Running around ruins while uncovering valuable treasures and fighting ancient monstrosities is usually an exciting experience. Thankfully, Strange Brigade is a fun-filled cooperative action-packed adventure that's full of rewarding combat and exploration.
Strange Brigade has you play as your character of choice from the fast-moving Nalangu Rushida, the melee and explosives focused Gracie Braithwaite, the intuitive Professor Archimedes de Quincey, or the military veteran Frank Fairburne. Together, they comprise the Strange Brigade which is a British unit from around the early 1900s who raid tombs and uncover secrets of ancient civilizations. It may sound like a somewhat serious premise but the story and general sense of fun are far from it. As you fight and explore, an often humorous narrator will provide commentary and perhaps a hint here or there and your character will also spout various Briticisms and quips. I'm glad Strange Brigade doesn't take itself seriously at all as it offers a genuinely enjoyable environment for playing online with strangers or friends.
The basic gameplay involves moving your character around and their movements are impressively fluid as you can climb ledges and such automatically without having to use any buttons. To shoot, you hold a shoulder trigger to aim then tap the other to fire. The enemies consist of zombies, skeletons, statues, and other assortments of stereotypical monsters and upon defeating one, you'll earn some cash as well as blue energy that you can suck into your amulet to unleash a powerful special attack. There can be an overwhelming amount of enemies onscreen at once so this move and the ability to throw grenades become crucial methods to deal with the hordes. Additionally, there are traps scattered around that you can trigger by shooting glowing orbs. Watching blades hack up your foes for you is great fun but make sure an ally isn't in range! To help deal with taking damage, you can dodge by the tap of a button or use a stored health potion. Plus, your health automatically restores to a certain threshold. It all comes together to make a frantic and fun formula.
This intense and strategic shooting action is only half of the equation. In between blasting away foes, you'll find yourself exploring and solving puzzles that are usually rather simple in order to unlock collectibles as well as new weapons and weapon upgrades. Unfortunately, the puzzles are generally super-easy so they're not very rewarding to figure out. The best type involves exploring in order to find code sequences that one of your online buddies can read out loud so you can shoot glyphs in the correct order. Also, aiming lasers across massive rooms is pretty fun. Besides that, the puzzles are far too basic. Thankfully, the exploration is surprisingly satisfying as it features oodles of branching and alternative paths as well as hidden nooks and crannies. This adds a ton of replay value as you can play through the lengthy stages again and again and still find things that you haven't previously discovered.
As you can probably tell, Strange Brigade is best played cooperatively in its online multiplayer. Besides the main story campaign, there's a survival-based horde mode that has 4 stages based on the main mode's environments and a timed score attack mode that features segments from the campaign's 9 stages. I never experienced any problems with the online at all and everything played very smoothly which is impressive considering just how much action is packed into each segment.
I don't have many complaints about Strange Brigade but a couple of issues could definitely be improved. The first is that there isn't much character progression. All you can essentially do is equip different weapons, grenades, and amulets as well as assign various unlockable upgrade gems to weapons. Another annoyance is that some combat segments go on for far too long and start to overstay their welcome. This is especially true with some of the boss fights. Specifically, when you have to aim at certain parts while zombies and skeletons are swarming all around. These sections can turn from fun into pure frustration within minutes.
Strange Brigade definitely took me by surprise as it's one of the most fun-filled cooperative online games out there. The amount of variety makes the gameplay constantly enjoyable and working together with friends is super-satisfying.
- + Awesome blend of exploration, puzzles, and strategic shooting action
- + Great general sense of fun
- + Online co-op multiplayer is a blast
- - Some shooting segments and boss fights are too frustrating and protracted
- - Puzzles are extremely easy
- - Little character progression