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Broforce Review: Get it, but don’t rush

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By Josh Brokaw

Game: Broforce

Price: $15.00

Developer: Free Lives

Publisher: Devolver

Release Date: Unknown; beta is live on Steam and in the Humble Store

Recommendation: Get it, but don’t rush. 

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Over the past few years, the word ‘Murica has entered our lexicon. Depending on your perception of the world, this term is either a celebration of your patriotism and glorious lack of pretense or an ironic statement about our uniquely crass culture and gung-ho attitude toward violent conflict.

Put simply: Broforce is ‘Murica.

This latest offering from Free Lives, a small indie developer in Cape Town, South Africa, seems to have taken the spirit of Hulk Hogan’s theme song, Topps’ Desert Storm trading cards (Does anyone have a Dick Cheney rookie card for trade?), and a cafetorium full of schoolchildren reciting the lyrics to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and jammed them together to create a seriously fun side-scrolling shoot ‘em up that walks a tightrope between irony and decadence.

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The premise of the game is as follows: you take control of a member of an elite team of ’80’s and ’90’s action hero rip-offs and take the war to terror. On a constantly rotating basis you will play as “Rambro,” “Brobocop.” “Bro Hard,” “B. A. Broacus,” “Indiana Brones,” “Bro in Black,” and any number of additional bro-themed borderline-infringements.

As the game is currently in early-access beta testing on Steam and in the Humble store, Free Lives are releasing monthly additions that expand the list of characters, add new features, polish code, and fix bugs. This simply means that the game is not a finished product, and you should approach it as such. That said, for a game that is still introducing features and consistently adding relatively untested alpha material, it plays fairly smoothly. Just be warned, the game is as unfinished as the plans for the wars it may or may not be lampooning.

The gameplay: 

The gameplay itself feels awfully like Contra or Metal Slug set on a side-scrolling Worms map. There are seemingly endless waves of high-powered, ethnically-generic terrorists gunning for your bro, and it’s up to you to slay the dark lord Satan and escape on your chopper.

The Worms comparison comes in to play from the moment things start exploding (almost immediately). The ground disappears upon explosion. It’s a pretty straightforward mechanic that lends an entirely new dimension of creative freedom and replay value to the game. Do you want to take out an enemy by destroying the ground they’re standing on? You can do that. Do you want to blow your way through a hill to avoid the terrorists standing on top? No problem.

To really get the most out of your game, you’ll round up a couple of your friends for an old-school session on the couch. The game allows up to four players to play cooperatively, and the impossible amount of carnage that you and your bros will cause makes it worth the trouble of actually seeing each other face-to-face (though, an online mode is available in alpha).

Once you tire of working as a unit, deathmatch mode is just a few ticks down the menu. Now you can exercise the rage that’s been building up through a series of frustrating misadventures in the cooperative game. This mode is great, but hasn’t been balanced very well. Some characters are simply too powerful to create a fun, competitive atmosphere. The developers will likely work on this in the next couple monthly updates, but as of now, you’ll have to have some friendly agreements over which characters are acceptable to select in order to maximize your fun.

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There are a few new modes such as “Race” and “Explosion Run” but the real joy of Broforce is being able to take the time to relish the varied types of destruction that are the hallmark of the game. These modes are a good idea, but not necessarily in the game’s current state.

The presence of a level editor is promising for those who intend to get more than a few days of gameplay out of this title. The style of Broforce seems to lend itself much more to a Mario Paint-type of level-editing experience than the incredible depth and longevity of the Trials or LittleBigPlanet games. However, the community may surprise everyone and find brilliant new ways to approach the game, but that’s for time to tell.

Again, the game is in beta, so everything could change in a moment.

Summary

All-in-all, Broforce delivers on its considerable promise. If you even glance at it before you buy it, you know you’re getting a brotastic explosionfest. However, there are many aspects of the game that need that last bit of polish to make it a can’t-miss title.  While the absence of a storyline plays perfectly into the semi-mindless conceit of the game, it also gives you very little reason to be engaged in the campaign. After a while, what seems like a lack of progression will cause the game to grow somewhat tiresome. However, like the classics that it emulates. After a couple days, you’ll be ready to sit down for another go.

If you have fond memories of lining up at the local roller rink to get a little further in Metal Slug or legitimately believe that Dolph Lundgren is the most underrated actor in history, Broforce will be right in your wheelhouse. If Reagan era-style ultra patriotism and post 9-11 military fetishism still needs to be taken down a notch in your book, you’ll likely choose to see that attitude reflected in the game’s intention and enjoy a satirical look at the culture that spawned “Commandbro” and “Brominator.”

There’s something in here for just about everybody, but the game is unfinished. It’s certainly worth buying as is and watching the game improve over time, however if you don’t want to spoil the experience, you’ll want to wait it out until version 1.0 is released, especially considering the fact that it has been confirmed on PS4 and PS Vita. There is no set date, and Free Lives’ will only say that it will be released “when it’s done,” so patience may be required.

Recommendation: Get it, but don’t rush. 

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Links:

Desert Storm Trading Cards Wiki

List of Bros

May 2014 Update Trailer

Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA w/ Lyrics

Hulk Hogan’s Theme

Humble Family Skate Center

Free Lives’ Web Site