Continuing our look at what’s shaking on the Early Access scene. Since you can’t review an unfinished game, we tell you what they’re about, what state they’re in and what you get for your early buy-in.
This week we travel to the golden age of action cinema, free our iron pecs of their shirtly prisons and in a steroid-fuelled frenzy tattoo GOLAN GLOBU on our knuckles.
Note: Steroid use does not promote extra digit growth.
Everyone loves the action movies of the 80s and 90s. For older fans they’re an intrinsic part of their childhood, while younger viewers can enjoy the fruits of a time when to be an action hero, you actually had to look tough. If you didn’t have muscles, a thousand-parsec stare and a chin you could use to sharpen industrial drilling equipment, you simply weren’t let in the club.
South African developer Free Lives Games certainly remember this era, making it the basis of what has to be the ultimate expression of 80s/90s action moviedom in a videogame. Screw that Rambo: The Video Game noise – Broforce ($14.99 on Steam) aims to bring the mayhem of the action greats back to our screens in a way nobody has yet realized, and they don’t need a lazily patched together rail shooter to accomplish it.
The game has been widely available as a free alpha for a good couple of years now, but recently arrived to Steam as an Early Access title. The premise is basically the same: You play as a team of Bros – supersoldiers based on classic action characters – rescuing nameless hostages from a multitude of terrorist camps. each Bro is instantly recognizable, with bro-pun names ranging from the charmingly bad (Rambro, Bromando, The Brominator) to the just bad (Bro Dredd, Brade, MacBrover).
You start each level with a random Bro and a simple agenda: Rescue the hostages, blow away the besuited Devil at the end of the level and proceed to da choppa as the entire place explodes into a shower of pixels around you. This destructibility is the game’s secret sauce, with weapons sending chunks of the landscape (And the terrorists standing on it) flying everywhere. It’s like Super Meat Boy and Worms got together to impersonate Contra, and I’m not using that comparison lightly: it’s every bit as fun as that combination suggests, especially when you throw in ammo crates and gas tanks that can be detonated to make the level and even bigger gib-soaked mess. The only real flaw is the tiny sprites which can sometimes cause you to lose sight of your own character when things get really hectic; hopefully future iterations will tweak them to make your character stand out more against the backgrounds.
Cleverly, the hostages aren’t simply high-score bait or meaningless busywork but the basis of the game’s lives system. Each hostage you free adds a life to your reserves, and an extra chance to respawn as another random Bro. Additionally, you get a new Bro added to your roster every few rescues until you basically have at your fingertips every action hero to step in front of a camera between 1980-1999. Keeping the Bros random adds an element of unpredictability to the game, with different characters requiring different approaches. Examples of this are Rambo and John Matrix, who play as classic run-and-gun characters, while Dredd and Robocop have powerful but slow weapons that require methodical placement of shots and Blade, as a purely melee character, favours a more aggressive, direct approach to take down enemies before they can fire. Switching between playstyles is great fun, with only MacGuyver and his poorly-ranged dynamite throws constituting any kind of weak link.
The game also supports multiplayer of the online and local varieties, which is even more gloriously mental. Netcode seems generally solid at the moment and this new Steam beta adds a range of multiplayer modes including deathmatch, horde and time trial variants. Trying to find online players yielded mixed results, but the game seems ideally set up for playing with people in person rather than going online. That said, the game is still a solid solo experience as long as you don’t mind having no-one to share the insanity with.
Broforce is a deeply, deeply silly game, but in a gleefully addictive way. It’s one of those games that’s great to have loaded up for the occasional fifteen-minute blast of chaos, or jump into with the company of friends and beers. If you can get past the ‘Bro’ thing and the hideous punnage, it provides an incredibly fun experience for fans of 80s/90s action movies and OTT platformers alike. While the game still has untapped potential, particularly in terms of alternative play modes, it’s highly enjoyable in its current form and pulls out some agreeably tricky level design after the initial stages.
At $14.99 it’s averagely-priced for an Early Access game, and as always the question is whether the game is worth buying now, or waiting until it’s a bit more refined and/or officially released. For action movie buffs and those who like a bit of crazy in their games there’s more than enough to Broforce already to justify the buy, but those who aren’t already invested in these characters may be better off waiting for further updates or for a sale.