaign or the other modes alone, but you will not take advantage of everything that Strange Brigade has to offer until you join one or more friends to play it. It is the kind of game that lends itself to challenging those who take it seriously and make those who do not laugh, and gives their best when you participate with people willing to play the way you do. As we say, it is not that everything can be taken as a joke, far from it.
The minotaurs do not charge front, but zigzag. Many enemies wear armour. Even a small zombie can do remarkable scratch damage if you’re not careful. Some have severed parts, others are slippery and carry treasures, and some very occasionally can carry a potion in their hand that they drop when they die. Strange Brigade does not have character levels or a complex progression, but gameplay deep enough to learn and overcome as you invest hours in it. We would have loved to see some sections of platforms here and there, perhaps a greater variety of weapons and tools, a more epic story or a component of personalization more interesting to consider it round.
That we say is very general, but we can go into more details if we talk about the horde or the time trial. In both cases, we sacrifice the narrative, the puzzles and the cinematic of the campaign for even more direct action if possible. In the horde mode, the ammunition and the potions are becoming increasingly scarce, and the game forces us to manage our resources with droppers: do you prefer to improve your weapons or unlock a building full of resources? The key, of course, is to coordinate with our partners and have some special weapon to turn the tortilla over if necessary.
The time trial mode is refreshing and fun, but only for a while. It offers us almost unlimited resources: energy for the talisman, traps, explosives, special weapons … practically everything you want. However, if you want to get the highest scores, you will have to perfect your reflexes to the maximum, and understand instantly how to get the most out of each trap. Sometimes, you will have to exploit a container, burn a vine, release a stone, fall on a pedestal … and so on. It’s fun, but it also tires quickly, and there are no rewards that motivate you to squeeze the best scores.
Regarding the technical section is worthy of praise, for its part: the scenarios are not very large or open (as noted above) but they are beautiful and varied. We would have loved to have a soundtrack at least of Indiana Jones style to accompany the campaign in its most relaxed moments, but in this sense, it is a very conformist title, which does the homework and little else. If you play on a computer, you will be happy to know that it is a fairly well-optimized game and that a mid-range graphics card will help you maintain the rate of images per second even at times when the number of enemies on the screen seems prohibitive.
+ Simple, direct and fun like few others. He has a great sense of action
+ The puzzles are varied, entertain and do not interrupt the rhythm
+ It has few modes, but they are all quite replayable
– A more careful narrative would have suited the campaign
– It lacks bosses and more varied and interesting sections
– With only three modes and without clear objectives, you can be repetitive
Publisher: Rebellion Developments
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Genre: Co-op horror-TPS
Release date: August 28, 2018