Free Lives muscles their retro shooter into glorious territory.
Do you like explosions? High fives? Ballistic poultry? Flexing Action films? I’d say you have very specific tastes but you’re in luck. Free Lives has taken the spastic shooting of Contra, added the tight controls of platformers like Super Meat Boy, then made everything destructible. Broforce is a literal blast. Hang on to your biceps and I’ll give you the run down.
The gameplay is pretty simple. Every character is given a weapon and a multitude of deadly foes are unleashed. You can shoot everyone and get to the chopper. For real, that’s about it. The envioronments are completely destructible which adds to the chaos and allows you to get through levels however you choose which ends up being one of the strongest features. The only disappointment are some hidden secrets throughout the map or something to award exploration. This is absent, but whenever you get sad you can always whip a terrorist in the face with Indiana Brones to alleviate your pain.
I expected Broforce to be silly but nothing could have prepared me for what followed. For one, there are somewhere between 20-30 characters you’ll recognize from various action films. Each of these characters have had their name changed to include -bro in it somewhere. Sometimes this works out great (Rambro). Other times not so great (Judge Bro). Don’t worry “Bro” isn’t exclusive to the dudes, but they’re definitely the majority. Every character has a unique set of weapons and moves but there’s a twist. In Broforce you don’t get to pick your character. In order to get extra lives on the level you have to save trapped characters. You can’t tell who you’ll get until you save them so it’s generally a crap shoot whether or not you’ll get stuck with a predominately melee character when you need a ranged. The trouble is you usually need that extra life so that’s how it goes. That sounds like a criticism but for the most part it gave the game a strong variety in what otherwise could have become stale fast. Another incentive is that the more characters you save the more -bros unlock.
Broforce certainly appeals to the Metal Slug crowd, but the campaign is significantly longer than any of the arcade shooters I’ve played through. This isn’t necessarily a good thing as the gameplay can get repetitive, and Broforce was no exception. Broforce gave me the same vibe as the Rampage series where you and your friends will start out excited but as the game keeps going you realize you’re doing the same thing over and over again. While playing Broforce the humor and gameplay were starting to wear on me, but Broforce steps it up and starts to add tons of enemies and variety to the levels at just the right moment. I honestly thought I had the game locked down within an hour or two of playing it, but I’m glad I pushed through and let myself go down the rabbit hole because what followed made Broforce go from a good game to a great game. The first bunch of missions takes you into the war laden jungles you’ve come to expect from a shooter, but all of a sudden I was face to face with xenomorphs, zombies, giant creatures, and more.
Like I mentioned earlier, you have no control over which Bro you’re wreaking havoc with and some gamers may think that’s an odd choice. There are certainly Bros that are overpowered for specific areas and others that have no business fighting at all. Early on there were bosses I finished in under a minute because I ended up with a Bro that could annihilate, but this wasn’t always the case. During the final multitude of bosses, (be prepared, Broforce is the Return of the King ending of last boss fights) I would end up with meelee focused bros that were almost hopeless to use against the boss. The game offers enough variety that it keeps things interesting, but I didn’t even want to attempt the hardcore mode where every Bro only lives once.
The simplest way to describe Broforce is a light-hearted and borderline offensive button masher. Its tongue-in-cheek flag waving and appeal to stupidity will make you smile like a doofus while flexing your non-existent muscles. Broforce is highly recommended plus it has a power metal theme that makes you want to invade a country in the name of freedom. Seriously, listen to the theme song. Now. Gathering your troops and blowing shit up hasn’t been this fun in a long time. Play Broforce for yourself. Play it for America.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Mac, PS4 ; Publisher: Devolver Digital ; Developer: Free Lives Games ; Players: 1; Release Date: October 15, 2015 ; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by Broforce’s publisher Devolver Digital