Strange Brigade Freshens Up PvE by Taking It Back 80 Years [E3 2017 Preview]

Rebellion had an ace up their sleeves going into 2017’s E3, announcing Strange Brigade a few days before. This new IP is a co-op, PvE, third-person shooter, a genre that has become dime-a-dozen. But strangely enough (see what I did there?), Strange Brigade feels like a welcome addition to today’s library, and that’s due in no small part to its 1930s setting and emphasis on exploring mummy-filled tombs.

Strange Brigade lets you play as one of four distinct characters with their own weapon specialties and abilities, as you face off hordes of mummies and excavate valuable loot on the way. Each character will have a different primary weapon, and their special abilities will become available after reaching a certain level of combo. These were some of the funnest parts of the single-player mode, as they allow for glorious solo kills of your mummy foes.

Strange Brigade also has good enemy variety, similar to other PvE games such as Killing Floor 2. Of course, it has typical shambling mummies and beefier mummies that appear to spawn others, but they also have faster mummies that swipe at you and dodge your attacks, in addition to several other types.

The main problem with these guys, though, is that they can feel like bullet sponges, especially in the case of the one boss I fought in the E3 demo. You can activate environmental traps that do OK damage, but there wasn’t any discernable weaknesses in any enemy type other than good old-fashioned lead.

StrangeBrigade

Another underwhelming aspect of the demo was the environmental puzzles. Strange Brigade appears to be pitched as a sort of Uncharted- or Tomb Raider-type of game only with multiplayer wave survival to boot – an appealing pitch if I do say so myself – but let’s just say I hope the full game has more to offer. One environmental puzzle had me look for an environmental clue to find a pattern of buttons to press, and another one simply had you kill every mummy in a corridor. After doing so the narrator exclaimed “having solved the puzzle, the path ahead was now clear.” Dangling participles aside, if he hadn’t said that, I wouldn’t have known there was even a puzzle.

Granted, Strange Brigade is in a very early stage of its development – Rebellion couldn’t even give a year in which they hope to release – but this is definitely an area in which they need to improve. Make these environmental puzzles a bit more engaging and challenging. While they’re at it, add environmental puzzles that require cooperation between your teammates. This is a multiplayer game, after all.

In spite of all of this, Rebellion has crafted something with unique charm that’s very difficult to dismiss. Anyone who enjoyed the segment in the movie Up where little Carl watches the exploits of the famed explorer narrated in a transatlantic accent will certainly find that same appeal in Strange Brigade. “Is this the end for our heroes???” the narrator asks, excitedly. Hopefully not, because Strange Brigade could become a very popular and genuinely fun multiplayer title when it meets its TBA release date.

Furthermore, it’s cleverly avoided the trappings of today’s urge to be a “gritty,” “realistic” shooter that has PvE. Strange Brigade is clearly having fun, and they want you to join them.