Disclaimer: This post is made as an entry for PS Asia’s PS Plus Junior Reporter competition. The points and views raised in the review however are not affected in any way.
Broforce is the winner of last month’s Vote 2 Play campaign, where PS Plus members got to vote for either three games to be available for free this month. This patriotic side-scrolling shooter, made by an indie team based in South Africa, is all about blasting terrorist and patriotism, with a side of bro puns. The Broforce is an ensemble cast of bros- no matter the gender- all based on action movies/TV series with a bro pun as their name. Sort of like The Expendables.
Oh wait, they did a cross-promo when that movie came out, The Expandabros.
While there’s ton of fun to be had with the shooting- destructible environments! Explosions! Cool abilities!- the PS4 port suffers from a technical perspective, and the nature of the game being an Early Access title on Steam beforehand had made the game lacking some cohesiveness.
I have a lot to complain here, but still, Broforce is a ton of fun!
Graphics & Sound
The basic gameplay of Broforce revolves around your bro- up to 4 – making your way to the end of a level, where Satan lies waiting. Not kidding. The 2D graphics has some voxel-ish tone to it for depth so it’s not strictly retro pseudo-8/16-bit most indies like to use. Also there’s an odd instance where the voxels are full 3D.
Sound wise, it’s a blast. All the explosions sounds great, the death sounds, the heavy metal riffs played at the end of each level- Unfortunate that it just stopped as you enter an empty loading screen for a few seconds. The background music in levels are the only low point here, some are just bland generic brooding sounds to build up tension- but doesn’t since all the explosions are way louder and better.
But all those explosions-the sounds, the graphics, and the gameplay change it entails, do make the framerate hitch. A lot. Slowdowns during big explosions can sometimes be a deliberate design decision, enforcing the impact as well as helps the player get their bearings back, but I don’t believe it’s something intentional. Those that scoffs at indies like Broforce as “harnessing the maximum power of the PS4” may ironically ring true, or it’s just bad optimization. I prefer to believe it’s the latter.
Also, the announcer at the beginning of a mission and when you ran out lives. Dying over and over feels less frustrating when he is frustrated even more of your incompetencies.
Broforce plays a lot like the shoot-em-up Metal Slug. You have a weapon, a special weapon with limited use and movements are basic at best. You just straight at the front though, no need to aim at any other cardinal direction.There’s a sprint and jump button. Very basic, which makes it easy to pick up and play.
Each level consists of you getting through waves of enemies to kill Satan. Again, not kidding. There’s checkpoints at flag posts where you raise the American flag, with certain checkpoints resets you there permanently if you lose all your lives and have to reset. You can also save bros trapped in a prison for an extra life, and here lies its main game mechanic.
Each time you save a bro, you randomly switched to a new bro. While at first the list is fairly limited, as you saved more bros, you unlock new ones, each one has a different play style. MacBrover may seem odd since he doesn’t have a gun, just explosives, but mastering the use of it, and that handy chicken explosive special abilities, helps clear out many enemies at once. The Brominator has a frickin’ minigun, but recoils backwards. Activate his special ability and he becomes full Terminator and recoils forwards. Bro Dredd has a remote controlled missile. Brade and Mr. Anderbro are full on melee characters. The Boondock Bros can take a hit, killing one brother, and makes him enraged with faster shooting speed, with a special ability to resurrect the brother or called in another character into the fray.
You get the idea.
The constant change of bros keeps the simple gamplay fresh and exciting. While the idea of sticking of one bro you already like is possible, it would be hard as one hit kills you- except for certain bros mentioned. Plus, getting enough bros rescued will unlock new bros to try out. It’s an interesting dynamic where you can just improvise your plans with whatever bro you or play it slow, clear some sections and blow things up before switching bros.
Speaking of blowing things up, as mentioned earlier, there’s a change of gameplay when explosions happened. Most of the terrain can be leverage by explosives. Thankfully, certain measures have been taken to ensure that players being reckless and trigger happy won’t heed progression. Some traversal elements, like ladders and elevators, cannot be destroyed. You can climb up walls with the melee button, and carve new routes by shooting while hanging on the ledges.
However, the game has some rough edges. One particular bug that bugs me is how at the beginning of each stage, at a particular interval of time no input will be registered. If you are in rage after a death and want to speed through the first few seconds then prepare to get frustrated. Adding this to the performance hitches and you can have a frustrating or at least mediocre experience of what basically is a simple, average 2D shooter.
The folks at Digital Foundry by way of Eurogamer also called the performance issues out, saying it “suffers one of the lowest frame-rates we’ve seen on Sony’s machine“
Content & Longevity
Broforce is broken up in levels, with at least three stages with a boss fight at the last one. Each level is designed, not procedurally generated. The whole game pattern is get through the stage, kill Satan, get through another level, kill Satan again, and get through another level, and fight a boss. Repeat.
To break things up, there’s the covert ops level, where you have technically one life, and no bro change mid-level. Some are gimmicky but fun, some are infuriating- there is one level where you need to utilise the sprint to navigate through it. It was never hinted as such, and there were practically no use of the ability on the main levels encountered beforehand. That part sucks, where you need outside help to figure it out, but the level is fine.
Another way to break the monotony is to have up to 4 friends, locally or via online, join your cause. Each of them can drop in and out and having more bros on hand will make the game even more chaotic than ever. There’s also a versus mode, and an arcade mode where levels are placed back to back, removing the 3D overworld.
And lastly, the thing that will keep you playing is unlocking more bros. But as time goes, the humour will eventually fade, and what you have left is just a simple 2D shooter. Yes I deliberately repeat that.
It is a simple, average 2D shooter, but that’s not a terrible point. The point is it won’t wow you the same way as AAA gamechangers are. And Broforce isn’t that. Broforce aims to be a simple shooter with some humour and it delivers. More importantly, it’s really fun, especially with friends. And there’s nothing wrong for a game to be just so. However, performance issues and some bugs do hamper the experience and hopefully the South African folks at Free Lives are working on a fix for those. Broforce deserves more polish.
Broforce may just be a 6/10 game for me, but I enjoy most of the moments it provided nonetheless. If you enjoy bro puns, references to action movies and TV shows, and no-nonsense explosions and shooting, it’s a great way to wind down to. But don’t expect anything super innovative or ground-breaking.
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