Movie tie-in games are usually pretty awful, cheap cash-ins that draw on big names to attract their audience. But I suppose I could say the same thing, word for word, about action movies. However, The Expendables 3 game, The Expendabros, is a bit different – and not just because it’s good.
What sets The Expendabros apart is that it perfectly captures the tone of The Expendables 3. But this isn’t just because it is over the top and filled with bombast, it gets the film's tongue in cheek look at 80/90s action movies - creating a game that could have happily been released when Schwarzenegger was in his prime.
Fans of games of this era should quickly see the blend of styles. Taking classic platform shooting from games like Contra, The Expendabros adds a sense of verticality and agility with wall jumps that would happily have been at home in Shinobi. If that isn’t enough, the more modern influence of Tarraria is also apparent, with destructible landscapes allowing to create your own path through the bite-sized levels.
A polished 16-bit visual style offers a surprising amount of detail. The green and brown jungle styling plays host to huts, rope bridges, and other makeshift structures. The power lines are my favorite piece of environmental flavor, with sparks flying off them as you run their length before knocking down the generators to kill enemies beneath.
Characters and enemies complement this look. Though small and pixelated, each spite is clear and easily distinguishable, making it easy to see if an opponent is going to shoot you or run towards you and explode without having to strain your eyes.
Seven of the movie's cast members make an appearance as playable characters, and each has their own weapon and special ability. You start as Broney Ross (Stallone), who has a light machine gun and grenades. These are quite versatile, but do attract unwanted attention. Rescuing the first new member of your squad, it becomes apparent how the different abilities will affect play, with the character of Lee Broxmas only equipped with knives. Almost as damaging as a gun, the blades do not attract attention and have a greater range when used as a special attack – a mix that opens up a whole new play style.
Rescuing a new character, or dying, randomly spawns another member of the cast you have unlocked. This lottery-style selection means that you have to get to grips with all of the different play styles, be they explosive and self-damaging or short-ranged sword slices that put you in danger's way.
In keeping with the comic tone, each character is a parody of their celluloid equivalent with a “Bro” woven into their name. Sometimes this blending of name and Bro can be quite subtle such as Randy Couture’s character Toll Road becoming Toll Broad. Others, however, feel a little more forced, like Trench Mauser who becomes Trent Broser…
The Expendabros is a wonderfully tight shooter, with a great sense of humor that ties in with the movie perfectly. Add to that the fact it's free (it’s basically a mod of the also stellar Broforce) and you have a game that everyone should have in their Steam library.