Strange Brigade (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 28.08.2018

Review for Strange Brigade on PlayStation 4

Ask anybody to name a famous fictional archaeologist/adventurer active from the mid 1930s era and there's a fair chance that the name Indiana Jones will crop up. Renowned explorer and Fedora fan, Indy, specialised in uncovering long lost artefacts, while simultaneously cracking his whip through an assortment of forgotten temples, some of which may have been doomed. Rebellion, purveyors of many a ripping yarn themselves, is fully aware of the high level of intrigue linked to the raiding of old tombs and has no doubt drawn inspiration from the relic hunting antics of the aforementioned Professor Jones when assembling this motley crew of operatives. Representing the finest old Blighty has to offer, this rag tag troupe of Secret Service emissaries are not only deadly efficient with firearms but are equally at ease dealing with whatever supernatural terror that may arise during the course of an assignment. Introducing... the Strange Brigade.

The year is 1930 and archaeologist Edgar Harbin has gone missing in the African Sahara while excavating a recently discovered burial chamber. It turns out that this unmarked tomb contained the brutal and barbaric Seteki, a fearsome witch queen whose ruthless reign 4,000 years prior led to her subjects overthrowing her and sealing her up alive. Needless to say, Seteki's dormant spirit was awoken by Harbin's presence, releasing a festering malevolence that has started spewing forth all manner of evil into the neighbouring townships. Real end of the world stuff. What happened to Harbin, then? Who knows, but this seems like the perfect opportunity to deploy the Strange Brigade, an elite team under the gainful employ of the Department of Antiquities that has been handpicked by the British Government for its indomitable pluck and bulldog spirit. The group is not unlike a 1930s version of the A-Team, travelling around the world in its dirigible airship, parachuting into troubled hotspots and cleaning up in time for a spot of Tiffin.

Screenshot for Strange Brigade on PlayStation 4

Who the devil is the Strange Brigade, anyway? Well, this cabal of deadly chums currently comprises of four members, each equipped with a unique skill or ability that proves invaluable when out doing work for the Empire. First up, there's Professor Archimedes de Quincy, a scholar who found his way into the movement after an unfortunate incident during a field expedition where he lost all the pupils in his charge to evil forces. Dashed rotten luck, but his ability to open hidden alcoves crammed full of coin does give the team a bit more earning power, so it all panned out nicely in the end. Gracie Braithwaite is an explosive Northern lass who escaped life as a floor worker in the Dark Satanic Mills to put her pugilistic skills to good use by battering seven shades out of whatever gets in her way. Then there's Frank Fairburne, a battle hardened soldier of fortune that is in it purely for the money. Looking uncannily like a young Frank Sinatra, he possesses the eagle eye of a seasoned marksman and may - or may not - be related to a certain Karl Fairburne (a cheeky nod and a wink to all the elite snipers out there). Last, but not least, is Nalangu Rushida, a legit demon hunter, who, after a lifetime of training in the art of eradicating evil, is following her destiny via the Department of Antiquities. Blessed with a sixth sense for danger and lightning fast reflexes, she's a worthy ally to have onboard when the going gets tough.

Rebellion has dusted off the blueprints from its popular Sniper Elite and Zombie Army Trilogy series (more so the latter) and utilised them to construct a tight framework for Strange Brigade to sit in. As a result, there's an air of familiarity that veterans of either of the aforementioned titles will welcome with open arms and empty clips, but Strange Brigade is very much a unique proposition as its tongue-in-cheek riff on British Colonialism gives it a sense of character and mischievous fun that is sorely missing from a lot of modern day shooters. Clearly inspired by the classic action movies of years gone by, it does a great job of channelling a virtual stiff upper lip via the frequent use of comedic character dialogue; black and white newsreel footage cut-scenes and a Mr Cholmondley-Warner style commentator who frequently chimes in with pithy remarks during play. While it's primarily being marketed as a multiplayer game catering for up to four fortune hunter's to team up and collectively kick evil's backside (think Left 4 Dead), it's equally fun to play through its entire campaign solo.

Screenshot for Strange Brigade on PlayStation 4

While Sniper Elite and Zombie Army Trilogy focused on the long distance kill, Strange Brigade is more about wading into the thick of the action with all guns a-blazing, and there is an almost overwhelming variety of enemies that get continuously introduced throughout the whole course of the campaign. Mummified Cadavers (in both bandaged and un-bandaged form), Swashbuckling Skeletons, Giant Scorpions, Ghouls, Revenant Warriors... in fact, way too many antagonists to mention here, yet they all instinctively hone in on the heroic quartet in a frightfully aggressive manner. Dispatching an enemy briefly releases its soul out into the play field and these can be vacuumed up by any nearby hero quick enough to whip out with their mystical amulet. Once the amulet is fully charged, a special power move can be unleashed, causing damage to who or whatever happens to get in the way of it and, given that each operative has access to four amulets (providing they find all of them, of course), there is some variety on offer.

It doesn't take long for the gang to realise that it's these very souls that Seteki is drawing her power and each hotspot of activity appears to have a heavily protected soul cage that needs to be destroyed in order to regain normality. This is far from an easy task, though, as it usually involves a multi-stage event that would be difficult enough if it was just the dense waves of enemies alone, but no, this tends to be the time when one of Seteki's champions makes an appearance. These end up being lengthy boss battles against some legendary mythical beasts, such as a giant hammer wielding Minotaur, a towering Anubis-like stone dog statue armed with a death ray, or a hard to kill skeletal pirate captain. Getting to Seteki for that final showdown is a long and treacherous journey in itself but there are a couple of additional modes available that not only bolster the package but provide alternative ways to get that co-op fix for those short on time. There's the obligatory Horde mode that is all about surviving for as long as possible from increasingly hostile waves, and a fast-paced Score Attack mode that tasks the team with chaining multipliers together with a view to racking up a high score.

Screenshot for Strange Brigade on PlayStation 4

Visually, Strange Brigade is a dashed handsome beast on the PS4 Pro, with its highly detailed textures and vibrant colour palette tightly meshing to create a world that positively invites exploration. The huge, sprawling levels frequently offer the opportunity to take a branching path to the objective, and spotting a loot laden area with no obvious way of reaching it is a surprisingly common occurrence. Secrets can be found everywhere, whether it's by shooting an explosive barrel near an innocuous looking wooden fence, knocking a lamp into some overgrown branches so they burn away to reveal a hidden path, or even firing off a cannon to blast entry into a hidden chamber on the other side of the level. The majority of the puzzles that crop up are solvable with a few well aimed bullets, which are often a necessity when the horde is attacking from every angle. These can range from shooting symbols on a door in a particular sequence (usually hidden in the vicinity); to standing on a pressure sensitive floor panel to reveal another switch that needs to be shot (sporadically a chain of these may need to be completed within a tight time limit to progress); solving Pipemania style puzzles to gain entry to a treasure room; or even blasting a way through a sizeable scarab's nest, while under attack from swarms of the little blighters. There's maybe the odd occasion when it isn't immediately obvious what needs to be done to progress through to the next part of the level but this just encourages a more thorough exploration and never gets problematic.

The gunplay feels tight and punchy and there's a decent enough selection of weaponry on offer to cater to all play styles. While each member of the Strange Brigade starts off with a gun suited to their particular skill set, it can be easily switched out for any other item currently available in the armoury, which means that, for example, ending up with Frank Fairburne during a multiplayer session doesn't limit his handler to only using a sniper rifle. As hinted at earlier in the review, there is a wealth of gold coinage that gets accumulated during the course of play, which can be used to purchase more weapons to add to the armoury. The pricier guns have more upgrade slots in which mystical gems (occasionally found in treasure chests) can be installed. These enhance the weapon in a variety of interesting ways, be it dampening recoil, increasing fire rate, freezing the enemy temporarily, or even setting them ablaze. Scattered about the world are crates that, for a small fee, offer up more experimental, high-powered firearms (Blunderbuss, flame thrower), and these remain available until its ammo depletes. It's not all about the guns, though, as there are also a number of ancient mechanical traps positioned in prime thoroughfares that can help level the playing field and, again, these can be activated with a well-placed bullet. The satisfaction that comes from luring a gang of shambling mummies into a rapidly spinning blade/sharp swinging pendulum/spear trap/flamer is its own reward but, of course, reckless usage of these traps can endanger fellow team mates and that simply isn't cricket, old bean.

Screenshot for Strange Brigade on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Bust out the Earl Grey and crumpets! Rebellion has delivered a quintessentially British flavoured caper in Strange Brigade and it's hard not to get caught up in the whole darned shooting match when the added incentive of fighting for King and country is tossed into the mix. It's a rather spiffing package, all told, that manages to find the perfect blend of rip-roaring adventure, explosive gunplay, treacherous traps, fiendish puzzling, and crate-loads of loot. Whether tackling it solo or with a group of chums, it's a title very much geared towards repeated playthroughs, which should be enough to give fellow relic hunters, Nathan Drake and Lara Croft, a run for their money. Indiana who?

Developer

Rebellion

Publisher

Rebellion

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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