There’s an awful lot of nostalgia for the action films of the 80s and 90s, as they all too often find themselves wading through wave after wave of enemies, setting off explosions left right and centre. Broforce embraces those action-packed films wholeheartedly, and takes the destruction, the bombast and the excess to the next level.
With an abundance of 2D pixel art games in the world these days, what helps Broforce to stand out from the crowd is its sheer delight in letting you destroy the world. Made up of thousands of square blocks, practically everything in the world can and will be blown to smithereens as gunfire and explosions remove chunks of the game world (often splattering what remains with the pixelated blood and gibs of the bad guys). It gets even more chaotic and unpredictable once you add in the four player co-op, which is both online and local, and the various bombs, grenades and missiles enemies throw at you.
Getting through a level is suitably messy as a consequence, not least because explosive barrels are everywhere and often chain together as they blow up. There are often distinct above and below ground routes to take, but it’s liberating to be able to just ignore those options and come crashing through a wall or destroy entire sections of a level. Of course, with so much destruction, there is a certain risk that a level could end up nigh on impossible to complete. Ladders and checkpoint flags are indestructible for this reason, but your character does have a decent base level of traversal. Though it varies between characters, you don’t have a particularly big jump and I sometimes longed for a double jump to cross a particular gap, but you can rapidly wall jump your way up a surface, while grabbing onto corners and minor acrobatics are done on the fly in a very forgiving fashion.
Practically every action hero that you can think of is represented, and then about a dozen more that you wouldn’t expect. You’ve got Brommando, Bronan the Brobarian, Brominator, and those are just the Arnold Schwarzenenger characters, with everyone else from MacBrover to Brade, Ellen Ripbro, and even the more modern Cherry Broling with her gun for a peg leg. Just in case you hadn’t noticed, all of the names have been adapted to include the word ‘bro’.
It’s not the most subtle of comic overtones, but it’s enough to bring a smile to your face, as you unlock characters, recognise the references and appreciate how they’ve been distilled and adapted to this over the top world. Just as there’s inherent amusement to be found in throwing a grenade and seeing the enemies throw their arms up and try to run away or the way your character’s face in the corner of the screen grins and lights up as you unleash an endless stream of gunfire.
All of them have different weapons and specials, so you might find yourself swinging a sword one second and then wielding a minigun the next, before having a flamethrower in your hands a few moments later. You don’t really get a choice in the matter, as each and every time you spawn or free a captive from a cage – in order to gain an extra life – you’re handed a different bro to play as. Switching characters is very frequent, but it can end up rather confusing during co-op to try and figure out just which character it is you’re playing as and keep track of them during the hail of gunfire and screen shaking explosions.
Thankfully, and quite necessarily, friendly fire is off, allowing you to just go hell for leather at all times during co-op, but co-op play does change the game flow with regard to lives. You start each level with a single life, needing to rescue hostages in order to get more backup, but whether you’re playing solo or as a group of four, the number of hostages remains the same. It can very easily end up that all bar one player has run out of lives, possibly lost in the mess of destroying the world, and so the ones that remain have to hunt around and head to find another of the handful of hostages to get a buddy back. It’s tense, but I feel that allowing everyone to respawn when a checkpoint is triggered could have been a better solution.
The game kicks off with a suitably nonsensical and bombastic take on 20th century US foreign policy, as the bros are dropped into various countries to take on the armies of terror led by a suspiciously red-skinned and snappily dressed man – it’s quite obviously the Devil – and the environments shift from near Sonic-like levels of greenery to war torn and hellish backdrops. You initially fight your way through simple soldiers and bombers, and it doesn’t really matter who you’re playing as thanks to their intentionally dumb AI, but as the game progresses, you start to come up against bigger and more varied enemies in more far flung countries such as Irakistan and Youkraine, with a pleasing change in colour palette, before the game takes a few surprising turns that would have Ellen Ripbro reaching for her flamethrower or the Boodock Bros for a crucifix.
It’s really with the boss characters that you start to wish you had a choice in your characters, as the handful of melee or close ranged bros just aren’t well suited to certain battles. The bosses get bigger and bigger, more challenging and more inventive, that’s for certain, but had me butting my head against a wall on a few occasions – the multi-part final boss that’s been added to cap off the game’s full release is particularly gruelling and loses some of the fun factor. They do offer a very different challenge to the rest of the game, often making you think and testing your reflexes rather than just mowing a path through the environments.
With a PS4 release planned for early next year, one thing that I hope can be created is a solid set of default controls. As it is, plugging in a DualShock 4 was recognised perfectly well on Mac or PC, but I found myself having to go into the options in order to switch movement to the D-Pad, have jump on the cross button, and so on. It’s a pity that it doesn’t automatically recognise and adjust to what gets plugged in, but once configured, the game plays perfectly well on the controller, and it’s probably the preferred option compared to playing with a keyboard.
There’s plenty of content already in the game, which can be enjoyed both solo or in co-op, and both offline and online. There are also variations like Arcade mode which strips out what little semi-incoherent story there is and the cute level selection map, or the still offline only Deathmatch mode. However, the game also has Steam Workshop support and a level editor, allowing you to create and share, or simply grab more and more levels that have been made by the game’s existing community and wage an endless campaign against the bad guys.
Carving your way through a level in Broforce is chock full of muscle flexing carnage, and it’s brilliant for it as explosions rock the screen and you tear through the scenery. Though inventive, some of the boss fights halt that fun, and the way co-op deals with lives is too unforgiving, but it’s always throwing out something new, whether it’s a different looking environment to blow up, a new type of enemy to blow up or another new bro to add to the team and blow things up with.