If you need proof that co-op shooters are still relevant just take a look at the bloody chaos that unfolded when Vermintide 2 launched. While it’s not all about ranged retaliation, Fatshark’s adventure brought a refreshing twist to a genre that Left 4 Dead 2 mastered back in 2009. Now Rebellion, the studio behind games like Rouge Trooper and Zombie Army Trilogy, are jumping are boarding the bandwagon to bring Strange Brigade crashing into Rezzed 2018, and we took a gander at the carnage.
Strolling into the Strange Brigade booth, it was obvious that this adventure is far more than a carbon copy of other successes. The game presents itself as an inventive, and slightly silly, interpretation of the classic co-op shooter. Owing a great deal to B-Movie Matinees and early 1930’s fiction, it wraps the glitz of the Unreal 4 engine in a pulp pathé newsreel and throws it at players. Set in the last few decades of the British Empire, Strange Brigade arrives in some of the furthest corners of civilization, pitting a crack team of her Majesties finest against some pretty malevolent beasties.
While my time with Strange Brigade opened to a black and white newsreel, with an equally kitsch announcement, This old-fashioned safari can easily complete with something a lot more modern. The abandoned stone ruins that lay before my comrades, the surrounding jungle environment, and the waves of incoming enemies all looked thoughtfully impressive, as we eviscerated our way through hordes of the undead.
While you can, of course, travel solo and enjoy the view, it’s advisable to take friends. You can call on up to three comrades to assist you while you trudge into the edge of the Empire. Strange Brigade features a variety of characters for you all to chose from, each with their own abilities and playstyle. The Wayfinder, Scholar, Engineer, and Soldier classes were on show at EGX Rezzed and while my compatriots chose their own hero, I opted for the Engineer. After introducing the first few enemies to her shotgun, this seemed like an entirely appropriate decision, and definitely provides the same sort of aggressively cathartic feedback that Vermintide 2 aims for. Additional options added to the chaos that quickly ensued. The engineer slots a grenade alongside a mystical charm, allowing her to blow back adversaries with a sort of telekinesis or simply blow them up. Each of the classes has their own equivalent loadout, giving everyone their own particular strengths and while I didn’t get a chance to play through all of these, everybody seemed to fair quite adequately for a bunch of journalists.
Initially, characters can feel a little overpowered as a team of four players rifle through the ruins of an abandoned temple, solving some straightforward puzzles and picking off any straggling supernatural units. Things get decidedly more hectic, however, as your party progresses. Eventually, my party made it out of the opening corridors and into a large courtyard, the final setting for this encounter. What ensued was a deliriously chaotic wave-based shooter. Hordes of undead crawled out of every crevice, always threatening to overwhelm you if you did not keep shooting. Every time you think that you have things under control, Strange Brigade starts to throw in new enemies, zombies are joined by armored mummies, and the occasional mini-boss, continually ratcheting up the difficulty. The arrival of a gargantuan minotaur, in particular, pushed my team to balance our DPS, as waves of trash mobs threatened to punish us for focusing on the biggest target first.
It is moments like these that typify Strange Brigade. Just like the best co-op adventures, it only takes a few moments before Strange Brigade starts barreling along at breakneck speed, without ever forgetting to keep its tongue in cheek. This is killer kitsch and incredible fun with a gun. Keep an eye on this one, it really is going to be a jolly good show.