Broforce is an interesting beast; having been available through Steam Early Access for ages with the first recorded playable build being over three years old, it almost felt as if the game was never going to see a full release. However, as if out of nowhere, the game’s full release has come to us in all of its testosterone-ridden glory.
Game Name: Broforce
Publisher(s): Devolver Digital
Developer(s): Free Lives Games
Release Date: 10/16/15
Price: $14.99 (Four pack for $44.99)
Simply put, Broforce is a fast-paced, side-scrolling shooter with all sorts of mercenaries, aliens, and demons standing in the way of players and freedom alike. Simple enough; so let’s dive in and see what makes it stand out.
In Broforce, up to four players control an individual character (bro) and make their way to the end of the stage across hazards an enemies, leaving chaos in destruction in their wake. The clincher is that there are 30 different bros that can be played as, each being based on the appearance and arsenal of popular 80’s and 90’s action heroes; this grants a great deal of variety due to the vastly different equipment (of which there are three types: Primary, melee, and special) across each bro. For example, let’s compare two of the playable characters: The Brofessional and Bro Hard. The Brofessional (based on the protagonist of The Professional) has a simple pistol with short range and slow attack speed; however, his melee allows him to teleport short distances and his special sends out a wave that marks enemies and does heavy damage. Bro Hard (based on John McClane from Die Hard) has two rapid-firing machine pistols which allow him to do a great deal of damage in a short amount of time, but his melee is an extremely short-ranged pistol whip and his special is a flashbang grenade that, though useful, does not damage opponents. This does not go to say that there are perfect checks and balances across all characters however, as some simply are more desirable in many if not all situations, but it is really nice to see that every character plays in a unique and interesting way.
With all that said, at times it feels as though the greatness of each bro is lessened by the game’s approach to a lives system. Whenever a level begins, each player is assigned a random bro. As the level progresses, players can break open cages to save another bro, which in turn gives that player an additional life and assigns them a random new bro; that would be all well and good if players could form a sort of roster and switch between acquired bros at any time, or even return to the previous bro after death, but as it stands, every pickup and every death means a random re-roll. This mechanic proves to be rather frustrating as players are often forced to choose between keeping a bro they like and having an extra life, which can be an especially hard choice when a single hit will mean death; however, this is all preference-based, and can be adapted to so long as the player is willing to accept that occasionally they will have to face undesirable situations, such as fighting bosses with high HP while using a bro with exceptionally low damage output.
It’s important to note that the game is vastly different when played in multiplayer as opposed to single-player. On one hand, more players means more lives right out the gate, but with more guns and explosives cluttering the field of view, it can very easily become difficult to understand what’s going on; leading to many deaths that would not have occurred while playing alone. Furthermore, whenever a player gains a life, that player gets to keep that that life exclusively (unless other players are out of lives, in which case the player who died first is brought back); this system seems fair enough on the surface, but with no ability to take an additional life from a team mate, there will often be situations where a single player will have to go through large parts of the level on their own, leaving up to three players twiddling their thumbs waiting for the last player to either die a handful of times or reach the end of the level. However, though it is not perfect, the multiplayer is what will keep the game fresh, considering that there are only a couple hours of content in the game. In this respect, Broforce is a bit like the Left 4 Dead series, in which the same content will typically be played through repeatedly, with the challenge and new experience coming from how situations are handled each time ’round, moreso with the fact that through the entire game, the players will be using random new bros every playthrough, making no two sessions the same.
As far as aesthetics go, Broforce chooses an exaggerated retro style, with characters looking like they came out of an overclocked Atari 2600. Though the environments and non-humanoid enemies share pixel size with the bros, their pixel art is simply sublime as opposed to the bros’ conservative yet detailed look, with light and shade effects perfectly accenting leaves and alien carapaces. At first the contrast between the fruits of this style can be a bit jarring, after all, it almost feels as though they are two separate styles entirely; however, as the game goes on there is a sort of cycle of intrigue: you look at the detailed yet simple characters and can’t help but notice the beautiful backgrounds and their even higher detail. After a while, the eye is brought back to the stark simplicity of the characters. In this way, Broforce succeeds in creating an engaging environment, and in tandem with the simple sound design of quality gunshots and retro action game tunes, it creates strong cohesion and an engaging experience all around.
For the price, Broforce is a must-have for the carnage-loving action junkie in all of us.
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8.5/10
Audio - 8/10
Value/replayability - 7/10
Broforce is a bit of a niche game, but what it lacks in inherent variety it makes up for in challenge and unpredictability. Definitely worth picking up for fans of intense action and the characters the game is parodying.
- Smooth controls and high mobility
- Large variety of playable characters
- engaging to play and even spectate if you're currently dead
- Simplicity in design makes the game easy to play and hard to master
- Every bro will at one point or another fight the same type of enemy as the character they were based off of
- Campaign is too long to practically play in a single sitting
- Joining an online campaign will overwrite your current campaign progress
- Inability to choose or swap characters at will