Pixels are not nostalgic. They’re indicative of nothing. Broforce is obsessed with little pixel violence on little brown pixel people being shot by other pixel people. Retro, old school; this is none of those. It’s inherently new school: jumpy, bouncy, frantic, and terribly random.
Fitted with dorky machismo, the A-list of lawsuit-skirting characters bleed the idea that referencing something is inherently funny. Broforce pokes at the empty militarism and phony patriotism of ’80s and ’90s TV/movie properties, but appears unaware those licenses did that on their own. No one mistakes Schwarzenegger’s Commando as anything else, and G.I. Joe’s breathlessly marketed post-Vietnam existence doesn’t hide the source either.
Some of the era’s vapidness becomes evident. Broforce drops a hero onto a battlefield to ceaselessly break things and shout, context be damned. All of the noise is obnoxiously grating.
Violence skews Midway – the arcade game studio’s bloody outburst in the ’90s, both preceding and following Mortal Kombat, is intact here. What’s missing is any textural quality. Broforce commands cooperative play, a drunken college bar game meant to be mixed with booze. Harmless, mostly, but also ridiculously unsatisfying. It’s a design and viewpoint without consideration of what Broforce’s luminaries did or were doing. Metal Slug carried an animation fervor. Contra compartmentalized the red scare. Rambo: First Blood took a mellow approach to Vietnam’s impact, leering at the unaided after effects of conflict.
Broforce has no intention of being serious – expecting a Vietnam parable to step forward from its six pixel-high RoboCop knock-off would be absurd. Off-putting is how ignorant Broforce chooses to be, riffing and playing with ideas and characters without grounding them in anything other than shouting and explosions. That’s the joke, but Rambo III did that already, a parody of itself. Hot Shots: Part Deux did one better, joking about the absurdity of turning a mellow psychological study into a helicopters-and-tanks spectacle. Broforce elicits no conversation – shoot brown people wearing masks because that’s what everyone does. How plain, and no one is supposed to notice.