It’s hard to go wrong with the chaotic brawling of a sidescrolling, arcade-style beat-’em-up, but all that commotion can cover up the fact that there typically seem to be plenty of rough edges in the actual game design – cheap bosses, monotonous fights, limited cooperation between players, and so forth. Full Metal Furies aims to fix all that, correcting or bending almost every genre convention to deliver a fresh kind of four-player brawler. In talking with the folks at Cellar Door Games – the studio behind the stellar Rogue Legacy – it’s clear that they have a passion for the classic beat-’em-ups of yore, without feeling like they’re beholden to some outdated bits of their design.
For instance, you know those times in brawlers where you’ve whacked a baddie off out of view, and all you can do is swing at sights unseen from the edge of the screen until they either die or knock you down? Full Metal Furies’ dynamic camera always takes the screen edges into account, and forces juggled enemies to simply wallbounce back so that they never fall offscreen. What about all those times when your jerk co-op buddy scarfed down that restorative turkey, even though they had full health and you were hanging onto life by a thread? All beneficial items you pick up in this game are shared between players, with life bars displayed around your character instead of being stuck in a corner of the screen far away from the action. And as for those jump-attacks you’ve learned to use and abuse in just about every boss fight? The Furies don’t have any moves that would allow for the tried, true, and tired tactic of leap-kick spamming.
The title itself refers to this brawler’s four playable heroes: a quartet of battle-savvy ladies who beat up droves of enemy soldiers in order to stop a war before it can even start. There’s Triss the Sentinel, who can block everything with her body-sized shield, Erin the Engineer, who provides covering fire for her li’l helicopter turrets using her pistol, Alex the Fighter, who can leap and whirlwind-spin her hammer like a Diablo Barbarian, and Meg the Sniper, an expert-level sharpshooter who can slow down time to pull off impressive combos from long-range. As you’d expect from the team that made Rogue Legacy, the art direction and character designs are delightfully charming, and the 16-bit-style sprites are expressive while still being easily readable. They may not look it, but your characters are essentially fighting within 3D space done up like a sidescrolling arena – so you never have to worry about whiffing a punch that feels like it clearly should’ve hit by the look of things, just because the pixels were technically on different planes.
As you’d expect, there’s co-op support for up to four local or online players – but single-player provides an interesting spin by making you choose two of the four Furies. You can then swap between them with a single button – which you’ll need to do often, because enemies typically come with color-coded barriers surrounding them. Only the hero with the matching color can break said barriers and make the villains vulnerable to damage, which leads to two distinct, engaging styles of play. Going solo, you’ll have to constantly swap heroes to maintain combos and wipe out enemies; in multiplayer, there’s much more emphasis on cooperation as every player has to do their part in chipping away at the oncoming soldiers, drones, and the supremely buff minotaurs called Titans who wield huge gatling guns. You also need next-level amounts of coordination if you want to chain together the Furies’ abilities and juggle opponents in the air – but the payoff of hitting a combo is so worth it.
And just because FMF bucks a ton of brawler conventions doesn’t mean it can’t include some callbacks to genre staples. There’s a huge emphasis on secrets throughout, especially when it comes to objects and pathways obscured behind silhouetted bits of ambiance in the foreground. You’ll find tons of scrolls and stone obelisks covered in an ancient language, which can provide hints on how to unlock hidden levels when translated. There’s an entire gear system and multiple talent trees to help you specialize your favorite hero even further. And as you explore the multiple pathways in each level, you’ll often encounter brutal obstacle courses that can be overcome with enough coordination and careful timing.
With everything that’s going on under the hood in Full Metal Furies, there’s so much depth to explore and nuance to master beyond the standard pick-up-and-play action of your typical beat-’em-up. Anyone who loves the likes of Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Final Fight should keep an eye out for this unorthodox brawler, coming to Xbox One and PC sometime in 2017.