So, The Expendables got a video game back in 2012. They got the wrong game, though, because Broforce is the greatest The Expendables game ever made that has nothing to do with The Expendables. It has explosions, tons of guns, bigger explosions, body parts, every action hero that’s ever been worth a damn, bloody explosions, destructible environments, past and future weaponry, and goddamn Robocop. This early access game is already better than whatever sixty dollar piece of crap you’re playing right now, so go grab fifteen dollars and four friends and go get it, because this game is only going to somehow get better as the devs at Free Lives tweak and tinker their way to a final release.
Your job is to free Vietnam from terrorists. I think. I know I am in Vietnam and that I have to shoot a lot of people, but that’s about it. What do you care, anyway? You’re going to be playing the part of a constantly shifting cast of movie and tv show heroes while you save the day or something. You start out as a miniature Rambo, firing your machine gun’s huge shots at unsuspecting terrorists until you come across a cage in the lush jungle. I don’t know about you, but the only thing I hate more than terrorism is a lack of freedom, so I busted that cage open in a second to sow some good old American freedom on the man inside. Once you touch that hostage, you’ll change into one of the many unlockable heroes in the game. Expect to play as the Broforce equivalents of Mr T, Macguyver, Schwarzenegger, Blade, Agent J, and a bunch more as the developer adds more and more characters with each update.
With each new guy comes new powers. Unlike Rambo’s machine guns, Schwarzenegger uses a rocket launcher. Macguyver tosses sticky dynamite. The Terminator uses a heavy chain gun that pushes him back. Each character controls a little differently due to their weaponry, so players will find their play style changing every few minutes. Maneuverability and weapon styles can become quite different once you switch from firing rockets to Blade’s melee-only style, so it does take some getting used to. It keeps the action fresh, though, and each character’s style is good for causing mayhem in its own way, so never expect to feel bummed if you get a ‘bad’ character. There are no bad characters, guys.
Once you touch a hostage in a cage, you automatically switch to that character, and it’s chosen at random from the pool of characters you’ve already unlocked. As you open more cages and get more hostages, the game adds more available characters to your pool, so you’ll want to unlock as many as you can as fast as you can. Just seeing who the game has to offer is hilarious and fun, as are their Broforce names. How do you change John McClane’s name to include the word ‘Bro’ in it? They have found a way, so not only do you get some sweet machine guns, but you also get to hear a funny name to boot.
If you think you really don’t want to change the character you’re playing as, you’d better get good at the game. You start off each stage with a single life for whatever random character you start out as, and if you get hit once by anything, you’re dead. Freeing new bros from cages adds a life to your pool, so no matter how attached you are to your current character, you need to either play perfectly or free another character. Part of me would have liked to be able to switch back to other bros I’d unlocked for the level, but this scheme means I had to get good with different, constantly shifting playstyles, so it made a fairly challenging game even harder.
The likenesses of the unlockable bros are worth a laugh, too, as the game is animated in a pixel art style that is both simple and incredibly vibrant. The characters are pretty small, but tiny details make them easily recognizable as the characters they’re supposed to be. I cracked up every time I saw a new character design; enjoying the look just before I tried out their new weaponry. Locations shifted from jungles to cityscapes – all full of machinery, buildings, and neat little artistic touches. Even simple trees and shrubs show a lot of detail for being made with pixel art, but the big, screen-shaking explosions are really what steals the show. Almost everything in this game explodes with little provocation, so expect to shoot your way through the nice 2D environments with fire and wreckage flying around you just about all the time.
All of the environments are destructible, adding to the chaotic explosions too. Save for a few chunks of ground under the game’s checkpoints, you can blast your way through dirt and walls, ripping the ground right out from under your enemies. Don’t want to climb a ladder up into a room filled with terrorists with shotguns? Blast the ground out from underneath them and watch them drop to their deaths. If you don’t like the route the game has available for you to take to your enemies, you can always just tunnel underground and get the drop on them. Even if you accidentally ruin the only path to some spot, the characters are quite acrobatic and can cling to walls and flip up them if you need to. So, let loose with those weapons. You can deal with the aftermath later.
The game starts you off pretty easy, but with all the chaos going on, you’ll be dead before long. One shot puts you down, and bullets don’t travel slow in this game like they do in Contra. This game is far more generous with lives, though, so it balances out. Even so, when you’re firing a few hundred shots a second with your machine gun and an enemy manages to pull off a single shot on you, you likely won’t see that shot coming. Your projectiles are exactly the same color as the enemy’s, so I often only saw an enemy shot coming when it was about to put a hole in my face. Best solution is to kill everything before it can hit you first.
The enemy has more than just the typical array of suicide bombers and shotgun-toting terrorists. They also have heavier mechs and helicopters that can take a lot of punishment before going down. Should you take one out, feel free to hop aboard the wreckage of some vehicles and take them for a spin yourself. The mechs are tons of fun to play with, letting you cause even more damage and explosions with rockets and bullets. You know, in case you weren’t already having enough fun shooting things on your own and bringing the entire countryside down on the enemy’s head.
There may have been a soundtrack to the game. I know this because I heard something that sounded like a song before I started shooting things and the levels became an orchestra of screams, explosions, and machines crashing. The music is good when you stop to listen to it, but the sounds of all the chaos are even better. The screams themselves sound like they’re taken from a sound byte of Homer and are a bit weird, but I still laughed every time I lit someone on fire and they started shouting. The explosions all just add to it, a constant barrage of booms that send the screen into fits. The sounds give everything a real sense of power and urgency, so when something’s going to blow, you know it’s going to ruin everyone’s day.
Now, if that sounds like a good time for you then I’m sure it sounds like a good time for three of your friends. The game has bro-op, so if you have pals over they can all join in the fun. There are even a couple of game types like deathmatch if you want to go against each other, but the main game is a whole lot more fun to play through with those pals – much better than screwing around with those play modes. Either way, you can get some offline or online friends in on the mayhem, which you will want to do. You can also get your friends to try out some levels you created in the level editor, too, but the game already has a lot of well-designed levels already in the early access build. It’s a really cool addition for creative people who want to use it, but I was too busy freeing Vietnam to care about setting up my own levels.
Action fans should be playing this game right now. If you like explosions, guns, video games, or action movies, this game was designed with you in mind. Blasting your way through jungles and cities, tearing apart the terrain with rockets and bullets, and doing so while playing as some of the greatest gun-toting heroes ever created is some of the most fun I’ve ever had. It’s silly and funny and kicks you hard if you play like crap, so go out and drop the money on it right now. If it’s this good unfinished, I can’t even wrap my head around how awesome it will be when it’s all done.
Broforceis available for the best $14.99 you’ve ever spent on Steam Early Access.