BROFORCE is utterly outrageous in all the best ways. This rambunctious sidescoller puts us into the boots of over a dozen legendary action heroes, homages to everything from Judge Dredd and Commando to Men In Back, Machete, Rambo, Robocop, Terminator, the A-Team and Die Hard for starters, then runs us through an orgy of huge guns, massive explosions and gore aplenty in a quest to bring peace to the world through gloriously over-the-top ultraviolence. It's outstanding - and it isn't even finished yet.
Having caught our eye ever since its reveal, we made a beeline for BROFORCE at EGX Rezzed... where it managed to turn two bro-fessional games writers into fist-bumping, whooping, hollering reprobates in only a few short minutes.
Now that it's available on Steam Early Access, it's high time we took a closer look Free Lives' patriotic blast'em up and explain why it's handily one of our most anticipated games of 2014.
At its core, BROFORCE is a twitchy run & gun platformer in the vein of Contra, or perhaps a faster and slicker Metal Slug. Players scamper across 2D stages from left to right, jumping over chasms and hopping up walls, in an effort to destroy absolutely every enemy in the map. At which point the American flag is raised proudly aloft and an evac helicopter arrives to transport us to the next level. It's engaging and straightforward stuff, yet unbelievably empowering and surprisingly nuanced since your guns can smash through the scenery with ease, allowing you to carve your own routes through each level. Hordes of soldiers, helicopters, minigun-toting titans and attack dogs all stand in your way, parachuting from the skies or leaping out of trucks, and usually standing far too close to enormous piles of gas canisters and explosives for their own good.
Stuff explodes all the time in BROFORCE, whether red barrels ripping out vast chunks of scenery or copious clouds of pixelated claret. Indeed, if there's ever a moment where something isn't exploding, you're probably doing it wrong.
As such, BROFORCE is responsive, hectic, stonkingly gratutious and an absolute cathartic joy even at this early stage. Bro far bro good... but then we have to talk about the all-important BROS.
Referencing any number of epic man-films, BROFORCE's player characters are all based on instantly-recognisable action heroes, to the extent where I'm amazed that Free Lives haven't been threatened with legal action. We can mete out withering MG fire as RamBro, carve up foes with Brode's (read: Blade's) katana and set enemies on fire with B.A. Broracus' flamethrower. The Bro In Black packs his Noisy Cricket, complete with massive recoil and huge splash damage, while Brodell Walker wields Norris' classic shotgun. Ash Brolliams has his boomstick. Bro Dredd metes out justice with his lawgiver. Brobocop locks onto perps with his Auto-9. Every Bro has been painstakingly designed to feel exactly like their filmic counterparts, right down to ludicrous secondary weapons such as Indiana Brones' whip.
Yes, MacBrover constructs makeshift bombs out of turkeys and dynamite. Spot on.
New Bros are unlocked as you play, with players being randomly assigned characters each time you enter a stage. Liberating the world as these classic heroes may be an absolute rush, but awesome as they are, they aren't invincible. Not by a long shot.
Indeed, BROFORCE has a mean streak a mile wide. Deaths come thick and fast, whether hit by an enemy bullet, falling down a pit or getting caught in an explosion. It's incredibly tough as the stages roll on, requiring pinpoint precision, twitchy reflexes and more than a little luck. Throughout the levels, you'll find extra Bros in cages, who can be freed to act as extra lives, character swaps or revives for downed multiplayer partners. Though snarlingly challenging, negligible iteration time and the rampant fun factor of it all makes for an incredibly compelling experience that reminds me quite heavily of Super Meat Boy and Hotline Miami. You'll die a lot, but you'll restart instantly for another ridiculous run.
What's intense in singleplayer becomes utterly, stupidly insane in multiplayer. Yes, BROFORCE supports both local and online 4-player co-op -- sorry, BRO-op -- that lets four mates get involved in what can only be described as a hot mess of fireballs, bullets, carnage and chaos. It can be tricky to keep tabs on your player, especially if you change Bro mid-level, but we already suspect that it's going to become our new go-to couch game.
Though in all honesty, it already is, since BROFORCE is out on Steam Early Access. Though cautious and canny gamers should wait for more features and polish, as per usual with Early Access titles I'm delighted to report that it's already fully-functional, massively featured and some of the most stupidly brilliant fun I've had in ages. There's even a level editor, which is still in alpha, but should lay the groundwork for plenty of user-generated battegrounds. A nifty feature, if one that pales into comparison versus the ability to high five your mates in-game.
We're ready to bro out and bro down this summer - both on PC and hopefully PS Vita - and we'll keep you up to date with the latest. We BROpe that it'll live up to its clear BROtential.
Oh dear. That one wasn't as good.