Review: Strange Brigade is poised to be one of 2018’s best sleeper hits

DISCLAIMER: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Platform: Xbox One, PS4, and PC

Developer: Rebellion

Publisher: Rebellion

MSRP: $49.99

Rebellion has always been one of my favorite developers. They sort of fly under the radar, creating double-A games like the Sniper Elite franchise which feature awesome gameplay and fantastic levels. This time around, they’ve moved towards a new IP known as Strange Brigade that serves as a love letter to old-school serials.

Rebellion’s ensemble piece puts players in the shoes of one of four explorers on an adventure in the 1930s to secure various ancient treasures in Africa and even save the world from a potential supernatural threat. Think Indiana Jones meets The Mummy, it’s a light-hearted tale filled that uses its unique aesthetic to present an otherwise fairly basic story in a fun and engaging way.

Using black and white filters in some cutscenes, fonts reminiscent of those used back in 50s/60s horror movies, and much more, Strange Brigade sucks you into its world. Rebellion has captured that almost campy feeling you get from really old films of this nature through visuals, dialogue, and voice acting.

Rebellion has also incorporated a great sense of humor into the game via an almost fourth-wall breaking British narrator cracking wise as you play. It gives the game a great sense of character and makes it one of the most pleasant games I’ve played this year. While I wouldn’t say the story itself is anything particularly incredible, it serves as a vessel for a really fun adventure.

As you make your way through the game, you travel to new locations within Africa to wander through ruins where you’re constantly engaging in puzzles, hordes of the undead, and other deadly threats. The core gameplay is pretty simple and I was personally worried it wouldn’t click with me but it threw me back to the days when I used to play Call of Duty’s zombie mode.

That thrill of slowly walking backward as you unload on the monsters sprinting toward you, desperately using every tool at your disposal just to ensure you’re not overwhelmed. It’s very simplistic but it works because of that, it doesn’t need super meaty systems and mechanics to blow you away. It just wants to give you something fun and keep you actively engaged without a mess of convoluted systems like CoD has added over the last few years.

You shoot, you have one special meter that can allow you to take down a few enemies with a single button press when charged, and you can carry an explosive of your choosing. As you explore the nooks and crannies of the map, you can even find hidden special weapons like flamethrowers and powerful ARs tucked away in chests which, when used sparingly, can get you out of a bind and allow you to eliminate the mindless hordes cluttering together around you.

Should you feel crafty, you can make use of environmental hazards and traps around the world too. Shoot a rock suspended by a rope and drop it on a group of enemies, activate a trap that extends a lengthy blade and spins around rapidly like a fan, strategically lure enemies and time these traps right in order to effectively clear out your foes quickly.

While I didn’t have the opportunity to play Strange Brigade in co-op with friends, I have no doubt that communicative teammates make this game a joy to play. You could play this game by yourself or with people without focusing on the game but when you take advantage of the opportunities presented to you, it’s an awesome time.

Strange Brigade also does a pretty excellent job at maintaining great pacing through gameplay, escalating the stakes consistently by introducing new enemies like natives that throw spears at you or move sporadically to get in close, giant scorpions, and beefy minotaurs that charge you and distract you as the cannon fodder enemies try to swarm you.

Some people may take umbrage with the game’s simplicity, in longer play sessions the game does feel somewhat repetitive and maybe people want there to be more growth or progression than some new guns or upgrades. The levels themselves are usually about 30 – 40+ minutes long each if you go off the beaten path and the game itself is probably a 8 – 10 hours so it’s not like you’re investing dozens of hours into rinsing and repeating until it becomes incredibly dull.

What I find really great is the game is accessible to a large audience, unlike the mega violent Sniper Elite and zombie spin-off series, Strange Brigade is rated T for teen. If you’re a parent who wants a fun co-op game to play with their kid, you can do so without having to worry about excessive swearing, testicles being blown off, or anything else. Rebellion has successfully created something for everyone and I think that’s something that should be applauded given the fact they could’ve made this a really gory game but instead chose to display their talents to people of all ages.

Strange Brigade is something a lot of people are probably going to miss due to it coming out right ahead of Spider-Man, Tomb Raider, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Red Dead Redemption II, and much more but I heavily implore you to check it out if you get the chance.

Its fun, creative presentation feels so refreshing and a true escape into something wonderful for people of all ages. Strange Brigade had me yearning for a new Indiana Jones just because I crave that campy kind of adventure. If you’re someone who wants something simple yet totally gripping or a fan of Call of Duty’s massively popular zombies mode, Strange Brigade is for you. Should you happen to sleep on it, you’re likely going to miss out on one of the most enjoyable co-op experiences of 2018.