A Flawed however Fun Homage to Adventure Serials

Release Date: August 28, 2018
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), XBO, PC
Developer: Rebellion
Publisher: Rebellion
Genre: Third-person shooter

The video games trade is so saturated with content material that it’s arguably tougher than ever for a title to face out and seize our collective consideration. Novelty and uniqueness are key elements to a recreation’s success lately, and Strange Brigade has really obtained a mode all its personal. A co-op third-person shooter arrange like a 1930s journey serial, the sport presents a singular model of enjoyable, brimming with British humor and an aesthetic that infuses classic newsreel attraction with vibrant, Saturday morning cartoon pops of colour.

There aren’t any video games available on the market with a presentation fairly like Strange Brigade‘s, which is its best energy. Gameplay is fast-paced and enjoyable, particularly should you workforce up with buddies, however the title disappoints in that its core mechanics aren’t as impressed because the bombastic visuals and artwork design.

Up to 4 gamers can workforce as much as mow down monsters with a customizable arsenal of weapons and grenades, in addition to character-specific amulets that unlock supernatural particular assaults that clear a number of enemies directly. The controls are customary third-person shooter fare, and motion feels clean and responsive. Secondary actions like aiming and capturing, throwing grenades, evading, and melee assaults are completely enough as properly, however stringing collectively all of those easy actions doesn’t really feel as clean and streamlined as you’d need.

Games like Gears of War 4, Mass Effect: Andromeda, and even Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 are third-person shooters that will let you hyperlink your actions collectively naturally and enter a type of movement state the place your actions develop into rhythmic. Strange Brigade doesn’t fairly obtain this degree of smoothness and ease of use, so, sadly, its core gameplay isn’t as addictive because the aforementioned titles.

The satan is within the particulars. Melee assaults are woefully ineffective, and when you’ll really feel the urge to make use of them to clear a path when cornered by a dozen enemies, melee merely isn’t helpful in these conditions as a result of you may solely assault one enemy at a time. Also, melee assaults cease you lifeless in your tracks, which breaks the movement of motion in a clumsy manner. There’s an opportunity Rebellion made these choices to encourage gunplay and discourage a melee-heavy method, however on the finish of the day, it seems like an inessential facet of fight.

The excellent news is that nothing within the recreation feels particularly damaged or unbalanced, and on the entire, Strange Brigade may be an absolute blast to play. An overwhelming variety of baddies can crowd in on you at any given time, however to assist even the percentages, varied lethal traps are strewn concerning the environments, triggered by well-placed gunfire. Swinging blades, spinning blades, spike traps, hearth traps, the compulsory exploding barrels, and extra can all be used to help in enemy extermination. In reality, utilizing the setting to your benefit is by far the simplest path to survival. It is usually a thrill to barely escape loss of life by luring monsters into a fireplace lure and lowering them to ashes, and a good greater thrill when a fellow adventurer units off a lure and saves your cover.

Multiplayer is one of the simplest ways to play Strange Brigade, and whereas there isn’t something notably revelatory or transformative about co-op, it may be an absolute blast to wreck store with three buddies backing you up. The recreation isn’t precisely bursting with options like Borderlands, nor does it assist radically totally different kinds of play, however the co-op expertise is entertaining in an arcade-y, candy ‘n’ easy type of manner. Coordinating assaults together with your teammates to take down a very highly effective foe isn’t a mind-blowing expertise, however it certain is enjoyable, and generally that’s sufficient.

The recreation presents three primary modes: Campaign, Horde, and Score Attack. All three supply precisely what you’d anticipate them to — a grinding battle by waves of enemies in Horde Mode, extra densely trap-filled arenas to carry out chain kills and rack up factors in Score Attack — however the marketing campaign is the place the sport’s strengths shine by. You and your teammates select between 4 heroes: fierce African protector Nalangu Rushida, muscly mechanic Gracie Braithwaite, hipster sharpshooter Archimedes de Quincey, and square-jawed archetype Frank Fairburne. Together, they make up the titular group and are despatched on a grand mission to fly round Africa on their bitchin’ airship to trace down and fell Seteki the Witch Queen, battling swarms of undead alongside the best way.

The secret sauce that provides the largely uncompelling narrative taste is the sport’s cheeky narrator, performed by Glen McCready. He supplies witty, usually sarcastic commentary on any given state of affairs, like when a small picket barricade blocks your path within the opening moments of the marketing campaign (“Blocked in already…by wooden no much less! Curses! Is this the tip for our heroes?”) and even breaks the fourth wall now and again, like if you depart the controller idle and he reminds you that there’s, in truth, a pause button at your disposal. His quips are invasive by design, however as a result of the writing is so sharp, it by no means seems like an unwelcome distraction. The narration really colours the expertise in a beautiful manner, ensuring mundane duties (like puzzles, which you encounter usually however are extra tedious than they’re head-scratching) much more partaking and memorable than they might have been in any other case.

The lush, colourful environments Rebellion has crafted are surprisingly putting and detailed for a title one would suppose may get away with a extra simplistic cartoon method to visuals. From the jungled early levels to the huge caverns and crypts you discover in a while, every locale feels distinct, and extra impressively, the degrees don’t really feel overly designed or contrived. Gameplay can develop into repetitive, particularly if you’ve been caught in a single space for over fifteen minutes killing wave after wave of zombies and their mummy masters, however the slick audio/visible presentation helps to distract from the tedium. The references to ‘30s and ‘40s pop culture (like the grainy newsreel filter used in campaign cutscenes) feel out of left field in the best way possible, and it’s good to see a developer discover a milieu that’s virtually by no means touched upon (solely Temple Run springs to thoughts as having a considerably comparable look).

In some methods, Strange Brigade is a singular little gem that’s not like even different video games in Rebellion’s catalog (the studio is finest identified for collection like Sniper Elite), boasting a few of the coolest writing and artwork design in a recreation this yr. But in others, it’s a spinoff title that doesn’t push sufficient boundaries and lacks a sure degree of polish that would have made it a must-play expertise. Rebellion has introduced that there will likely be free month-to-month DLC and a season cross accessible post-launch, which can embrace a three-part marketing campaign, new heroes, outfits, and extra, so possibly there’s hope but that the sport will attain its full potential within the coming months. For now, it’s a strong motion romp that’s properly value a glance, notably for followers of quick, frantic gameplay (and punny British humor).

Bernard Boo is a contract contributor.

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