I should be the primary audience for Broforce. I've seen almost all of the movies it's referencing and love them to various degrees. Many of them even without irony! You want to throw in Commando and watch it right now, I'm there. But the problem with Broforce is that it's almost never as exciting, clever, or ridiculous as some of the movies it so brazenly pulls characters from, and instead renders a great idea down to a bunch of surface-level references, simplistic gameplay, and continuous performance issues.
The titular Broforce is a collection of movie reference characters with Bro-ified names, ranging from the good (Brommando, Rambro), the bad (Brade, The Brode), and the ones where they clearly had to try really, really hard (Mister Anderbro instead of some pun on Neo). I feel like we should demand a little more from our wordplay (Brade), but it works out well enough – everyone is recognizable, and there's that quick immediate thrill of going "I GET IT" when a new Bro pops up for you.
Broforce takes a page out of the Borderlands games and does cutaways when it introduces its characters. Unlock a new Bro? Cutaway to them and the announcer screams their name! New enemy? Cutaway and get a scream! And early on in Broforce, you run into an enemy helicopter named the MEGACOCKTER, with the subtitle "Compensate much?" The main gun is, of course, giant, with two pointless metal balls underneath it to make the metaphor more complete.
If you find this joke hilarious then you need to get yourself some Broforce RIGHT NOW. You're going to love the way it just pulls in and tosses all of these characters together. The joy of saying things like "did you just see MacGyver blow up that xenomorph!?" or "Oh man Conan the Barbarian just punched Satan off a cliff!" will probably be enough for you to overlook all of the other issues. Who cares that the frame rate is currently taking a nosedive when you literally just punched that guy so hard that he exploded!
I just wasn't able to see past the myriad of moments where that frame rate fell apart, though. It makes you wonder at the power of the PS4 when a 2D side-scrolling, pixel based game like this can make it slow to a crawl. But given some of the other glitches I ran into, like the fact my controller would suddenly just stop working at points in levels or the part where a level didn't end after I beat the boss, this being developer Free Lives' first real game starts to really make itself obvious.
The entire final boss fight for me wound up being played in slow motion because the game just couldn't keep up with everything happening. And even when it seemed like it couldn't get worse, the game would suddenly spawn like 20 more sprites in and make it chug even more. I'm actually surprised my system didn't catch fire at some point. It really did look like it was struggling that much.
Even when things are working the game has an issue striking the right balance between being too chaotic and not chaotic enough. When it gets to be too much, you can easily lose yourself in the camera shake, explosion sprites, bullets and bodies that rain on the screen, leaving you dead with no idea why. Explosions are cool and all, but when you get lost in them and it becomes too much to even actually play, the novelty wears off so much.
On the other hand, it often feels like it requires too much work to really get things going in other levels, and it highlights that the actual moment-to-moment gameplay isn't great. You can't even shoot upwards or anything, and there's not really much going on. The separation between these two extreme ends is also so small – one bullet can get it going in some spots, one missed jump can make it stop – and you just get shifted around constantly. The rare parts where it does work are the highlights of the game, and you become fiery death, destroyer of many a faceless foe. It feels like you're riding a wave of explosions, one small step ahead of an environmental death and always shooting first against enemies.
The problem is that a lot of this depends on the Bro you're playing as far too much. Some people will describe this as 'the challenge' of the game, but it's kind of not so much a challenge as just luck. One spin of the wheel and you've got a Bro with a sword, which is great because this is a flying enemy and how do you even reach that? Then next you've got a Bro with a jetpack and you take them out with no issues. Where this should be a celebration of these characters, it winds up often coming down to a feeling of "oh come on this guy?" at the worst time possible.
Broforce is a fun concept that just never coalesces right. It never finds the right balance between tame and chaotic, grounded and ridiculous, and save for the incredible ending, is never able to capitalize on its own ideas. As bombastic as the opening movie and the drum-and-guitar score are, it doesn't go for it enough, winding up dull and buggy, with only a fistful of moments that manage to show how good the game could have been.