Strange Brigade – First Impressions

Upon my visit to EGX 2017, The Strange Brigade was not even something I was looking out for. Yet it caught my attention all the same. How hypnotic it was with its colourful cartoonish design, co-op wave survival and quirky narrator. "What nefarious abomination will be blurted forth next, I wonder?", he says with his comically British accent. Wasting no time, I set about having a go myself.

Strange Brigade - First Impressions

World Design

Strange Brigade’s world design is something that will instantly grip you on first impressions. Rebellion Games have cleverly contrasted serious tones in environmental design with tongue in cheek humour. Old school horror movie font flashes across the screen and dots the menus throughout. Anybody who played Rebellion’s Sniper Elite 4 will know just how accomplished Rebellion are at world design.  

Players can expect to roam forgotten ruins of ancient civilizations, overgrown with flora and fauna. The segment I played was very encouraging when taking the rest of the game into consideration. It would appear that each area is a fairly large arena. These are cut off by barricades, blocking your progress until all evil monstrosities are defeated. Although there’s no rush to press on once each fight is won.

Strange Brigade - First Impressions - World design
Aside from the hilariously well spoken commentator, Strange Brigade’s world instantly resonated with me because of its personality. To think – without the enemies designed as wonderfully as they are – Strange Brigade could have been very generic. Yet every aspect of the player’s experience is built around this contrast of hardcore shooter gameplay with tongue in cheek humour that plays on mid 1900’s adventure flicks like King Kong.

Exploration

Secrets and collectibles can be searched out for the completionists out there. Strange Brigade would still be great fun without them. However, the extra sneaky things to keep an eye out for all add to a player’s overall score. They give the player incentive to explore areas thoroughly and fully appreciate the world Rebellion has crafted. Said secrets will either come in the form of shiny loot chests or hidden Egyptian urns to shoot at from afar. Shooting anything is punchy and satisfying (we’ll get on to combat in a moment), but when these hidden secrets play into the addictive scoring system, I’m sure Strange Brigade will have you playing for some time. 

Strange Brigade - First Impressions - Arena

Each area being an arena which we must fight our way through, Strange Brigade is, strictly speaking, linear in format. And that’s fine. An open world with Strange Brigade’s chaotic wave survival would not have translated well. Getting stuck in one area for a long time will only add to that sense of accomplishment when you finally push through to the next area.

Combat

So this is what Strange Brigade is all about. Combat in this game is incredibly punchy. Gun shots are loud and crisp. The frantic footsteps of sprinting to a better location are also clear. All of this adds up to an incredibly immersive experience. So much so that the raw and punchy nature of Strange Brigade’s combat is best appreciated with headphones. Without digressing into sound design, let’s just say it’s clear to see Rebellion know what they’re doing in this department.

Strange Brigade - First Impressions - Thrilling combat
As I absentmindedly waded into the first wave of enemies, I was equipped with a semi auto rifle and a sidearm pistol. Not the best gear for mowing down zombies while a minotaur constantly charged at me! I would learn fairly quickly that this hardcore shooter is exactly that. Players are expected to keep their wits about them as one hit from a strong melee focused enemy would down me in one. I couldn’t stand still anywhere. 

So it’s also clear to see that Strange Brigade is really designed for co-op. Up to four players can select any one of the four quirky characters to dive in with. The game is playable on your own… Just don’t expect to get far. This is honestly, not a problem. I strongly believe that, for many of our readers, Strange Brigade is in the running to become their next favourite co-op wave survival game.

Strange Brigade - First Impressions - Bovine headed brute
Once I progressed past the minotaur (who the commentator described as a “bovine headed brute”) the game soon rewarded me with a weapons cache. I could choose machine guns, shotguns and grenade variants. These were widely varied and could be unlocked by coins earned from kills or secrets found. Now it was time to get down to business! Not only did I have considerably more firepower for the next area but I could also take advantage of traps to thin the horde. These are gunshot activated and are limited to two uses, so I had to make them count. Be they spinning blades of death or fire spewing floor tiles, they definitely came in handy. 

I could have sat and played Strange Brigade all day. But I was at EGX and many more things like Detroit: Become Human and Forgotton Anne remained on my to do list. Stay tuned with Keen Gamer for my coverage on those titles. In the meantime, get hyped for Strange Brigade by checking out the trailer below. No official release date yet but Rebellion's official site says "coming soon". Strange Brigade will release for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

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