Call it The Expendables game we deserve. Call it the Muscular Man Shooting Game. Call it the Rambo/Terminator/Chuck Norris Simulator. Call it a Contra Clone. Honestly, Broforce is wildly more appropriate and cooler. Seconds into Free Lives‘ upcoming shooter and it’s pretty obvious the kind of wild ride players are going to be in for.
Come at Me Bro
If ever there was a game that could shout “America!” at the top of its lungs without betraying its sense of parody, this would be it. As a savage band of bros, players must liberate territories from the clutches of masked evil forces, massive death machines and what might be a devil mayor in a suit. It’s all madness but who cares?
Players are dropped into the war zone as Rambro, a blatantly obvious nod to Rambo. Controls are quite basic: one button fires Rambro’s machine gun, a second button melees with a knife and a third button unleashes a special attack that throws a deadly grenade.
Broforce has a very simple concept to grasp. As a powerful bro you will shoot your way through different types of soldiers while raising American flags which act as checkpoints. Some levels conclude with a boss fight, but many just ask that the player gun down the devil mayor at the end to raise the final flag and fly off in a chopper while the stage explodes. Yes, you have to get to the chopper!
One of the most obvious comparisons is Contra–except in this case, Broforce has much more verticality. From left to right, levels are quite expansive, yet they also extend up and down. Curious players will want to blast through walls and earth to see what is underneath. And what are players looking for? Cages that hold fellow captive bros.
Bro Team, Assemble
After that first cage is broken and the first bro is freed, Broforce gets even crazier. Rambro swaps out with Brommando–John Matrix from Commando–who shoots rockets that explode enemies on impact. A few cages later and Mr. T from The A-Team joins the force with his flame thrower. More and more bros with their own individual weapons and special attacks are unlocked. Grabbing one cage means that your current bro is then swapped for a completely random one.
Because of this, players are not only given variety but are forced to experiment and keep on their toes. Not every piece of every level requires the full-on guns blazing approach. Sometimes a player must blast through structures to topple powerful machines or avoid a hail of gunfire.
However, one of the primary problems players will find with the random luck of the bro draw is that they will get too comfortable with some characters. The Brominator/Terminator with his gatling gun and temporary invincibility is a beast. He puts Bro Dredd and his bouncing bullets to shame.
Without a doubt, many of the bros are extremely powerful and make short work of bosses and powerful soldiers that can take a hit. Part of this issue most likely rests with Free Lives to tinker with the game as development and refinement continues. Players have the option of sticking with a preferred bro but will also risk plowing through a level with only one life. Since opening a cage means gaining a life, a kind of strategy is developed on how to tackle a level.
The Walls are Crumbling
Though enemies can explode, shoot miniguns or rip your throat out because they are dogs, the shooting mechanics in Broforce are straightforward. Different bros alter how shooting is handled but the real magic lies in the game’s platforming potential. If a building or huge pile of dirt blocks forward progress, it can be shot down. Don’t want to risk climbing to the top of a latter to be shot? Blow the ground out from under an enemy and watch him fall.
This kind of destruction can be incredibly fun. Destroying the area beneath a door where enemies come out causes them all to violently fall to their deaths while screaming. It’s about as silly and over the top as it could be. Unfortunately, being too careless might also result in a player getting stuck without any ground to climb.
This issue is also made worse due to the awkward jumping mechanic. By default, players press up to jump but it feels imprecise. It’s possible to do a kind of jumping somersault when moving towards a corner but it is never easy to execute. Because of this, one boss fight is rendered extremely difficult because the first part of it relies on jumping, and death means starting back at the bottom.
Platforming in Broforce might not be excellent at the moment but that could change. While the above mentioned boss fight might be tedious, the concept could be applied to normal levels. Blasting enemies to pieces might be what gives Broforce its charm, but increased platforming depth could give it an extra edge.
Full Steam Ahead
As humorous as the game can be, Free Lives needs to focus on adding to the experience while increasing variety. Shortly after Broforce was released on Early Access, a “map mode” was included that looks cool but is currently only a simplified version of Bionic Commando’s level select screen. Level editors and multiplayer modes are on deck and have the potential to be a great experience. An argument could be made for the “bro” selection process to not be random. That being said, it would actually be cooler to see a kind of challenge mode where players must beat certain levels or the entire game with only a select few bros.
While some bros need some adjusting with regards to their powers, it would be nice to see their melee attack receive a cosmetic change. Only a select few bros use something aside from a basic knife. Certainly with this much creativity going on, the art team has something else in mind aside besides a few white pixels? But given a little more time and a little more feedback, Broforce should be the perfect way for any player to get in touch with their true, inner bro.