Strange Brigade will allow you to explode a mummy

Strange Brigade is a super-arcadey shooter from Rebellion, the British studio behind Sniper Elite. It’s set in the 30s and stars some Indiana Jones-esque types, and style-wise, it’s pulpy as hell— in a really faithful way, I guess, warts and all.

As a result, it’s the kind of game where you run around looting treasure chests in an African jungle that looks like an old bad action movie set while an announcer tells you to make some “dark corner of a tomb” part of Britain’s empire. I get the sense that Strange Brigade is trying to be self-aware about this, but I’d honestly have to play more of it to learn whether it’s really succeeding at that. (And I doubt a co-op horde shooter can succeed at that.) It’s not an Indiana Jones sendup exactly— it’s on the crasser side. If you’d rather skip The Temple of Doom, you might not like Strange Brigade’s possibly-ironic old-school pulp.

Gameplay-wise, Strange Brigade is the kind of game that gives you a gigantic shotgun that spits fire, and then makes you shoot approximately one hundred million thousand ravenous mummies with it. The mummies explode in a very satisfying way. Giant gold coins plop out of them and fly into your body. Killing stuff in this game deserves all of the food-related metaphors that game developers tend to use to describe visually- and kinetically-satisfying combat: crunchy. Juicy. If you get your endorphins from mummies collapsing into a cyclone of blue flames that vomit up plate-sized discs of gold, then Strange Brigade has got the stuff for you.

Most of the fights in the demo I played were in oddly-shaped, multi-level arenas with massive environmental hazards, like spike traps or spinning blade fans which I constantly walked backwards into. Most of the fights either included a miniboss, or felt like a miniboss was about to erupt out of a wall at any moment. One miniboss I fought, a bull-headed giant, was a meat wall with, at least, an attack that was a lot of fun to dodge. I often didn’t dodge it, but deaths are almost meaningless: you usually get a chance to pop out of a nearby sarcophagus and continue the fight.

Every character also has a pretty-satisfying-to-deploy special ability that charges through repeated gunfire and eventually discharges an offensive power of some sort. One character I played seemed to be throwing angry bees at his enemies. That was pretty cool, I guess! There’s almost always one zillion junk enemies on screen to hit with angry bees. I approve of this.

Most notably to me, however, the game’s co-op mode seemed to be lacking compelling co-op mechanics of any kind. I prefer co-op horde mode games where player abilities interact in an interesting way— either through offensive combat abilities or through offense/support role interaction. The Mass Effect series’s co-op modes are, I think, a great example of how offense abilities can interact in an interesting way: the biotic and tech-detonation mechanics make a good reason to pay attention to what your buddies are doing. Almost all MOBAs also provide good examples of how combat can be a real team effort. Overwatch is super great at this, too.

But I played one co-op match of Strange Brigade and felt constantly as if I was just playing a single-player experience on the same map as other people, if that makes any sense. E3 demos are a bad place to gauge the mechanical depth of any game, particularly co-op games that require map and character familiarity, but there were literally no combat abilities available to me during the demo that would affect my teammates. If the final version of the game also lacks these mechanics, I would not personally play it.

So— if that kind of thing doesn’t bother you, and if you like to explode katana-mummy heads in the juiciest way possible, keep your eye on Strange Brigade. If you’re bothered by Temple of Doom, like your co-op games to be absolutely centered on actual cooperation, and don’t really get excited by the idea of Indiana-Jones style tomb-raiding pulp, then probably let the news on this one lie.

Strange Brigade is “coming soon” to PC, Xbox, and Playstation.