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June 16, 2017

Fight Zombies in a 1930s adventure serial with ‘Strange Brigade’

by John_A

There was a time when video games about surviving a zombie horde was novel. They presented an exciting challenge wherein the player was pitted against a seemingly endless stream of mindless enemies. The Resident Evil series, the original Dead Rising and the Left 4 Dead games were hits for a reason — but the idea eventually grew stale. The Last of Us and The Walking Dead overcame that zombie fatigue by offering strong, character-driven stories. Rebellion games’ Strange Brigade takes another approach: throw in a silly announcer inspired by 1930s British newsreels.

Okay, technically the game is more of a parody of serial adventure movies — loosely following the adventures of four heroes as they plunder cursed ruins for treasure and fight off waves of mystical enemies. Think of it as a cross between the sillier part of the Indiana Jones franchise and the absurd mystical elements of the Uncharted games. It’s a funny idea, but maybe not quite funny enough. There’s nothing wrong with Strange Brigade, but it generally doesn’t feel very unique.

My 20-minute demo with the game at E3 played very much like a lighthearted (and significantly less stressful) round of Left 4 Dead. Players explore several confined areas while picking hordes of various undead baddies with guns, grenades and mystical powers. The core gameplay works well and is fun, but that’s not surprising — the game plays exactly as it looks. That makes it predictable, though not at all bad. Strange Brigade leans hard on the tropes of its 1930s setting, littering the game world with traps that players can activate to take out enemies with spinning blades, hidden spears and discrete bursts of fire.

Even so, my E3 experience with the title fell flat — but as I reached the end of my play time, it was clear that it wasn’t because Strange Brigade is poorly designed. It’s because I was playing alone. The answer is in the game’s name: brigade. The title focuses on a team of peculiar, specialized hero who work together. I was fighting a mass of undead mummies all by myself.

The game is set to launch later this year on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. If you’re planning to play it alone, maybe skip it — but if you’re looking for a lighthearted, silly shooter to play with friends, it might be worth a look.

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