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Strange Brigade Review

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The world is not short of co-op multiplayer games. There has been a boom in the genre over the past few years that has seen the Left 4 Dead-like genre come to life in many ways. I am a sucker for the genre as when I am not physically around my friends, we are in a chat party screwing around in Destiny 2 or another co-op game. This is most likely why Strange Brigade resonated with me from the day I first played it at E3 all those months ago and this is why I now find myself spending countless hours in its Horde Mode where I try and survive the oncoming onslaught of undead Egyptian zombies.

Check out our full video review of the game below

So what is Strange Brigade? Well, it is not a zombie game as many people think, more an adventure with friends through various well-designed levels as you try and track down a now-risen Egyptian queen known as Seteki who is trying to raise the dead across Sahara Africa. Seteki once ruled the lands but was overthrown and killed by her people and 4000 years later a group of archaeologists have awoken her and now need to stop her from continuing her rule of destruction. 

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Strange Brigade is set in the 1930s which means the game follows this unique art style and comedic approach as if you are watching an Indiana Jones movie. The entire game is narrated by a posh Englishman and be warned, there are some extremely cheesy tea jokes. I could not help but chuckle at a few things he would pipe up and say throughout the game, be it when I died, killed a dozen enemies with my super attack or just stood still while texting on my phone only for him to complain I was wasting his time. 

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The game's art direction follows through to every aspect of the experience and there is a gorgeous world to explore. With nine large levels, each of them containing a great amount of detail including puzzles, hidden chambers, lore to collect and much more, it even made replaying them a few times a joy. From the Tunnels of Wadjet where you take an underground approach through an ancient catacomb to the Cursed Forest where you play through the stage on the brink of night. Sky red from the sun and the shadows hold more danger than you think. I could not help but often stop to stare into the distance and take in the beauty that the game has to offer throughout the nine stages. 

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Strange Brigade is best played with friends but do not let that scare you away, it is completely playable alone and it works very well at that too. The more players you have the more enemies spawn and the stronger they are. If playing solo, fewer enemies will spawn to balance the gameplay. However, you can tweak each level across three difficulties and enemy counts too so if you want a challenge and you want more enemies, a simple change of a setting in the lobby will make the next experience very different from the past. 

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I played the entire game in co-op with a partner first and then tested the single player mode and while it was a bit lonely compared to playing with a friend, I was delighted to see that it worked very well. The same amount of treasure and gold is found, and if anything, it will make hunting for those trophies and achievements much easier too. Across the game, you will come across puzzles which also alter their mechanics depending on how many people are in your game and the single-player puzzles still offered the same great experience solo. 

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Where Strange Brigade shines is in its great gunplay. Set in the 1930s, the game does not hold your hand when it comes to weapons and inventory. Guns feel hardy and heavy as you take aim and try and shoot that headshot. The game has no aim assist at all which means you will have to gather up whatever skill you have to be the best as you explore each stage, kill enemies and hopefully come out alive from a wave-based arena segment. 

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It is what made the game feel so great as each weapon handles differently and has its own mastering curve that you can either sit and try to learn or not. I spent much of the game opting for a fast-shooting gun like the Chamberlain or Thompkins and I actually mastered the recoil and challenging fire rate. I then tried to switch things up and go for a single-shot Westminster and it took me a while to get used to its slow, yet hard-hitting fire rate. Throughout the game, you will also come across runes that have different perks to them. Each rune can be equipped into your primary weapon and enhance its stats or even give the weapon an elemental power. I packed my Royce M33 Carbine with a fire rune, vampire and extra headshot damage which means I gained back from each kill, burnt enemies and dealt extra headshot damage at the same time. 

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The rune system works great and lets you build your perfect loadout depending on if you are taking on a harder difficulty or not. When playing with a friend, it also helps combine runes to create a more teamwork-based loadout like having an armour rune that penetrates enemies defences and stabilizing run to make that darn auto rifle easier to handle. There are nine runes to collect and you can go wild with each one across your weapons and back those runes up with a secondary weapon and of course your amulet power. 

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Speaking of which, the amulet powers are awesome and a great addition to the game. They create this overpowered, supernatural experience in Strange Brigade and without them, it would be just another shooter. Each of the four playable characters has their own set of amulets tailored to their gameplay experience while you start with two unlocked, you can get more as you unlock them with skill points. These powers range from Nalangu's fiery slam to Gracie's powerful balls of magic. You fill these amulets up throughout the level by collecting souls and once ready you just need to time the perfect use of them to decimate your foes. It is rewarding and there was nothing better than wiping out half the enemies on screen with a perfectly-timed super attack. 

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All these skills and weapons come together in the game to create a fantastic explosion of action. You kind of build your character in a way and get used to how they play so when you are faced with a challenging wave of foes, it is a piece of cake to destroy them all. Saying that the game is still challenging but in a refreshing way. Heroes feel weak to the point where a few hits and you will have no more health. This way you don't ever feel godly which is a welcome addition to the genre. Often you take a few dozen hits and still come out alive whereas Strange Brigade makes you feel like you are human and you have to protect yourself like one. If things are getting heated then roll out the way and change tactics else you will die. 

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The entire aim of the game is to complete each awesome stage, kill a boss or soul cage at the end and walk away with loot like gold and treasures you have found. Gold is the currency with which you use to unlock new weapons but the issue here is there are limited unlocks. Sure, we could all wish for a lineup to keep us busy forever but after an entire playthrough and a few stages, I had everything unlocked with no real reason to head back in to collect gold. I so wish there was more incentive to replay each stage a dozen times for more as the gameplay is so darn addictive that you would want to. With only eleven guns, of which just six of them need to be purchased, I wanted more to aim for after unlocking them all. Some of them I did not even bother unlocking for the reason of me not wanting to use them. I then had extra gold around and just did it anyway. 

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Rebellion will be working on a lot of post-launch content for the game so all I hope is that they address a way to keep playing the game and wanting to replay it over and over again. Speaking of which, there are two game modes that act as the game's post-game content. A Horde Mode which is strictly a survival mode set across various arena-like stages where you need to survive the hordes of enemies and make use of what is available on the stage to do so. The second is a Score Attack which sees you replay specific parts of a stage to get the highest points. These modes are fun and should keep you busy for a while. The Horde Mode takes the game's addictive shooting into a tight-knit arena where you truly have your wits tested to survive the onslaught while trying to make do with the little resources you are given.

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Score Attack sees you venture into specific blocked-off areas in each level and try to rack up the best score by using your character's loadout as well as traps and specific weapons provided to you in the mode. Your score multiplier goes up the more you kill and if you don't it goes down. The higher your score the better your placement on the leaderboards. 

Strange Brigade is one delightful shooter. Its gorgeous from top to bottom and has some fantastic gunplay that makes every playthrough feel better than the last. While its replayability is short-lived, we can only hope that Rebellion adds in something to keep us coming back and fighting for that gold. Right now it stands as one of the best co-op shooters I have played in 2018. 

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This review was conducted off a sample copy provided to us by Rebellion Games. 

Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 28 August 2018 

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