Do you love America? Do you love movies where muscular, poorly acting men shoot evil in the face? If you said yes to one of these two questions, you are going to love Broforce.
In development since 2012, Free Lives' Broforce is an action shooter that sets itself apart through its entire cast coming from the world of action movies. Every single character you control in this game is from an action movie, ranging from the expected like Rambo and Commando, and then getting weird with the likes of Time Cop, Evil Dead, Alien, and The Rocketeer. Remember when The Rocketeer was that one movie the really pretentious guy in the Disney movie discussion would break out to seem interesting? How times have changed. All these characters have their names changed ever so slightly to work in the word "bro" (such as "Bromando"), and are all a part of the US military and are sent in to war zones to spread freedom and democracy with bullets and explosions, as is the American way.
The game's campaign has tongue firmly in cheek, which it needs to do to justify having Ellen Ripley and a Terminator in the same title. However, it's also pretty clever satire. All the terrorists you fight are very nondescript and don't adhere to any particular racial or religious stereotypes; they just have bags on their heads and do and say vaguely terrorist related things. On top of that, most missions are introduced as some form of ignorant justification for invasion, and some missions involve you equipping civilians to fight, and that means acting as your cannon fodder. The game has some subtle and funny commentary mixed in there that's never too in your face or forgets to have a good joke first. The best moment may be a random cutscene where you see a terrorist's life flash before his eyes and it is the most hokey, ridiculous thing, yet also humanizes the guy before he blows himself up pointlessly in a botched bombing attempt. Which is hilarious.
Of course, there's also a lot of celebration of dumb action machismo. Blowing up things into tiny bits is the name of the game, and that doesn't just mean people. The environments are completely destructible, so you can shoot, punch, and blow up whatever to get it out of the way of your manifest destiny. This completely changes what would otherwise be a bog standard action game. You can tunnel around areas with your guns, or charge in straight ahead, or maybe climb around buildings and cliffs to find better openings for attack. Or you could just shoot that buzzsaw so it falls and murders everything in its path, whatever floats your battleship of independence and liberty. There's a refreshing amount of freedom in this game about bombing freedom into the world's collective soil, and you'll need it for the game's main feature.
For a game with so many characters, the designers decided that instead of picking which of the bros you want to use, you have to earn them by rescuing prisoners. Also, every time you rescue a prisoner or die, you become a new bro. As a result, the game's focus on play with wide possibility is highlighted by forcing you to play as every character the game has to offer and learning to use all of them. While they all have basic movement and mechanics in common, they all play radically different.
For example, while most everyone uses a firearm, there are a few oddballs in the mix, like Brade (the "Bro" version of Blade) fighting with a katana and throwing knives, or MacBrover (these names are incredible) fighting solely with some weak punches and a whole mess of bombs (including one stuffed in a turkey). There's also the girl from Planet Terror with the gun leg or James Bond's absolutely bizarre special move set. Different characters are more useful in certain situations, but the game forces you to get good with them in all possible situations because you never know which one you'll control. This avoids being too frustrating because death is just a slap on the wrist. There are a ton of checkpoints around, and a lot of chances at rescuing prisoners for extra lives. Characters unlock after a certain number of prisoner rescues. There's plenty of time to earn everyone, especially with death being one hit for player characters.
Everyone can move around mostly the same, outside a few odd exceptions, and has three attacks. The main attack is usually a firearm or physical strike for blade users and martial artists. The sub attack is a simple punch or kick that can also work as a grab. The special is a move with limited uses that can only be refreshed by finding an ammo crate. As expected, different characters have moves based on their films, like Ash having two different chainsaw attacks and Walker using karate kicks, but some also come with game changing properties. The Boondocks Saints move around together, doubling their firepower and offering a free hit at the cost of one of them. The Rocketeer has his limited jetpack for greater air control. The Universal Soldier can actually create copies of dead enemies to fight for him, and so on. More simplistic characters certainly aren't lacking, though. Arnold's infamous and titular Commando may not have fancy moves, but why need fancy moves when you have a big ass rocket launcher? Ash also gets a lot of milage out of a boomstick and a chainsaw, and trust me, those can do a number on a boss.
While the single player experience is great with a solid ten to twelve hour campaign, a game as chaotic as this was made with multiplayer in mind, allowing people to team up and spread the gospel of capitalism to the masses via firearms. As ridiculous as a single player game can get, you should see multiplayer matches. It's either working together to fight the poorly defined evils of terrorism, or just shooting freedom bullets at each other until only one person is not bleeding one of the three colors that define the majesty of America. You should also see the later levels in the campaign, which suddenly shift into a completely different genre and justify some of the odder character choices. The final set of levels are a real treat to go through, and the final boss is beyond amazing. You will not see it coming. And if that's not enough, Broforce has a level editor to mess around with, and you can share your creations with the world so they can blow those creations sky high up to freedom heaven, populated only by the people you see in Norman Rockwell paintings.
And that presentation, it's so ...American. The entire soundtrack is a mixture of hard rock and tense genre focused battle themes, changing as the game does. The simple sprite work matches great with the destruction mechanics, but the 90s comic book aesthetic in the cutscenes and character intros are just beautiful. They're way too good looking for a style based heavily on the likes of Rob Liefeld's ugly meat men and early Image Comics in general, but by gum, they made it work. They also really capture the personalities of the original actors too, especially Bruce Campbell's overly handsome mug. Bonus points for all the well done references mixed in, the best being Ash's car falling out beside him during a scene in late game involving a warp. Little touches like that go a long way.
Broforce is the quintessential game for the action movie junky, and it doubles as some good satire in the process. It's explosive, loud, funnier than its contemporaries, and an absolute blast no matter how you choose to play it. It tosses aside the influences of the old classics like Metal Slug and carves out its own brave path mechanically, while also reveling in that familiar patriotic trash that lays waste to the American entertainment landscape. It criticizes it, but also adores it, and that love just seeps from the core. Simply put, if you have not played Broforce, you are not a real American.
By the by, playing Broforce entitles all foreign players to a free green card!*
*Not really, but you will feel the need to refer to french fries as freedom fries
As a warning, while the PC version of Broforce runs just fine providing you have the right specs for it, the PS4 version suffers from numerous technical issues, from control bugs to massive framerate hitches. The developers have been working on patching it, and some of the more egregious bugs have been addressed, but at press time it still underperforms, especially considering its relatively graphical simplicity and the power of the PS4 hardware.