The Expendabros

The Expendabros is deceptively easy and it's free. It's perfect.

By Daavpuke, Posted 07 Aug 2014

Synergy is often seen as a bad, cringe-worthy marketing term, but it’s rightly fitting in the case of The Expendabros. Loose cannon publisher Devolver Digital, from games like Hotline Miami and Serious Sam, has fused their Broforce title with a movie tie-in for The Expendables 3. What’s already supposed to be riffing on eighties action heroes comes full circle with these actual stars promoting a hammy flick about mindless entertainment. It’s perfect. Also, the pixel carnage of the side-scrolling platform shooter is solid as titanium balls.

The Expendabros,PC,Steam,Free,Broforce,Review
At least the interrogation system is realistic.

These representations of Arnold, Sylvester and more trot around bright, pixelated environments, where every scrap of dirt can be pulverized with firepower. This causes quite the pandemonium of explosions, when gunfire meets volatile barrels. Debris flies around, blood gushes like fountains, terror screeches are emitted; death and guns and fire and guns and bombs and guns are everywhere in this grand opera of exaggerated action. It’s gloriously gaudy, as the tone is phoned in just hard enough to be humorous, but not rammed in to become obnoxious.

Mindless or not, the gameplay for The Expendabros is tight and varied to boot. Each hero has their own play style, from throwing knives to a Vulcan cannon, which gets appended with a unique special skill. Some of the specials are quite the sight, such as Dolph Lundgren’s explosive dog or Arnie’s giant airstrike. Additionally, stages are littered with extra bros to rescue, which switches the character around and gives a new way to kill more freedom haters.

The Expendabros,PC,Steam,Free,Broforce,Review
I'm not even doing anything and stuff is exploding!

With a brisk pace, death stays omnipresent, because those impulses aren’t going to bombard themselves. Characters skate through these camps with ease, zip-lining on electric wires and climbing guard posts with nothing but a knife, backflipping on the deck before slitting one more throat for glory. It sounds elaborate, but this can be strung together as if it’s an extension of the fingers. It’s just that easy. In fact, The Expendabros is so quick and smooth in operation that it feels a bit too lenient. Slicing, shooting and exploding an entire bunker complex can take about two seconds. It’s over before it started.

That feeling of being such an accomplished mercenary that anything comes natural is only part of its genius, lulling players in the sense of invulnerability that comes with an action hero. It’s deceptively easy. Truth is that one tiny little hit is deadly, because good guys aren’t supposed to get hit.

The Expendabros,PC,Steam,Free,Broforce,Review

Given how much chaos there is at any point and how fluid gameplay is, death is tougher to avoid than it seems. It will happen in a split second and it will look like a fluke, but then it happens again and then it happens one more time. That’s another part of excellent design in The Expendabros: Even multiple deaths feel like, somehow, that wasn’t supposed to happen and the game is still easy, but it really isn’t. It gets away with being mindless, while all the time having a challenge underneath the radar that is hard to pick up on.

Throwing in even more craziness, baddies can suddenly start sending dogs or some shoot guided missiles. Then the floor opens up and more missiles come, this time hitting a canister that shoots forward due to the released pressure. That sets off the wood mill’s circular saws that become unhinged and suddenly roll across the floor, shredding everything in their path. There is no way to keep track of every bit of mayhem in the game and stages will crumble differently each time, keeping things uncertain. Only a true hero can survive.

It will only take a rough half hour to go over The Expendabros, but here’s the best part: It’s absolutely free. Moreover, given how the wacky shenanigans can have some differing outcomes and impulses are so ever-present, it’s totally warranted to play through the whole thing one more time or maybe seven more times. Solid gameplay design, decent humor, pretty and destructible landscapes, varying content; this action romp has it all and it’s all good. It’s all good. That’s it. It just is.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Devolver Digital
Developer(s): Free Lives
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Free to Play, Indie
Release Date: 2014-08-05

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