Co-op shooters are a genre thats not gotten much love in the last decade, so I was happy to see a fresh new concept from Rebellion, and to hear that it featured co-op four player action at this Years E3. I was one of the lucky ones that got to sit down and play the all new Strange Brigade. It has a heavy emphasis on co-operation, puzzle solving, and environmental interaction, and plays a bit like an arcady tomb-raider. Overall I enjoyed Strange Brigade immensely, and am eager to give the final production a try when it release on PC and consoles later this year.

For our demo we started out with a choice of four characters (more will be added down the line I am told). I chose one of two female character who started with a single shot hi-powered rifle.  Each character has unique traits and starts with a different weapon, but the developers are quick to point out that they are not classes, but rather fun personality filled characters. Each of the games characters can for example use several different weapons, and change out what their “amulet” power does. This is nice because as far as I am concerned we don’t need any more hero shooters, ever.

We started out walking around what seemed to be a jungle, and shooting at what I assumed were zombies. Weapon handling was very arcady with a large reticle and plenty of forgiveness in hit boxes and aiming.  During my demo I was able to use both a shot gun, a special sniper rifle, and an automatic rifle. Each gun handled differently, the shot gun was of the double barreled variety and had a huge reticle bloom and massive kick. The sniper rifle (which I obtained by spending 1000 of the games in-game currency) had no kick and was like shooting fish in a barrel, and the automatic rifle was all over the board but did good damage. The weapon list seems to cover the basic archetypes, shotgun, machine gun, smg, rifle, pistol, and sniper rifle. All of the guns were upgradable, and had limited ammo, though we did find several ammo caches through the maps to refill on. Each character also had grenades, and a special spiritual power, triggered from their amulet. Other than those powers from the amulet the game was a solid adventure/shooting/puzzler. Amulet powers were very destructive super moves that players could use after they had killed enough enemies and harvested the blue soul like resource they leave behind. Mine was a sort of chaining fire attack, that hit many enemies at once and was great for clearing rooms.

The map we were on was made more interesting by a series of environmental traps and interactions. Periodically throughout the level we needed to activate a switch or blow up a barrel using a hilighted piece of the environment. These environmental traps helped bring a lot of variety to the game, and I enjoyed how they broke up the shoot, shoot, shoot, that so many games have now. There were several traps that were usefull for killing enemies (or teammates that got too close) and most were activated by simply shooting them. There was even a segment where we had to use an item (a crystal) to channel light to open a door, and when the crystal user wasn’t aiming at the door we were trying to open, the crystal transformed in to an awesome beam weapon, that did massive damage to anyone it touched.

Towards the end of the demo we were treated to a small taste of how upgrades are going to work. Each player will collect relics, which they will use to upgrade their weapons. Weapon upgrades added things like elemental damage to bullets and additional ammo or gun abilities. All of which was added together to make the stats for our guns. I didn’t really get enough time to check what each relic I had did, but I was still able to upgrade my weapon with fire bullets, which was pretty awesome. In addition to upgradable guns, scattered around the map are boxes that for 1000 in game currency units allow you to purchase a special weapon. As I said above I was able to get a sniper rifle from this box, and it had almost no kick at all and in the right hands (aka not mine) would have been am major game changer. The special guns have limited ammo that does not replenish, so they are best saved for when you are most in need.

Beyond the shooting, the game also had a decent bit of puzzling, in a jungle environment that reminded me of  Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider. The developers said during the demo that they were shooting for a sort of 60-70 pulp movies vibe, and I think they have accomplished it. All that’s missing is an obviously fake monster that’s just a man in a poorly cast rubber mask. The setting did a lot for the game, in a time when so many shooters are set in bland corridors and cast in shades of blue and neon, Strange Brigade is not afraid to use a bright palette of greens and earth tones. Its a nice change.

I enjoyed playing the game even if the shooting was a bit arcady and felt off in that way that only shooting that’s in third person can. The setting intrigued me, and I’m willing to at least give Strange Brigade a chance before I write it off, because it really does seem to be a good game. And, I love co-op shooters, and there just aren’t that many of them out there anymore. Make sure you also check out Strange Brigade when it comes out August 28th of this year.