By William Shelton
Release Date: October 15, 2015
Systems: PS4 (Reviewed), PC, Mac
Developer: Free Lives Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Obtained By: Free with Playstation Plus
“It’s satire bro”. You’ve heard this line before or at least some variation of it, I’m sure. As often as the line is used, so many who say it don’t seem to really understand what satire actually is. Thankfully Broforce has come along to explain things to the intellectually deficient. If only the game didn’t manage to fuck everything up in the second half. I honestly do not remember a game I loved so much starting out that I fell out of favor with so fast and so ferociously.
As the game starts you play as a member of “Broforce”, an elite group of Action Movie Heroes with “Bro” based puns for names, and you have one job: Americanize the world. In lessor hands this could have ended up as racist and xenophobic as so much modern military fiction is, but the game instantly turns into a skewering of American interventionism post 9/11. Everything about this section of the game just works for me: the low to moderate difficulty, near fully destructible environments and playing the role of action movie heroes all reinforce the idea that America revels in and celebrates the collateral damage it causes. But as the game goes on this sardonic charm is lost. This downward spiral begins when the game introduces Xenomorph and Facehuggers as new enemies. With a strong introduction and a few good early levels I was thinking this was going to continue the satirical themes of the game with a new edge like “America ignores bigger issues to focus on it’s own self-serving goals”, but that sadly turned out to not be the case. By the mid point of the second third of the game, all pretense of satire was abandoned.
But if simply losing a bit of it’s charm was the games worst offense it wouldn’t have bothered me so much. Broforce’s biggest issues is that after a while it just stops being fun. And yes, I do struggle with the cognitive dissonance of having to mark a game down for not being fun when it is critiquing the idea of making war fun to begin with.
As the game continues the same mechanics that made the first few hours so great begin to get in the way. You start each mission with a randomly assigned Bro, and you switch characters and gain lives by rescuing hostages. However, the character you switch to after rescuing hostages or restarting after death is randomized. This created a lot of scenarios where I just gave up on missions after getting too many useless characters for the level in progress. For example, in the Aliens pastiche section of the game, you play underground without a lot of vertical mobility options. However, I was randomly assigned a character based off of Cherry Darling (played by Rose McGowan in Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror”) who can only shoot downwards while rocketing upwards. This made dealing with the swarm of acid spewing Xenomorph more trouble than it was worth. Even after dying and getting a new character, the amount of times it was a melee based characters who were just as useless pushed me to just walk away from the game entirely. And as the game continues it just keeps getting worst. A boss near the end has you fighting two beings that shoot exploding enemies at you that track you and can hit you from area’s you can’t shoot in to defend yourself. The amount of bullshit the game asks players to put up with in the name of “upping the difficulty” is even more frustrating when you think about how great a lot of these ideas could have been if given the proper chance. If the aliens and demons of latter levels had been given the same thought and proper use in the games original metaphor this could have been a truly meaning full game, and if the mechanics had been ironed out in the least half of the game, it would have at lest made an honorable attempt at subversion while still being a fun retro shoot-em-up. Maybe one day i’ll give the first third, maybe even first half of the game a replay, but everything after that is frankly unsalvageable.
Even though I did begin to hate the game play, I’d be remiss to say the games audio/visual presentation didn’t hold up. The 2D art that introduced each of the games Bro’s and new Enemies all had a lot of love put into them, and as an avid lover of action movies, seeing characters from films ranging from “The Boondocck Saints”, “The Terminator”, “Leon: The Professional”, “Robocop” and more given the Bro treatment always gave me a chuckle, as did the announcer shouting “Let’s Go, Bro” at the start of each mission. The in game pixel art also never disappointed. Player characters were always recognizable and each enemy type was distinct enough that a single look could clue you into how to handle upcoming situations. All of my issues with the game aside, this is one area that did impress me right until the end.
I wanted to love this game from the moment I heard about it, and I do think the first third/half was something I’d have happily paid for, but now I’m just glad to be done with the damned thing.
Game Play: 5/10
Replay Value: 5/10
Reviewers Tilt: 4/10
Overall Score: 5.83/10