While there have been some successful co-op focused shooters in recent years the genre itself still has not really taken off. Rebellion’s Strange Brigade is the latest entry into the field, and while it does provide a ton of fun I do not think it will be the genre’s breakout hit. It is a solid entry, though, and one that is well worth playing if you can get some friends to play the game along with you. Whether it’s the pulpy action style of the narrative, the solid variety of enemies to kill or the fun aesthetics of the graphics, there is plenty to enjoy in Strange Brigade. There just isn’t quite enough of it to justify buying multiple copies of it since the game is tragically missing a split-screen local co-op mode.
For the suggested price of $49.99, you get four characters to play through a campaign, a horde mode, and a time attack mode. A fifth character is being added to the game for free post-launch, but aside from appearances, the differences are marginal. Each character has their own special attack that charges up by killing opponents, but they are so underwhelming until you have fully upgraded them that they are not worth factoring in. On the plus side, this does mean that characters are not locked into specific weapons so you can pick the character you most want to represent you without having to worry about it not matching your play style.
The campaign will clock in at around four hours, with a few more added on if you want to hunt down the various collectibles. The story in Strange Brigade is surprisingly fun, and the narrator’s bombastic delivery helps greatly. It is not a long adventure, but it is an enjoyable one. You will want to play the game in co-op if at all possible, since the characters’ banter adds a lot to the game, and you lose that playing solo. The time attack and horde modes are the real meat of the game and depending on how appealing those sound to you will be where you spend most of the experience. The levels are clearly designed with these modes in mind, and the developers have littered them with all sorts of traps for you to use against your undead opponents. Watching a horde of zombies and mummies get destroyed by jets of flames or spinning blades never gets old.
My main complaint with the game is that for what it offers the price is just too high. If the game had included local co-op so you could play with friends on the couch it would be a no-brainer as a party game. Unfortunately, it does not, and that diminishes the appeal significantly. On the plus side, Strange Brigade runs amazingly well and looks good while doing so. The animators have a fondness for bloom filters, but otherwise, this is a fairly pretty game.
Strange Brigade Review Final Thoughts:
Strange Brigade is a game that could easily find long-term appeal once the price comes down a bit. The gameplay mechanics are well refined, the level designs are inventive without being confusing, and the pulp feel of the game is fun. It is just that between asking a bit too much for the game and releasing right before the major releases of the holidays Rebellion is setting itself up for failure. Unless you are absolutely hard up for a co-op game to play with your buddies I would strongly recommend waiting until early next year when the releases die down again. If you can get this at a fair price and convince your friends to do so also then you will get plenty of enjoyment out of this game, but it is nothing that you need to jump into immediately.