Broforce

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Free Lives for PC, Mac, PS4, and Vita, originally released in 2015.
As it says on the (virtual) tin, Broforce is a patriotism simulator. This run and gun takes its inspiration from American action films of the 80’s and 90’s, and the over-the-top badass characters portrayed in them. The story is America vs. terrorists, kill them before they kill you, I ain’t got time to bleed, I pity the fool, I’ll be back, I am the law, thank you for your cooperation, groovy, get away from her you bitch, Machete don’t text, call me Snake, and yippee ki-yay… And if any of that just made sense to you, then consider yourself the target demographic for this game.

Broforce starts you in the jungles of Vietnam with a muscular machine gun-toting, bandana-wearing dude with long hair and a bad attitude. This fellow is known as “Rambro”, a caricature of Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo character from First Blood and its sequels. Throughout the game, you unlock numerous other characters, each with a “bro-ified” name, but all recognizable as their action hero counterparts.

New characters are discovered by rescuing POW’s from cages spread around the environment. However, rather than simply adding that person into your stock of playable characters, you instead instantly swap to that character and start playing as him. Each POW you rescue represents an extra life, which is quite valuable given game’s 1-hit kills and explosion-packed environments. Also, new playable characters only become available after you have made the requisite number of POW rescues.

This design rewards players who swap characters as often as possible, and thus forces players to understand how to use each character’s weapons and special abilities. You have no control over which character you will start the level with or respawn with, nor is it possible to tell which character you are rescuing until you have already done so.


Each character you unlock has abilities based around the signature weapon or trademark skills of his flesh-and-blood counterpart. Some characters are pretty similar, with rapid-fire weapons and secondary explosives. However, even in the course of a single level, you might swap between a machine gunner, a dynamite chucker, and a sword swinger, which drastically impacts how you interact with the environment and dispatch enemies.

For example (and minus the “bro” pseudonyms): Ash carries a shotgun and you can run around cutting through people with his chainsaw hand. Judge Dredd has homing bullets and a guided missile attack. Agent J has his trademark Noisy Cricket with a huge blast area that knocks you back when you fire… but fortunately you can’t be harmed by your own weapons – even explosive ones – unless you are knocked back into another danger. Robocop has a machine pistol that requires the player to charge it up before unleashing a raid fire blast. The Terminator has a chain gun that takes a second to warm up and pushes you backwards while you fire. Blade has a sword that requires you to get up close to enemies, but the sword can also deflect bullets and Blade can jump much higher than the other characters. Neo has to fight with his fists, but he can engage a bullet time effect that lets him dodge all attacks, allowing him to deliver some serious damage in short bursts.


This is just a small sampling of the different play styles that are offered by the various characters, and given the fast pace of the game, you’ll be swapping to a new character about every 30 seconds. This mayhemistic (new word!) design is further supported with elements from the Vlambeer school of design, offering chunky graphics, lots of particles, humorous character designs, and nonstop explosions, while tossing in destructible environments, lots of guitar shredding, and tactical destruction against a large but generally inept military force.


While your ever-changing abilities force you to be ready for anything, there are a number of environmental constants that let you set yourself up for destructive success and highlight your general badassery. Characters have high jumps and are able to climb vertical surfaces by slamming their knives into the wall and jump-climbing upwards, and this works for wall sliding and wall jumping as well. Characters can also jump up against overhangs and flip themselves high into the air, allowing them to get the drop on enemies standing on platforms above them.


There are also a number of explosive and destructive ways to deal with foes. For one, nearly everything in the environment is destructible, allowing you to blast away sections of the landscape, cause enemies to fall to their deaths, or even tunnel your way through the dirt to bring death from below. A number of structures are destructible as well, allowing you to shoot out the supports of some buildings and send them crumbling downward, killing enemies standing on them, and potentially crushing enemies below with heavy blocks… or crushing yourself if you’re not careful.


There are exploding barrels that can take out enemies in a wide blast range, destroy sections of the environment, and set off chain reactions. Blocks and explosive barrels may also be pushed by the player and shoved off ledges to kill enemies below.


A particularly exciting explosive device is the propane tank. These tanks may be aimed upwards or to the side, and the player can push over vertical bottles. Shooting one – or setting off a nearby explosive – will ignite the tank and cause it to launch forward in a straight line, cutting through the ground, structures, and enemies, as well as setting off any explosives it comes in contact with. Daring players can also grab onto the sides of vertical propane rockets – or ride surfer style on horizontally oriented ones – to blast through the environment, provided they hop off before the bottle explodes a few seconds later.


Characters come equipped with an unlimited ammo primary weapon with continuous fire, as well as a limited ammo secondary weapon or special ability. Ammo for secondary weapons is occasionally found by destroying ammo crates in the environment, and each character can carry a different amount of secondary ammo. However, the focus on quick deaths and character swapping means that you’ll rarely have time to use up your entire stock. Characters also have a short range knife attack, and a fast-moving dash maneuver. You are able to shoot while standing on any surface, while climbing ladders, and even while sliding down walls.


Checkpoints are represented by flagpoles, and passing one raises an American flag. Checkpoints appear with great frequency, and killed enemies remain dead when you respawn, making it a bit easier to inch your way forward. Still, there are a number of challenging enemy types, and most of them don’t just go down with a single hit.


There are basic infantry guys who are there to shoot slowly and absorb your bullets while giving off a rewarding spray of blood in return. Some heavier soldiers, like the chaingunner, require players to sneak in from behind, or at least get off some shots before the chain gun warms up and sends a buttery spray of death into the hero’s face. Some bad guys have dynamite strapped to their chests, providing that extra explosive punch when you mow them down, or adding danger if you let them get too close to you. Dogs bark and run toward you, and are easily dispatched with a steady stream of gunfire, but the dogs can also eat fallen bodies to grow bigger and stronger!


There a few other dangers to be aware of as well, such as land mines. Land mines are marked with signs and will turn red when you activate them. Step away from one, and it will explode, or you can jump away quickly to avoid your own sudden death. However, you can also machine gun your way through rows of land mines in order to pass safely, or let your enemies fall victim to them instead.


Occasionally you will encounter doors that spew forth a constant stream of enemies, but using environmental destruction to your advantage, you can blast away the floor, causing each enemy who steps out of the door to fall instantly to his death. Some levels feature burrowing drills that come up from the bottom of the environment, dispensing bad guys when they reach the surface. However, you can focus your firepower on them and destroy them quickly, killing everyone inside.


Bosses take the form of a number of instruments of war, featuring helicopters, missile platforms, huge armored enemies, and other cartoonishly unrealistic war machines. Most of these enemies take a lot of hits to destroy, and some of them can be particularly difficult if you are wielding one of the more nontraditional armaments. Still, if you reach the boss with a decent stock of lives, you can simply try your best with the weapons at your disposal until you get yourself killed, and then you’ll be right back in the fight with a new set of abilities.


Most bosses can absorb a ton of hits and require that you hit them with all of the attacks in your arsenal. However, one particularly interesting boss encounter requires the player to engage the enemy in an indirect fashion. The boss fight takes place over the course of an entire level, with a helicopter firing a machine gun into a building as you climb upward, killing enemies, dodging fire, and ascending an ever-narrowing tower. Once you reach the top, the helicopter begins dropping bombs on you while you run and jump across the rooftops, avoiding bottomless pits, with no way to collect any extra lives. However, spread throughout the environment are a number of propane tanks which you can ignite, and doing so with the proper timing will send them upward, exploding against the helicopter. Nail it a few times and it will fly no more.


Non-boss levels end when you kill the devilish villain at the end of the level (although he doesn’t fight back), at which point the last American flag flies high and a helicopter descends with a rope ladder hanging from it. Jumping onto the ladder causes the chopper to fly away as the ground beneath you literally explodes. A post-level summary shows a graphical representation of each enemy killed in the level – and how they died – as well as your completion time and how many more POW’s you need to rescue before you unlock your next playable character.


There are loads of little touches that give the game more personality. For instance, guys who catch on fire can run into other guys and cause incidental damage. If you blow a guy’s head off, he will spray chunky squares of blood into the air while he flails about and then falls down. Bridges can catch fire and sections will slowly crumble away as they burn. Tossing a grenade at an enemy – or tossing an enemy’s own grenade back at him – will cause anyone in range to throw their hands up in the air and run back and forth screaming in panic.


The game features 4P online and offline co-op and competitive modes with online leaderboards, time attack modes where players must outrun an exploding chain reaction, and a level editor to share custom designs with other players online.



2D CRED
Broforce was developed by a South African studio known as Free Lives, which was founded in 2012. The team is made up of director Evan Greenwood, programmer Raun Rothmann, artist Jarred Lunt, animator Duncan Greenwood, junior programmer Richard Pieterse, and marketing/office manager Shaz Strauss. In addition to the 80’s and 90’s era action films, the game was inspired by classic action titles such as Contra and Metal Slug, as well as some more recent releases like Super Crate Box. This was the studio’s first commercial release.


The game was published by Devolver Digital, which has published a number of 2D indie titles, including Serious Sam: Double D XXL, Serious Sam: The Random Encounter, Foul Play, Hotline Miami, Luftrausers, Fork Parker's Holiday Profit Hike, Titan Souls, Not a Hero, Ronin, Downwell, Enter the Gungeon, and Mother Russia Bleeds.

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