If there's one thing that the United States has primarily contributed toward the betterment of society, there's no shadow of a doubt that it's 80s and 90s action flicks. Filled to the brim with fearless heroes killing innumerable amounts of communist fascists, terrorist scum, and extra-terrestrial threats, few can resist a testosterone boost after watching explosive, fun movies like these. And if there were ever a game to glorify this pop culture and crank it up to eleven, Broforce would be it.
Free Lives Games revels in the pure manliness of its game, which has you playing as parodied actors and actresses sent to eliminate any potential danger by ploughing through foreign lands with a single goal: liberate everything from enemies of freedom like terrorists, aliens, and the legions of Hell. That's all that you need to know, and it's all the game tells you to do; it's intentionally light on story to complete its tongue-in-cheek caricature of American patriotism, which is made even more hilarious with your commander's excessively partisan, xenophobic comments about liberating other countries because, er, America. This surprisingly makes Broforce a light social commentary, but it's more of a silly love letter to action movies than anything else.
You see this in its 30 plus cast, which not only includes buff versions of Mad Max, Rambo, Snake Plissken, and Conan the Barbarian, but also worthy heroines like Ellen Ripley and The Bride. They all have unique weaponry and specials that will have you slightly adapting your playstyle on a constant basis, since you acquire a randomized character each time that you rescue a POW while making your way to each level's exit point. From weaponry like machine guns and swords to specials like slowing down time and calling in an air strike, it's incredible how much the developer is able to diversify the gameplay in this area alone. This comes with the cost of yearning for specific characters when you have someone who can't get across a certain platform or properly kill a boss, but this frustration is welcome to allow for the excitement of not knowing who you'll be next.
The moment-to-moment action is bombastic with a growing opposition that bring new challenges to every level. Environmental hazards and suicidal enemies will have you jumping and vaulting around like crazy since you die from one hit, and while you'll perish a lot by losing track of yourself and not seeing threats in time, it's a thrill to simply rush about with weapons blazing and pause to watch your carnage cause chaos, since nearly everything is destructible and capable of exploding. On a side note, this brilliantly allows you to carve your own path to objectives, which the developer encourages since varying enemies occupy different levels of the battlefield. With mechanics like being able to run faster, wall climb, and swing up onto overhanging ledges to boot, this solid, side-scrolling shooter takes advantage of its minimal, Terraria-like exploration.
Getting to point A and B for each of the dozens of stages could've easily gotten boring, but Broforce never loses its edge, which pays off as the campaign chugs along with better boss fights, level design, a few side missions, and so forth. Sadly, technical issues do hold the fun back with frame rate drops when there's too much happening on-screen and an ever-present glitch where you cannot move for two seconds briefly after spawning.
Even the audio becomes compressed during hectic sequences, but on all other counts it's crisp and professionally done, even comical to good effect, such as with a manly voice that shouts encouraging lines each time that you spawn that we couldn't stop laughing at. Deon van Heerden's soundtrack is equally impressive, and while most of the percussion-driven tracks sound similar and get drowned out in the noise, there are memorable songs with epic guitar riffs and backup choirs. It's worth mentioning that the pixelated graphics – reminiscent of Super Meat Boy's style – are bursting with colour and personality, bolstered by surprisingly thorough, fluid animation that doesn't cut corners. What completes it all are the stylized character profiles and title cards that pop up to introduce unlocked bros and new enemies.
With a five to seven hour long campaign, versus mode, and co-op mode, Broforce can be loads of ridiculous fun by yourself or with friends. If you don't take co-op too seriously and are okay with losing yourself in the chaos, it can be a blissful riot. And since the versus mode reminds us of TowerFall Ascension's excellent multiplayer, you're in for a treat with friends since you'll all be frantically avoiding each other and laughing away at your deaths.
Broforce is everything awesome about action films amplified to a satirical degree that will leave you grinning non-stop. The tight run and gun gameplay never outstays its welcome with a steady stream of fresh bros, locales, and challenges. Fine-tuned visuals and audio serve to make its patriotic bent all the more entertaining, and even though performance issues knock the game down a peg for now, there's not much else that keeps this guilty pleasure of a game from resounding triumphantly like fireworks on the Fourth of July.