Rocket League

Whether it’s online casual or ranked matches, no-pressure exhibitions, split-screen local co-op with up to four players, or an intense 36-week season mode, Rocket League is all about getting into the next throttle-pounding match as fast as possible. Unfortunately, servers are still struggling, which means your mileage may vary day-to-day when it comes to online features. But the silver lining is the mostly formidable AI can make even offline matches interesting and tense. The execution of this simple idea is so strong and so engaging that it keeps bringing me back, time and time again, for just one more match.

The idea of rocket-powered cars flipping through the air in Thunderdome-esque matches of cage-soccer sounds like the incoherent ramblings of a madman, but it turns out to be just crazy enough to work. Psyonix’s Rocket League, the follow up to Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, finds dumb fun in pulling turbocharge-assisted front flips in an ice cream truck, and the white-knuckle strategy in working with your team to control the giant ball on offense and defense. The fast and fluid absurdity of Rocket League fuses into one hell of a good time – despite servers that rarely work perfectly. The main mode puts two teams of three in visually diverse but performance-identical vehicles (though 1v1, 2v2, and 4v4 variants exist) as they race up and down the pitch chasing the league’s oversized equivalent of a soccer ball. The great thing is, you don’t need to know anything about driving games or soccer to play. The rules are simple: drive really fast around bright, glossy, neon colored arenas and do fancy tricks while trying to smash an endlessly ricocheting ball into a deceptively tight space.

The heart of Rocket League lives in that feeling of unrestricted movement. It’s thanks in large part to the use of what I would call “physics plus,” where the laws of gravity and momentum get a colorful overhaul to allow for driving on the walls and ceiling, and ridiculous mid-air direction changes that would liquefy the driver in the real world. But its fantastic movement is so arcadey and satisfying that I often have to remind myself to pump the brakes or lay off the tricks when a simple nudge or bump will do.

And those tricks are the first surface-scratching glimpse at Rocket League’s layer of strategy under the ostensibly chaotic mashing of metal. Tapping your jump button puts you in the air, where tapping it again with a direction held performs a somersault, barrel roll, or bicycle kick. It might sound simple – and really, it is – but timing a strike to connect with a speeding ball, and controlling the direction you send it sailing, down to precise angles, takes some skill. There are real, potent levels of satisfaction to be tapped when you see a teammate lining up a shot from the corner and read the situation, slamming on the brakes to nudge the “pass” into the goal with a perfectly timed barrel roll. It’s electric.

Outside of the frenzied and intoxicating gameplay, Rocket League has scant few features to flesh out the experience. The player-progression system – where winning matches, performing in-game feats, or doing anything really, earns you experience – unlocks a small stable of goofy cars or cosmetic decals and accessories.

It’s fun to drive a truck wearing a sombrero, sure, but because there’s little or no mechanical difference between the dozen or so sportsters, trucks, exotics, a few concept models and at least one ice cream truck (exclusive to PS4 players), there’s no actual sense of progression that changes how you play a match. And while that’s all perfectly justifiable in the name of a level multiplayer playing field, I would have loved to see each car carry the strengths and weaknesses implied by their real-world counterparts: sport cars as speedy but hard-to-handle strikers, trucks and vans as slower but stronger defenders, and the balanced but all-purpose roamers somewhere in between. It seems like a missed opportunity to add a more meaningful connection to your cars in the garage, especially when making a squad to play through an entire season.But there is a separate progression arc found in learning to use the surprising mechanical depth of Rocket League’s many controls and flighty physics. Whether that arc takes you through online competitive or ranked matches, easy-going exhibitions, up to four-player local cooperative play on split-screen, or all 36 weeks of a fully expanded season mode, the Rocket League experience is always about getting into the next throttle-pumping match.

And while there are leaderboards to track your statistics and global prowess, Rocket League servers struggle to support the influx of PlayStation 4 and PC players hunting for same and cross-platform matchmaking bouts, rendering most of Rocket League’s online features – including the online party system – spotty at best. Fortunately, the AI is formidable on either difficulty setting above Rookie, both as teammates and opponents, so Rocket League doesn’t lose much in a completely offline existence, which is good, because its online suite is largely unreliable.

https://au.ign.com/articles/2015/07/15/archive-rocket-league-review

Broforce

broforce level 15
Bros don’t have to be dudes. Ripley, Kill Bill’s Bride and Cherry Darling from Planet Terror go some way to diluting the rampant testosterone.

Broforce should be unbearable. It has all the worst features of indie hipster PC gaming in 2015. Cute pixel art winkingly combined with lashings of extravagant gore. Retro-styled side-scrolling gameplay and stiff difficulty. Most of all, an obsession with tongue-in-cheek 1980s B-movie culture.

It should be unbearable, and the fact that it’s actually enormously likeable and loads of fun speaks volumes about developer Free Lives Games and the way it has carefully evolved its giddy template from lo-fi game jam entry through Steam Early Access to full release.

Broforce

  • Publisher: Devolver Digital
  • Developer: Free Lives Games
  • Platform: Reviewed on PC
  • Availability: Out now on PC, coming to PS4 next year

Here’s the hook: every TV and movie action hero you ever cared about, thrown into a bombastic side-scrolling platform shoot-em-up and delivered in a tone pitched somewhere between the innocent bloodlust of a 1985 Saturday morning cartoon and the post-modern lunacy of a Terry Crews Old Spice commercial.

Gameplay is appropriately simple. You start with just one character – Rambro. You march from left to right, gunning down enemies and rescuing others “Bros” who are trapped in cages. Each one, when rescued, becomes your new player character and also acts as an extra life. The more you rescue, the more are added to your roster for random selection next time around. The twist is that each Bro only has one health point. Take a hit and they die, and you respawn at the last checkpoint with another bro.

There are 30 such characters at launch, many of which were added during the game’s three year gestation. A large part of Broforce’s initial appeal comes from seeing which iconic character will be unlocked next, and how they’ll have the word “bro” awkwardly inserted into their name. I won’t deny I squealed a little when Bro Dredd appeared, but you can pretty much guarantee one of your favourites is in here. From Double Bro Seven to Indiana Brones, and even deeper cuts like Broniversal Soldier, the game runs at the pop culture buffet table and piles its plate high.

It’s the sort of winking referential comedy that can go horribly awry – as in movie clankers like Meet the Spartans, where the appearance of a famous character is considered a joke in itself. Broforce skirts that trap by putting real thought into how each character can be realised in the game’s wacky world, and how their iconic features can be used to tweak the gameplay.

BroboCop, for example, has his famous handgun which charges up the longer you hold down the fire button, then shoots in bursts. Indiana Brones has a whip and a pistol, the Arnie-esque Brommando has a rocket launcher, while others – such as Bronan the Barbarian, Broheart and vampire hunter Brade – must rely on swords for melee attacks. The Brocketeer, of course, has a jetpack, and The Boondock Bros come as a pair – essentially two lives for the price of one.

broforce level
If you want to sample the Broforce gameplay before buying, try the free Expendabros spin-off released to promote the Stallone movie.

Each character requires a subtly different style of play, and also has a limited stock of special attacks which add a more tactical layer to the carnage. MacBrover lobs a chicken stuffed with dynamite, for example, which attracts enemies then blows them all up. Time Bro, a riff on Van Damme’s Time Cop, can activate a slow motion mode.

On the surface Broforce is anarchic, with destructible environments, exploding barrels and crates, and fuel tanks which take off like rockets when hit. Chain reactions are common – and often deliberate. In a landscape of procedurally generated roguelike indies Broforce dares to be designed down to the last pixel, meaning optimal routes and hidden secrets are there on purpose, not simply random chance. You feel smart and motivated, not just lucky, when you come across them.

Movement is similarly well honed with nimble flea-like leaps and a sticky wall climb that carries echoes of Super Meat Boy. Weapons feel satisfying and weighty, while the enemies fly apart with tangible cartoon splatter. Simply ping-ponging around each level is a pleasure, as you seek out new avenues of exploration and destruction.

There’s deeper strategy here, should you wish to find it, and the more you pay attention the more emergent layers you discover. Enemies have emotional states, for example, so a particularly grisly attack on one of their comrades – such as Brochete’s disembowelling melee attack – will cause them to panic. They can also be caught unawares, providing you don’t alert them by making too much noise. It’s never a stealth game, but nor is it just a straight ahead action romp. For those who want to explore the overlapping systems and experiment with different approaches, there’s plenty to enjoy.

It’s a generous game too, having accrued lots of extra content in Early Access such as Alien-themed levels and a suite of rock hard post-game Hell stages. There’s a level editor, a custom campaign mode that lets you sample and rate other player’s creations, a versus mode and drop-in co-operative online play.

It’s this last one that reveals Broforce’s greatest weakness: it is possible to be too far over the top. With four Bros all rampaging around, the mayhem is absolutely ridiculous. It’s hilarious, but also frequently impossible to keep track of, and you’ll die many deaths as you get lost amongst the explosions and geysers of blood. It doesn’t help that the HUD for each player takes up one corner of the screen, obscuring vital gameplay areas and adding to the confusion.

broforce level
Special mention must go to the barking voiceover guy, who implores you to ‘GO GO GO!’ at the start of each level.

Class changes, Exotics, levelling and more explained.

These issues come to a head during the game’s boss battles, which are just about manageable solo but become a bewildering insta-death soup with four players all spamming attacks at the same time. It’s annoying, and more than a little upside-down. More players should make boss fights easier to handle, not harder.

It’s also sometimes frustrating when the game randomly assigns you the next Bro and it’s someone whose attacks are a poor fit for your situation. Boss fights with a sword-wielding character are no fun, but equally some of the more over-powered characters, such as Will Smith’s Bro in Black and his immensely destructive “noisy cricket”, can demolish an entire stage in seconds without really trying. It’s never less than fun, but the option to choose your character would add a little more nuance. That’s probably not a word that belongs anywhere near Broforce though.

Those are really the only major complaints that stand a chance of penetrating the game’s glistening rock hard abs. I’ve had Broforce since it entered Early Access last year, and it’s never really left my frequently played Steam list since – partly because of the steady drip of new content (which hopefully won’t dry up post-launch) but mostly because it’s a perfect game for those 15 minute palate-cleansing blasts of arcade fun.

From its generous amount of content to its deliriously engaging gameplay, this is a game that is smarter than it looks, knows what it wants to do and achieves it in the biggest, silliest way possible. Flex and enjoy.

https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-10-19-broforce-review