Strange Brigade is a game that could only have been made in Britain. Its setting, characters and even cheesy voice narration all ooze with a very specific kind of British Pulp-Action that it feels like something that should have started life as a story in a ‘Boys Own’ comic from the 1930s. Think films like The Mummy (the Brendan Fraser version) or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen minus the random inclusion of an American hero.
Instead, it’s the latest game from veteran British studio Rebellion (of Sniper Elite fame) and is so much fun I’m just about ready to forgive their fairly terrible Aliens vs. Predator reboot from a few years ago.
So what makes this game so unmistakably British? Well, it’s an action-adventure game which follows a team of adventurers as they criss-cross the British Empire in the 1930s investigating paranormal events and retrieving relics. All of this is presented with a voice over and intro sequences more than a little reminiscent of BBC Newsreels from the age. This kind of steampunk-y, Pulp-y setting is one that’s been ignored in recent years (largely due to the problems the Empire caused and left behind it) and Rebellion have done a great job reviving it with enough tongue-in-cheek humour that you can lose yourself in the fantasy and not worry too much about the unfortunate historical realities.
In terms of gameplay, up to four players each take control of one of our plucky heroes (a soldier in an actual redcoat, a scientist, an action girl, or a female Masaii warrior) and controls them in third person as they shoot, explode, and raid their way through tombs and temples filled with the unquiet dead and other threats.
The version I played at EGX was on the Xbox stand and only had single-player available (though, it was still a blast); however, a few of my colleagues managed to get into one of the coveted four-person playthroughs and they told me this is a game that really comes alive in multiplayer. Using the different old-timey weapons and each character’s skills they were able to annihilate a ton of mummies—and one angry minotaur—in no time at all, and had a great time doing it.
If I had a complaint so far (this is still relatively early days), it’s that the controls in Strange Brigade didn’t feel as tight as they could have been, something that became especially problematic when you’re trying to line up headshots on encroaching mummies who follow zombie rules here.
I’m also hoping a little that more characters, or maybe just more options for the characters, are available after launch; although, with a game as tightly linked to its story and setting as this one is, that may be a forlorn hope and, to be honest, is the point at which I’m grasping for straws.
So far, Strange Brigade is a lot of fun in a setting we don’t often get to see. I’m really excited to see more as it nears release.
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