Ancient evil is afoot chaps, stirring the very draught of death for the Empire and the world. Whoever can we turn to, to save Crown and Kingdom? What’s that you say? We’ve got our jolly own band of adventurers ready to risk life and limb for glory and sweet, sweet gold?
Well grab your gear, load your guns and get ready to travel to exotic locations and shoot dastardly supernatural foes in the face as. . . THE STRANGE BRIGADE! Now in all new portable, take the fight anywhere edition!
Back in 2018 developer Rebellion, of Sniper Elite fame, brought the Strange Brigade to the gaming world. This heavily inspired by 1930’s serials and pulp adventure stories game took on the arena and Left 4 Dead style of gaming by way of Indiana Jones with debonair flair and tongue-in-cheek humour.
An ancient evil queen is planning her comeback from the dead and is bringing her mummified army with her. All that stands between her and world domination are that chosen breed of adventurers ready to stare death in the face with a quip and a loaded gun. Choosing from one of four playable characters – additional characters are available via DLC – it’s your job to make sure the past stays buried while adding to the organisations coffers as you traipse across exotic locations in Egypt.
Packing period weapons along with a magic charm for an OP attack, this third person co-op shooter presents a full campaign that can be played solo or with three other adventurers. Each member of the Brigade has their own personality and weapon set, though you can switch out weapons from the inventory screen and buy new ones as you collect enough gold during the play modes. Magical amulets, which are charged from the souls of the undead that you reacquaint with death, provide each member with a specific attack that, if used at the right time, can take out a whole bunch of enemies. New amulets are bought with skill points you earn from relic hunting.
It would have been easy for Rebellion to design a series of wave based areas and – while those are still there – they’ve instead opted for a fully featured campaign with the shooting broken up by light puzzles to solve and loot and relics to collects. Levels are still largely linear, but occasionally a branching path will make a guest appearance. The puzzles are mostly of the shoot a series of tiles in a specific order to open a door or to complete a connection, but they usually lead to treasure and make a nice break from all the mummy slaying.
And speaking of the shooting, it’s great. Weapons have a nice, meaty sound to them and, as you would expect from Rebellion, precision is the key to success and saving ammo. Whatever weapon you choose, the feedback is wonderful. Explosive ordinance such as grenades have a cooldown so you can’t spam them, but there are enough explosive crates and traps littering the levels to help with strategic play. Guns can be upgraded with gems that let you fire flaming rounds, armour penetration and vampiric health regeneration. Slot the right gems together and you can turn your character in a one man army.
Outside of the campaign are Horde and Score Attack Modes, which can also be played solo or with others.
Horde is as you would expect. You’re dropped into a level with only a handgun, and explosive and an amulet and you have to survive waves of enemies of increasing difficulty. Killing enemies nets you gold which you can use to buy weapons or open locked doors. One nice aspect of Horde Mode is that the large level you’re in is initially small before the rest of it slowly opens up as you complete a set amount of waves. This is easily the games longest running mode and also the most tiring.
Score Attack Mode drops you into a level with the objective to rack up a high bodycount using combos in a specific amount of time. Additional objectives, such as scoring ten headshots, etc. are there to help boost your score. Outside of the campaign, it’s the most addictive of the modes.
Visually Strange Brigade for Switch has received a noticeable visual downgrade which you’ll notice if you’ve played it elsewhere. The game is running at a lower resolution for the hardware with lower polygon counts on objects and characters. It’s still a good looking game and runs fantastically well on the Switch but it’s hard not to notice the visual drop if, once again, you’ve played it on any of the other machines it was released on. A special shout out needs to go to the loading times which are wonderfully quick whether booting up the game or a level.
The game does falter in two areas though. The last three levels devolve from the previously good level design into a series of locked rooms for enemy waves and, finally, the boss fights. Bosses require pinpoint accuracy to hit their weak points – blue gems along their bodies – while endless waves of ads spawn in. This was the only time throughout the campaign that I felt like not having another player with me was a handicap as I had to deal with a charging boss while mummies spewed fire at me.
The Switch version supports local co-op and online play for all modes. For online play you will need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription unfortunately.
As with most co-op shooters, Strange Brigade will be best played with friends, but Rebellion have crafted a fantastic supernatural shooter oozing style and atmosphere that more than stands up as a solo affair too. That you can play it anytime, anywhere is just the icing on a surprisingly unique cake.
Publishera and Developer: Rebellion Developments
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One
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