Strange Brigade is the latest fun co-op experience from the Zombie Army Trilogy and Sniper Elite chaps at Rebellion, and while it’s not out until next year we’ve had an early hands-on with the game and it’s a lot of fun already – like a more insane, more humorous take on the Zombie Army games.
We sat down (well, stood awkwardly in the corner) with Rob Dale, Community Manager at Rebellion, and had a chat with him about everything Strange Brigade, as well as Rebellion’s plans for 2000AD and the recent release of Rogue Trooper Redux.
We’ve played Strange Brigade! Here are our hands-on first impressions!Our review of Rogue Trooper Redux!
Strange Brigade is a really odd idea, if you think about it. A co-op shooter version of Indiana Jones that doesn’t take itself seriously? How did such a game come about, especially after the excellent but decidedly more serious Sniper Elite 4? "We started to experiment. We thought, no one’s really done a game in the 1930s, it’s all World War 2 or even World War 1. We wanted to make it a bit strange and over the top – I mean, how many Lancashire girls have you seen in games?" Rob says referring to Gracie, the shotgun-wielding badass who we actually played in the preview. We just thought about what’s fun, what scenario can we go to that will be fresh and we can do something a bit different with. We always wanted to be authentic previously, but this time we wanted to go over-the-top and exciting."
So who are The Strange Brigade? "They are very much misfits. You wouldn’t expect them to be together. There’s the Lancashire girl, the scholar from Oxford, the Maasai girl, all people who wouldn’t be in a normal videogame. They’re the best people with… certain skillsets!"
And as for the game’s story? "It’ll have a full campaign story, as you head towards an enemy that becomes very apparent. I can’t say too much right now!" I got the impression that there’s a lot of Strange Brigade still under-wraps, if that’s not a Mummy pun (there are a lot of mummies in this game). Rob certainly seemed to be keeping a lot of the game close to his chest.
Of course, being a 4-person third-person co-op shooter the biggest comparison will of course be Rebellion’s own Zombie Army Trilogy, which of course were zombified versions of their own Sniper Elite games. I asked Rob if Rebellion saw Strange Brigade as a successor to the Zombie Army Trilogy, or whether they were counting it as a brand new thing. "It’s more it’s own thing. Yes it’s still four-player co-op. In Zombie Army Trilogy you’re in the dark, it’s just zombies, it’s more horrific, and Strange Brigade is perhaps aimed at a slightly younger audience, set in Africa, it’s in the open, and it’s much more fantastical. It’s more bright, there are more puzzles. The game will offer a lot more replayability. And humour especially. Zombie Army Trilogy didn’t take itself too seriously but it wasn’t funny in a way Strange Brigade is."
Of course, having played the game the main source of that humour was the wonderful British Announcer, who comments on everything going on and even makes fun of you if you make mistakes. "We made him a little sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, and poking fun at the whole scenario. The guy playing him has worked with us before, and we just gave him licence to go with it and poke fun. It all just feels right!" It does indeed.
Possibly the main difference between Strange Brigade and Zombie Army Trilogy, other than the humour, is the Amulet Powers that each character gets. “Each character has their own powers. We’re still experimenting with them and making them as fun as they can be. Over-the-top, nice and colourful, to make you work towards them. When you have your Power activated you also fire faster and reload faster. You have to work out the best time to use it. It’s still a work in progress though.” As you can read in our hands-on preview of the game we loved the inclusion of Amulet but felt the actual Powers weren’t interesting enough right now – hopefully Rebellion will give them a bit of a boost.
The other thing in the preview we weren’t sure about was death. It came quickly, suddenly, and then I just immediately respawned every time, rather taking the sting out of it. “In the demo you were just brought back to life, but we’re still experimenting. We don’t want death to be final, I mean it’s quite easy to die to a trap – especially as there’s a lot of humour in setting one off on a teammate on purpose! We’ll find a nice balance between fun, trolling your teammates a little bit, and being able to progress without it becoming a hindrance.” That’s what we want to hear.
Fortunately for the friendless ones out there (yes, I’m putting my hand up), Rebellion are planning to have single-player too. “It’s much the same as in Zombie Army Trilogy. There’s an entire campaign you can play through from beginning to end, but it will have a lot of replayability because there are areas filled with loot or easter eggs that only specific characters can get through. It’ll be a different experience with each character, and certainly different from co-op.” There’ll be plenty of secrets to find then? “There’ll be a lot in each level. There are a variety of different types, going from puzzles to things that affect characters in some ways. Easter Eggs too!”
So what movie and videogame influences can we see in Strange Brigade? “Indiana Jones is the main one. The Mummy, the original one. 1930s matinees. And as a co-op game we’ve all played Left 4 Dead, and our own Zombie Army Trilogy of course. You could probably even say Serious Sam as well, with the Egypt setting, not taking ourselves seriously and crazy monsters.”
Rob brought up Left 4 Dead, so I took the time to ask him about that style of co-op games. I recently asked the developers of Warhammer: Vermintide 2 why aren’t there that many Left 4 Dead-style co-op games, so I put it to Rob too. “It’s clearly something that there should be more of! They’re great fun to play with your friends. I don’t know why there aren’t more. If you look at player statistics, Left 4 Dead still gets loads of players. I don’t think it’s that the players aren’t there, they’re just not being catered to. We’ve obviously got experience making four-player co-op so it’s easy for us to make the jump straight back into that [with Strange Brigade], whereas other developers might be more used to straight multiplayer or single-player.”
Before we closed out the interview, we’d be remiss if we didn’t ask Rob about Rebellion’s plans for their big licence, 2000AD. They’ve just released Rogue Trooper Redux, but can Rob give us any clue about what else they’ve got coming from the House of Judge Dredd? “We’ve of course announced that we plan to do a [Mega City One] TV series, and we recently opened up the whole 2000AD IP for other developers and publishers to licence. We can’t talk too much about that, but we’ve certainly had people pitch to us and who knows what you might see? It would have to be the right game to do Judge Dredd of course. It’s a very well-loved IP that we wouldn’t want to get the wrong game out for.”
So what’s the release date for Strange Brigade? “Aiming for next year. Being self-publishing is good in that we can say it’ll be ready when it’s ready!”
Thanks a lot to Rob Dale for talking with us, and Rebellion for showing off Strange Brigade! Go read our preview if you haven’t already, it’s looking pretty special already. I mean, it’s Left 4 Dead with mummies with a comedy narrator, what’s not to love about that?