Broforce review (Early Access)
Early Access reviews offer our preliminary verdicts on in-development games. We may follow up this unscored review with a final, scored review in the future.
Broforce makes me ask some tough questions. Questions like: why is the devil in Vietnam, wearing a suit and tie? Why is Indiana Brones's whip so wimpy? Why isn't the only song in Broforce Team America's patriotic anthem "America, Fuck Yeah?" It's certainly the only song running through my head while I play Broforce. Broforce is basically a $15/£12 version of that song that you can control, using an army of ‘80s and ‘90s action movie heroes. As long as you're playing with friends, it's a blast.
Broforce is like Contra, if Contra supported 4-player co-op and was way easier and actually starred Schwarzenegger and Stallone instead of obvious lookalikes. It's a fast-paced run-and-gun shooter with totally destructible terrain, which you will destroy by shooting and blowing up explosive barrels and explosive terrorists. The terrain introduces a light tactical element to Broforce: I'd occasionally shoot-dig my way through a wall to attack enemies from behind or to avoid them altogether.
Going too wild with destruction can cause problems. Chew up too much ground, and you'll create a gap too wide to jump across, dooming you to an un-bro-like fall into the deathly void awaiting at the bottom of any classic video game screen. Mostly, though, the athleticism of the bros counteracts that problem—they can infinitely climb up walls and flip up and around ledges to traverse cratered terrain. Running and jumping in the game is fast and fluid and a big part of what makes it fun.
Mostly, though, this is the bro show. Broforce is fun because you're playing ridiculous sprite versions of action movie heroes, like Schwarzenegger from Terminator or Schwarzenegger from Commando or Schwarzenegger from Conan. There's a lot of Schwarzenegger. There's Brobocop and Bro Dredd. There's Rambro. There's Snake Broskin. There's Ellen Ripbro. There's MacBrover. MacBrover throws a giant turkey with a bomb in it.
Unlocking and switching between the bros is the most fun part of Broforce, and they're all fairly unique. Each Bro has a different primary weapon—a shotgun or bazooka or machine gun or fists of fury—and a special attack, which could be a simple grenade or an airstrike or something more custom-tailored. Ash Brolliams uses his chainsaw to run on a rampage. Mr. Anderbro uses his Matrix powers to deflect bullets. Brominator reveals his endoskeleton and becomes invincible.
Co-op is a playground for brotastic chaos, with rockets and lasers and shotgun spreads and explosions rocking the screen all at once. I find it a lot more fun than playing Broforce by myself. With friends, we're constantly trying to cause havoc without blowing each other up, or experiencing those great "did you see that" moments when someone rides a rocket across the screen, jumps off it before it explodes, and kills half a dozen enemies in mid-air.
After playing Broforce for about half an hour by myself, it started to feel a little thin. There are no objectives to complete, no complex techniques to master. Solo (I can't wait until they add Han Brolo), Broforce is almost a puzzle platformer—I approached little encounters more slowly and strategically, killing enemies with explosive chain reactions or dropping blocks on them from above. That was fun, but not as fun as all-out chaos. Blowing shit up really is just better with friends.
The first time I tried Broforce on Early Access back in April, network issues made online co-op unplayable. It's gotten much better since: I didn't encounter issues starting a game or staying connected in the May 29 Beta Update. After a couple dozen levels, I did encounter some minor sync issues, but online was still playable and fun with that hiccup.
The update also added a campaign map for the single-player mode, which is a much-needed addition. Before, campaign was just one continuous string of levels with no saving progress. There's still not much of a story attached to the game—some absurd context for the bro assaults and backstory on the Broforce couldn't hurt—but it makes the campaign much more manageable. I hope it finds its way over to online co-op, too.
As of this writing, Broforce is still getting new updates every month, adding more bros, missions, enemies, and features. It has a level editor, which is still rough, and supports custom user-created campaigns, but there's no Steam Workshop support or in-game sharing yet. To play custom levels, you have to download them from the Broforce forums. Local multiplayer modes (aside from campaign co-op) also feel tacked-on. Deathmatch is pretty fun, but certain Bro abilities, like Mr. Anderbro's bullet reflection, are just a tad overpowered compared to Machete's lame knife throws. It's like a silly, unbalanced version of Towerfall that's fun as long as you're not looking for something geared for serious competition.
After spending about 10 minutes with the two competitive race modes, I just wanted to get back to co-op. That's where Broforce finds its balance between challenge and chaos, and there are more than enough levels and bros to play as even in Early Access.
Broforce's over-the-top action and improving online code make for a brotastic co-op shooter. I wouldn't pay $15/£12 for solo play, but throw in a couple players and there's more than enough fun and mayhem to justify the price.
Good. Developer Free Lives keeps adding new bros to the game, expanding its campaign, and adding new modes. It also has plans to improve its level editor and make it easy for players to share their own custom campaigns. When the base game is polished to completion, the community could continue supporting it in perpetuity.
Version reviewed: May 29, 2014 update
Reviewed on: 3.5 GHz Intel Core i7 X990, AMD R9 290X, 8GB RAM
Recommended: Intel Core Duo CPU, OpenGL 3.0-capable GPU, 2GB RAM
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Free Lives
Multiplayer: 4 player local and online co-op, 4 player local competitive