Strange Brigade Review

Life is a stressful experience for pretty much everyone. It’s the reason for the massive scale and longevity of the entertainment industry, athletics, and, of course, games. There’s a wonderful sort of catharsis in channeling your stresses into a virtual world and leaving them there when you finally decide to turn it off. Sometimes, those games are artistic thought experiments, meant to make you think about the universe and existence. Sometimes, though, it’s just fun to blow stuff up and feel like a superhero. Strange Brigade is an example of the latter: an unpretentious action game where you can mow down hordes of enemies with a big dumb grin on your face. Strange Brigade even manages to make you laugh while you do it. The game’s humorous writing and satisfying gameplay, combined with its excellent multiplayer-conducive design, make for a thoroughly entertaining experience both in single and multiplayer.

The game takes place in the 1930’s and features a four-person group known as the Strange Brigade, who are on a mission to defeat the evil Egyptian witch-queen Seteki, stopping her from doing the typical witch-queen thing and taking over the world with her horde of undead minions. This mission brings our zeppelin-riding group of heroes through Egyptian ruins, caverns, and run-down towns, mowing down swarms of reanimated corpses along the way.

Horde Mode is a Blast

The horde-fighting is the most prominent gameplay feature, and it is well-suited to fill that role. The sizes of the hordes are rarely more than you can handle, but they will certainly keep you on the edge of your seat as you dodge-roll to safety. To handle the massive hordes, though, you will have to be crafty, using your explosives and the traps around the battlefields to eliminate large chunks of enemies all at once, baiting groups into position before blowing them to kingdom come with an explosive barrel or the like. The desperate searches for health potions and fears of being gored by a charging Taurus are melted like butter when a well-timed trap activation sparks a chain reaction of explosions, brazier-emptyings, stalactite-fallings, and giant-blade-spinnings, killing dozens of mummies in a matter of seconds. However, not all of the enemies you face will be the jerky-skinned mummies of the early games. You will also find yourself locked in heated battle with giant animate statues, skeletons, pirate skeletons, pirate skeleton ghosts, and more. The game has style, and it has a special way of addressing all of these enemies in unique fashion.

We’ve shotgunned zombie hordes to death in plenty of games, but what sets Strange Brigade apart is its stellar writing and its narrator. The omnipresent orator has a particular penchant for a certain speaking style. His alliteration adoration is initially irritating but eventually endears the persistent player with hilarious hamming of similar syllables. It doesn’t hurt that what he says is actually funny too. The game even takes a page out of the Stanley Parable playbook. If the player stands still for too long the narrator will remark, getting sassy and huffing about the player ignoring him. Once the player begins moving again, the narrator greets them happily, offering them an achievement to show that there are no hard feelings.

Rinse Repeat

There are a couple of issues I have with the game. The gameplay is a bit repetitive; you fight a horde of mummies, move to the next area, and fight another. The melee can feel a bit bizarre. As satisfying as it is to send a mummy flying back with a swift smack to the jaw, the snap to the fixed animation that plays whenever you punch is a bit jarring, and makes the whole ordeal feel clunky. Not only is it disorienting, but the overlong follow-through leaves the player open to attacks from other enemies in the event that they overestimate their reach. It can also be a bit bizarre that the narrator always calls you ‘Brigade,’ even if you’re playing single player.

There are some balancing issues as well. Dynamite takes an eternity to detonate, making it practically useless in a fast-paced battle. Sniper rifles have little purpose in a game where the majority of enemies are fought at close range and hitboxes are tightly wrapped around their scrawny, atrophied bodies. These balancing issues do limit the effective character loadouts, which were already quite limited. Content in general could afford to be expanded, especially if it’s on the level of the current game. The stuff that’s there is great, but there’s not enough there to make it feel like a great game. Even in the form of DLC, additional campaigns would be well-received. Exploring different themes with the same characters would be an absolute joy. This IP has a lot of potential. I just hope Rebellion capitalizes on it properly. Right now, though, content is a little lacking.

Strange Brigade minotaur

Strange Brigade brought me the most laughs of any game I’ve played in a long time and really packs the fun to boot. The narrator’s wit brings so much personality to a premise that we’ve seen before that it feels like an entirely new experience. The style and aesthetic of the game reflects the layer of polish that can be felt in the level design and combat (barring the bizarre snap-to melee) and adds to the player’s lighthearted destruction of the undead masses. As usual, a major part of my decision of whether or not to recommend that you buy the game comes down to the price and what you’re getting for your money. Strange Brigade is certainly fun in multiplayer and otherwise, and from a gameplay perspective I would love to recommend the game. However, I’m conflicted on a monetary level. For the amount of content offered by the game, $50 comes off as a bit steep, but at the same time, it’s rightfully not the full $60 standard. I’ve certainly paid for and played far worse games for their full $60 price tag, but I probably wouldn’t buy most of them again. Knowing what I know about Strange Brigade, would I buy it for $50? Probably, yeah. I had too much fun with the game to justify not recommending the game. If you have $50 you can part with, and you’re looking for a fun multiplayer or even solo shoot-em-up, Strange Brigade will not disappoint.

***PS4 review code was provided by the publisher***