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Broforce has performance issues on PS4

One too many bros? Digital Foundry on the extreme frame-rate drops in side-scrolling shooter.

This one caught our eye. Broforce is a gleefully bombastic 2D side-scrolling shooter in the Contra tradition - and available this month for free to PlayStation Plus members. However, it hasn't launched in the best of states, and its variable performance is a stumbling block to enjoying the experience we'd like. We're talking about a game that's designed to run at 60fps, but as shown in our video below, can (and very much will) drop all the way down to the teens. So what exactly is going on, and why might PS4 performance be struggling as it is?

Of course, Broforce is a two-dimensional game built on pixel art visuals - a game you wouldn't suspect would test any modern gaming hardware as it apparently does. It's also one that absolutely revels in destruction physics, and particularly with four players, everything on-screen is apt to explode, showering the screen in particles. Indeed, entire levels are blown apart as players tear through each new stage, and it's this dynamic that ultimately brings the frame-rate to a crawl. At peak action, Broforce's main selling point sadly ends up reducing the game to a nearly unplayable state.

Given the mania of its run-and-gun premise, it's a bit of a shame. Broforce on PC shows the game running as it should at a full 60fps, but on PS4 it suffers one of the lowest frame-rates we've seen on Sony's machine - down to 15fps at its nadir. The only runner-up in this category is The Last Tinker, another notably weak performer on console, and it's perhaps no coincidence to find that both of these games run on the Unity engine. A recent look at Firewatch (another game based on this tech) shows this is now something of a running theme, and though that game's performance was bolstered by a later patch, it's clear that certain Unity titles aren't translating as smoothly to console hardware as you'd hope.

Cover image for YouTube videoBroforce on PlayStation 4: Performance Analysis
John dips into Broforce on PS4, where 15-60fps is its surprising range of performance - and other control issues beset what should be an excellent side-scrolling shooter.

Of course, only so much blame can be placed on this engine tech. This month sees the release of Android Assault Cactus on PS4 as well, for example - another indie title built on the Unity foundation, which happens to run at a stable frame-rate while pushing an outstanding visual style. Clearly there's a degree of accountability for the way each game is optimised for console hardware. As far as Broforce's overall playability is concerned, the game's rapid lateral movement really flags the issue up though. At a sub-30fps refresh, we're often simply struggling to play the game.

There's another issue on top of this. Each time we begin a new stage, our leading bro freezes in place mid-motion within the first few seconds of play. The game continues regardless, but player control is suspended for a few frames - bringing the character to an abrupt halt, and making it too easy to perilously mistime jumps at the start of a level. Given each stage lasts between 30 and 60 seconds, it's a frequent enough bug to frustrate, and we hope it's easy to address down the line.

A disappointing turnout at launch, then. Broforce has a lot going for it; a frenetic, addictive shooter with little reservation, and a potentially great option for couch co-op. But it's also not the fully unleashed experience we'd hoped for on PS4 due to this erratic frame-rate, and also glitches that make it frustrating to progress through. If you're eager, it's available alongside Galak-Z (another Unity game with performance issues) on the PlayStation Plus store right now. But until a follow-up patch hits, PC offers up a far better overall ride.