Wot I Think: Broforce

We’ve written about the brilliance at the muscular heart of Broforce [official site] before. It’s a run and gun platform-shooter in which tiny action heroes blow everything to pieces, using machine guns, dynamite, knives, shotguns, rocket launchers, rocket legs, rocket packs, grenades, airstrikes and flamethrowers. The fully destructible levels and agile player characters are the core of a perfectly pitched action game, hiding behind a title and theme that might suggest little more than a miserable pile of memes.

Broforce is excellent.

Now that it’s out of Early Access and the full experience is available, I’ve sunk a couple of days into Free Lives’ exercise in excess to pick through the monstrous bosses and alien invasions of the later levels, and I’m delighted that the game manages to maintain its glorious momentum right up to the final moments. Multiplayer cooperative and versus modes, as well as a level designer, are the icing on a delicious singleplayer cake.

Playing through the campaign, I had to keep reminding myself that the levels were absolutely definitely going to become puzzle-like as the difficulty increased. Instead of improvising success using whatever tools happened to be at hand and reacting to the delirium of destruction as it unfolded around me, I’d soon find areas that had rigid solutions. Fire rocket here to open up passage, direct all enemies to this killing floor, keep your arms inside the vehicle at all times.

That never happens. Sure, a couple of the boss fights demand a fairly specific approach but for the vast majority of its running time, the hefty campaign plays directly to the game’s many strengths. I can’t stress enough how wonderfully dynamic and destructible the levels are. It’s not just a case of grenades taking out blocks of terrain – there are different materials that react to bullets, explosions, fire and acid appropriately. Set fire to a bridge and it might collapse when too much pressure is applied; running across it is fine but if a corpse falls from above, the whole thing falls to pieces.

Nothing that happens relies on scripting. Hell, even the few in-engine cutscenes that introduce new enemy types or bosses happen in realtime, simply panning the camera away from your character momentarily to show that something is happening. The first time I met one of the alien lifeforms – a bundle of trundling explosive joy – the dramatic introduction ended abruptly when an unexpected terrorist shot the poor critter before it could demonstrate its powers.

That unpredictability is a central feature of the game and is evident in one of the key design choices that elevates Broforce from “Very Good” to “Spectacular”. As you make your way through the game, there are prisoners to rescue – do so and you’re rewarded with an extra life for use on the current level. First of all, that makes the beginning of a level as tense as a pigeon among the cats. Die before reaching the first cage and it’s game over. There’s no real consequence to failure – you head back to the most recent checkpoint – but I take a certain pride in completing levels without losing all of my Bros.

If prisoners simply functioned as extra lives, they wouldn’t be all that interesting. Each one is a random character, selected from all the ones you’ve unlocked to date. New characters are unlocked by rescuing a certain number of Bros across all of your playthroughs, with the gap between unlocks increasing each time, and you’ll start each mission with a random pick from the pool, and switch to another whenever you free a prisoner.

Problem is, many of the Bros have their own unique playstyle. All have a standard attack, a melee attack and a special weapon. They broadly divide into two categories – those whose standard attack is ranged and those who have a second melee attack in that slot. Characters like Indiana Brones can only fire projectiles by using an expendable piece of special ammo (it’s the bullet that he uses to fire through a line of Nazis on top of the tank in The Last Crusade; all of the special powers are either broad or specific references). His whip has been beefed up since the last Early Access build of the game I played and it now causes even the largest enemies to wince in pain and run for cover. Even the simplest weapons tend to have fun, silly consequences like that, and all of those consequences can lead to chain reactions – whip a terrorist and watch as he flees into a minefield and then applaud as the ensuing explosion causes a watchtower to topple, crushing an alien queen.

(A quick word on the aliens: they’re not introduced immediately but when they arrive, they lead to three-way battles, completely new tactical approaches and have the BEST implementation of acid blood that I’ve ever seen in a game. It eats away at the ground in such a satisfying way and reduces your Bros to little gloopy skeletons that, marvellously, you can still control for a second or two.)

The randomised player characters prevent the kind of prescribed ‘one-trick-required’ level design that I fretted about and ensure that Broforce stays true to its original premise – constant, unpredictable action taking place across levels that react to every bullet and explosion. There are entire boss fights that seem to have been designed simply because the developers wanted to see how the player would react to the collapse and disintegration of an entire level, from top to bottom. There are 30+ characters and some of them, like Planet Terror’s Cherry Broling, practically change the entire control scheme.

Broforce rarely puts a foot wrong and when it does, it manages to make the ensuing pratfall entertaining enough that I want to buy it a beer. I didn’t find the theme particularly amusing but it does deliver a brilliant cast of characters and the very brief briefings wisely poke fun at the bullshit machismo of the Bros themselves rather than making specific jokes about the wars they’re caught up in. Other than some daft place names, you could be anywhere in the world and there’s a pleasing lack of the comedy accents and racial stereotypes that are often inserted into spoofs.

Remember when you played Wolfenstein 3D and imagined what first-person games might look like twenty years down the line? Broforce is like that, but for everyone who played Metal Slug or any other side-scrolling shooter. It’s what Worms would look like if it had ever been successfully translated into a realtime singleplayer experience.

There’s so much happening from moment to moment, so many systems at play, that when a stray explosion destroys the struts that are keeping a ceiling in place and the whole thing crashes down on an enemy squad, or a furious mechanised death machine stomps the ground so hard that it digs itself into a sinkhole, you barely even notice. Forget your Just Causes, your Uncharteds, your Battlfields and your Call of Duties – Broforce comes closer to capturing the beautiful chaos and heroic misadventures of a big budget action movie than any of them.

Broforce is out now.

31 Comments

  1. caff says:

    Oooooh interesting. I had discounted this as being a co-op focussed game, but everything you’ve said about it has me interested.

  2. thekelvingreen says:

    I have this awful feeling that it’s going to get sued into oblivion before I get a chance to play it.

    • MrWolf says:

      This so clearly falls under the umbrella of fair use as parody that any suit would fail.

    • Kollega says:

      I’m pretty sure that if the copyright-holders could sue Broforce into oblivion, they already would. As MrWolf said, it’s so deep behind the lines in fair use territory that the copyright terror squads couldn’t reach it if they tried.

    • rapchee says:

      they made an another bro game: expendabros, with the full expendables cast, with warner’s support. i think they’re fine

    • thekelvingreen says:

      Good news then! That Dredd image looked so on-the-nose that I began to fear for the game.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Al__S says:

    It’s been in open development for ages. It’s not getting sued

  4. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    The multiplayer needs some work. You open a lobby? Great! Don’t hit the wrong button or you’re booted out to the main menu and your game disappears.

    You’re in a lobby? Great! Now there’s no way to see who else is in there with you, and if anyone hits READY the game starts in 3 seconds, regardless of who’s joined.

    You’re in a game? Great! Now every player online has control of the level-selection helicopter. Have fun with that!

  5. Premium User Badge

    AceJohnny says:

    BroForce has been by go-to game for a short bout of fun for months now. The Steam Workshop integration and user levels mean I’ll be playing it for a while to come. User levels are a mixed bag, of course, but there are definitely gems in there.

    However, have they changed anything in the last month or so for the official release?

    • Kollega says:

      They have. There’s a new world map, new mission briefings to go with it, new cutscenes for first appearances of Bros and bosses, a few new Bros that were added last month, and the final mission that takes place in Hell. Yes, really.

      • Baines says:

        Unfortunately, the new world map feels less functional than the old. It was easier to see your open areas when the world was flat.

        • jonfitt says:

          It’s good looking, but I think it is less functional. I’ve “completed” the game by doing all the Aliens levels before the 1.0 release.
          Someone just mentioned Hell maps, which I don’t recall. But going to the new map I can’t find anywhere to go, everything is just checked off. So either I did do the Hell maps and forgot, or I can’t find them :/

  6. Kollega says:

    Bought the game while it was still in Early Access, on 1st January this year. Never once have I regretted getting it. It’s brilliant. And the new theme song. Just… the new theme song.

  7. Megarlin says:

    Some voxelization in the menus and the world map, some nice art for when unlock a bro or encounter a new enemy, a whole new tile set whit a whole new array of enemies, new game modes and achievments

  8. Kefren says:

    I love this game, completed it each time they did an update. However, I’d love a feature/option where you could stick with one character and only switch to the rescued bro if you lose a life (rather than switching to the rescued bro as soon as you rescue them).

  9. Baines says:

    “His whip has been beefed up since the last Early Access build of the game I played and it now causes even the largest enemies to wince in pain and run for cover.”

    Since some people tend to miss it, the damage of Indy’s whip depends on the distance you are from the victim.

    That touches on one issue that I had with Broforce, which I and others raised during development. The game would really benefit from an encyclopedia of sorts, which you could browse for basic information about the characters that you’ve rescued. Some characters have non-standard behaviors that people could easily miss, particularly as you might only play a character for a few seconds before dying. And the more characters you unlock, the more you increase your pool of available characters, and thus the less often you actually see any specific character.

    Heck, the only time you even saw their names was when you unlocked them.

  10. Crafter says:

    According to Steam, I have sunk more than 30 hours in BroForce and I have not even attempted to play the game in Iron mode (each time a bro dies, he becomes unavailable, so I can only say that I had a blast with this game.
    There are some parts of the game or bosses where getting a specific character means a very easy win, but often you have to know them well in order to exploit there specificities, so it does not really feel like an exploit.

    ‘Press fire to pay respect’ was just excellent !

  11. slerbal says:

    I love this game. I’ve wiped all my progress so I can play the release version again from scratch, that is how much I love it!

  12. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    This week, according to Steam, I have arrived at 100 hours of Broforce. I mostly play alone, but sometimes drop into random multiplayer games. These used to be quite problematic, some lag and weird physics effects sometimes make it difficult not to die randomly and immediately, but it’s always fun. But it’s still best when played locally, be it alone or in a group!

  13. jonahcutter says:

    Your last sentence really sums it up perfectly. Broforce is a masterpiece in taking a film genre/experience, and reinterpreting into a uniquely game experience.

    It does what it sets out to do just about perfectly, which is brilliance.

    And it’s so fun and satisfying to play.

  14. Michael Anson says:

    The one thing that this review is missing is how BroForce translates from a superb shoot-em-up platformer to the purest wacky hilarity with the addition of other players. Especially on the more brutal levels, a difficult half hour puzzle can translate into over an hour of rib-destroying anarchic comedy with the right friends in tow, until laughing hurts so much that you strive to finish the level so you can recover.

  15. cpt_freakout says:

    Last played it at the beginning of the year in local co-op with two friends and it was amazingly fun. As in drop-the-controller-’cause-you’re-laughing-so-hard fun. If you have the chance to play multiplayer/local co-op, buy it ASAP!

  16. Xantonze says:

    Too bad about the spoilers on the enemy types.
    Between this and the Eurogamer review that gave away more than half of the Bros silly names, I feel like I lost some of the magic.
    The game is fairly simple and linear, so these are quite an asset. Please don’t reveal stuff when it’s not necessary!

  17. Player1 says:

    Broforce is simply brilliant. After having played Expendabros to death I thought it could not hurt to shell out a few bucks for the real thing, and oh man, it proved to be an excellent choice. Whenever I feel like wasting a few minutes I fire up Broforce, and it delivers, always. Shooting a goon with dynamite strapped to his waist, and watch him run off towards his friends screaming, where he finally blows up, is priceless and never gets old. Playing with friends is even more hilarious, as most of the deaths happen tragically, accidentally, and mostly in comical ways. 10/10

  18. thelastpointer says:

    This is the new best game ever, bro

  19. Bobtree says:

    Loved it. BROFORCE has some of the funniest gameplay ever. Check out the free Expendabros if you’re on the fence.

    • alms says:

      Yeah that was I wanted to ask. I remember bouncing off Expendabros oh so fast and looking at my friends list, all of their playtimes, except a couple exception, are 20 minutes or less.