This muscle-bound physics shooter needs some work but it's still fun
Whether it's the smartass name or the numerous references to action stars, there's nothing subtle about Broforce. Then there's the seemingly never-ending barrage of explosions and showers of pixelated blood that make the stage look like a particularly frustrating Super Meat Boy level.
Broforce is now on Steam's Early Access service, and whilst there's plenty of features on offer in its current state, there's still some work needed to just nail that core gameplay.
Broforce (Mac, PC [previewed], consoles)
Developer: Free Lives
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release: Summer 2014
MRSP: $14.99 / £11.99
When Broforce first started up I thought I was playing Mercenary Kings for a minute, mainly due to the appearance of a bulky army chopper. Whilst the two games (and the upcoming Super Time Force) share a similar aesthetic and a clear influence from 2D side-scrolling shooters of the past, they couldn't be more dissimilar. Mercenary Kings has a measured pace and is focused on completing missions to level up, Broforce is just sheer mayhem.
It's pure run-'n'-gun action but it's not just a Metal Slug clone -- the environments are almost totally destructible and there's explosive canisters and barrels all over the levels so there's plenty of opportunity to inflict massive damage with just a single shot.
You'll need all the help you can get because no matter what member of Broforce you're controlling, a single shot will take you down. In all likelihood you'll be blown up or savagely attacked by a dog. So it pays to take a measured approach before jumping in and blasting everything that moves. Mind you, that can work just as well, and there's manic joy to seeing enemies and barrels explode in the most over-the-top way. Larger enemies will take more than one shot to take down and even some basic troopers will cause problems if you don't take them out fast.
The characters in Broforce are all renamed pastiches from various action movies of the 1980s and 1990s. There's the obvious Schwarzenegger and Stallone clones, along with some more surprising choices like a TNT-throwing MacGuyver clone and trenchcoated Neo character. New additions to the Broforce are unlocked by releasing prisoners from cells dotted around a level; release a prisoner and you'll immediately swap to another new member of the team. Once you release a certain number, you'll unlock a totally new recruit and they'll be added to the roster.
Whilst changing to a new character can help out in a difficult situation, you're simply given a random pick from your existing roster. There were plenty of times I had a minigun-wielding T800 clone who I was very happy with only to release a prisoner and be lumped with poor Stallone-esque Judge Dredd, whose pistol didn't quite cut it. Whilst it would be great to be able to pick your replacement, I can see that route leading to players just picking the character with the most powerful weapon.
Whilst the keyboard isn't a bad choice, a controller is a much better option; each character moves and jumps at the same rate and has two attacks: a basic and limited special attack. Every character also has a knife to allow for a short-range melee attack and also a wall-climbing ability.
Right now, the jumping feels quite awkward and imprecise. Sometimes I find I can jump higher than normal and other times jumping feels floaty. Hopefully it's something that get's fixed in a future patch -- there are minor updates planned in between large monthly patches -- as I'd love to see the controls made just a little bit tighter. Another nice addition would be slightly easier to understand controller options and a tutorial wouldn't go amiss, either.
There's plenty of game modes available right now, from an online co-op mode and deathmatch available for up to four players to Explosion Run and a Race Mode for you to compete against your friends. Broforce also includes an editor with the ability to create and share your own custom levels. It all makes up for a cool package that might see a lot of changes and improvements before its full release in late summer.