Mummies… Why did it have to be Mummies:
‘Strange Brigade‘ is a camp adventure that marries the awesome locale of Ancient Egypt with tight, co-operative gunplay. You’d think that was a surefire recipe for success, but I’ve seen plenty of lesser titles fumble these solid foundations. Luckily Strange Brigade is a fun spill through crumbling, Mummy filled ruins.
The Strange Brigade – a dashing quartet of roguish adventure types – are on the trail of resurrected evil in Ancient Egypt. Chasing down a queen of the undead sees our squad travel through various sets of cobbled together Egyptology tropes, and for the most part that set up is simple and enjoyable enough to push onwards.
Anchored by a British narrator who is constantly barking over-the-top mannerisms and catchphrases to remind you that, yes, pip-pip, speaking in Queens English is the absolute tops, good chap, what what, spot of Earl Grey, hm? Despite just how hard they push this angle, I fell in love with the narrator anyway, who really lent a warm sense of character to the otherwise fairly stilted ‘narrative’. Having him squawk in surprise at a fresh onslaught of horrors – and remind you to fetch him a cuppa every time you pause the game – made him an affable character in his own right, and the beating heart that makes Strange Brigade as fun as it is.
Gameplay and Multiplayer:
Whilst there’s a story mode here, the game mostly plays like wave-based arenas strung together by short corridors. This is fine, and the game smartly allows you to simply jump into wave mode from the main menu if you can’t be dealing with the trappings of the attempted campaign. It all works fairly well, too, thanks to smart arena design, a flurry of enjoyable traps at your disposal and interesting enemies shambling towards you.
Choosing from one of the four main characters and picking from an arsenal of wartime weaponry sets you up against the zombie-like hordes of skeletons, shrivelled corpses, scorpions, mummies and much more. The guns all have a satisfying punch and rattle to them, with the bolt-action rifle and double barrelled shotguns being personal favourites. The aiming and shooting mechanics range from gummy and stiff to erratic and uncontrollable, depending on how you set your sensitivity, but I struggled to find a middle ground. Luckily you quickly get into the habit of overcompensating for this oversight and pretty soon I was nailing headshots regardless.
Playing solo can be a bit of a dull affair – not because the core game is lacking, mind you, but because it was so clearly built with groups of friends in mind. Indeed, when I grabbed a group and started taking lead-based revenge with buddies at my side my enjoyment increased tenfold. This is a co-op game at heart, and should be played as one. Going through the campaign together, grabbing new treasures, solving puzzles and unlocking goodies as a gang is the only way to play Strange Brigade. Whilst all the same enjoyment is there in single player, it feels significantly trickier to have a good time.
I loved Strange Brigade’s aesthetic, which really took me by surprise. I love Ancient Egypt and all the clichés that come with media set in its universe, but Strange Brigade put a lot of care and attention into its seemingly periphery elements. Sure, you might not notice them all as waves of undead swarm your position, but if you take a second to stop and look around you’ll find a beautiful game that is as clearly enamoured with the setting as I am. There’s plenty of history to be found in the game’s collectibles, too, and when the game pulls back to reveal a vista – or just a level with surprising depth – it has moments of breathtaking beauty in its chunky, pulpy art style and character design.
Aside from the endearing narrator all the characters are well voiced and say interesting things, which keeps things fresh after hours of playing. Any action, from reloading to chucking grenades, comes with plenty of sound bites so you never tire of hearing the same one over and over again. The music is mostly tertiary stuff that won’t knock your socks off, but it fits the bill and gets the job done.
‘Strange Brigade‘ is a fun distraction from a lot of this year’s bigger, more ambitious games, content with offering chunky, fun wave-based shooting with mates in an enjoyable setting. If you’ve got a squad ready to go (or are okay with waiting in lobbies for a while for strangers to join) and you just feel like blasting some undead Egyptians away, Strange Brigade is a pretty good choice. It’s brimming with personality and plenty to collect and unlock, so what are you waiting for?
Strange Brigade, assemble!