Back in the early 1970s, music meant something. The musicians were gods among screaming devout fans, flailing around on stage in quintessential glam-rock fashion. The world of metal was full of thick spike belts and armbands, devils, fire, horned beasts, and gothic figures. Behind the scenes of these epic metal concerts, the rock-gods were assisted by black-clothes-wearing roadies. The roadies had one important job – to make the metal musicians appear as gods for their adoring fans. They did this with the stealth of a ninja, cloaked by the shadows. A roadie could fix just about anything: a guitar, a drumhead, a fireworks display, a tour van, right down to the elaborate sets. However, as the years wore on, the music changed, metal changed, and the roadies were left pondering as to what happened to their once glorious demonic world.
Enter Brutal Legend, the brainchild of celebrated developer, Tim Schafer. Simply put, the world Schafer conceived for this mammoth music-inspired epic is so entrenched in metal lore that you are instantly engrossed in its land of titans, horned death-bringers, screeching guitars, and pulsing (almost psychedelic) scenery. With all the buzz surrounding the game, from vast commercials, to appearances on late-night talk shows, we were left to wonder if the hype was as phoney as the spandex worn by metal’s most famous glam rockers. After playing through Brutal Legend, however, we were well and truly won over by Schafer’s vision and can’t wait to see what he’ll come up with next.
Brutal Legend is everything a good game should be. It’s filled with nearly every style of gameplay, it’s hilarious, it’s engaging, and most of all it is set in a world so abstract and well constructed that we believe roadies are worth their weight in gold, and metal is truly the music of the gods. In Brutal Legend you’ll command armies of headbangers in real-time strategy battles, drive a decked-out hot rod, shoot missiles in first-person view, and upgrade your heroine with RPG elements. Brutal Legend has just about every style of game crammed into a tight package.
Jack Black lends his voice as the main character Eddie Riggs, a roadie who’s earned himself the prestigious honour of being the best in the business. If you are a fan of Black’s humor then you will, without a doubt, laugh a lot while playing Brutal Legend. In fact, you are going to laugh regardless of your stance on Black– the game is just that funny. From the opening sequence, where Eddie saves a new-age metal musician from falling to his death, but ultimately gets crushed by an elaborate set, the dialogue and subtle raised eyebrows had us on the floor in hysterics. As the game progresses and you are transported into a very different world (the setting of the game), the comedy starts to fade as the story develops. While the comedy starts to fade as the narrative unfolds, it still plays its part in the saga as Riggs finds himself transported in to a bizarre, metal-influenced reality.
Brutal Legend is all about the music – from a stellar soundtrack, cameos by real metal musicians, and hilarious spoofs on the fickle shenanigans of mainstream music, the game rests its laurels in the music world. If you aren’t a fan of metal, you’ll inevitably grow tired of the game’s roaring soundtrack. Beyond the music, the world is obscure and extremely dangerous. The story has you join a band of rebels, fighting an evil lord who has turned the men and women of this crazy world into slaves – the men are workers, and women are apparently part of some ‘adult’ themed bondage ring. Once you free the people they join your forces and during the large-scale RTS battles, you can quickly recruit several different units.
The bulk of the game is played in these RTS battles, where you essentially build and execute an absolutely killer rock show. You’ll build a stage, erect merchandise booths to attract more fans, and recruit units to send off into battle. What’s great about Brutal Legend is that at any time you can jump into the battle, and suddenly the game turns from a straightforward RTS, into an action game – complete with all the button mashing you can handle.
During these epic battles you’ll witness an inordinate amount of gore. You can easily turn the gore off at anytime during the game, but it feels so great to chop the head off of an emo kid. Eddie wields a massive axe and guitar that truly shreds. You have the ability to perform various solos that do everything from open relics (which grant you various new abilities and upgrades), to melt the faces of all the enemies around you. The game is also filled with plenty of ‘graphic’ language, which, like the gore, can be turned off at anytime.
Eddie and his Deuce (his hot rod) are fully upgradeable through the Forge. The Guardian of Metal, voiced by Ozzy Osbourne, will provide you with weapon and vehicle upgrades in exchange for Fire Tributes – the in-game currency. You’ll gain Fire Tributes with just about everything you do in the game: winning battles, finding hidden goodies, and completing secondary missions. You can complete the main storyline without so much as touching the plethora of secondary missions on offer, and numerous scattered artifacts. After you beat the game you can feel free to go back through the world and explore – and there is plenty to see and do.
The single-player campaign is extremely compelling and fun, but the game offers up some great online multiplayer opportunities that will keep this title kicking around long after the holidays. The bulk of the multiplayer features put you head-to-head against an online opponent in the RTS-style battles from the single-player campaign. You get to choose one of three factions and you can play with up to eight people – four on each side. There are seven different maps to play through, which should supply ample diversity for anyone looking for some nice multiplayer action.
Brutal Legend is nearly a perfect game, but alas it has its faults. Our biggest frustration, which is actually pretty small, is that Eddie can’t jump. There were several times when we got stuck jumping out of The Deuce, and even more occasions where getting stuck in a rocky valley made us restore the last checkpoint. Not being able to jump doesn’t take too much away from the game, but we feel that any game featuring steady action should allow the main character to jump. It’s a fundamental component that we certainly missed. Elsewhere, we also encountered minor quibbles regarding the controls during the RTS battles. Occasionally we grew frustrated at how slow our forces would advance, and how your orders aren’t always followed out. Ultimately however, these minor frustrations failed to deter from our enjoyment of Eddie’s escapades, and in the long run proved relatively inconsequential.
Despite these minor gripes, we feel Double Fine created on hell of a game. The world of Brutal Legend is so epic and expansive that you can spend a lot of time just enjoying the obscure views, but you’ll be far too busy playing through the storyline. The game has a way of pulling you into this world and story like none we’ve played recently. It’s truly an experience worth living, at least once. We certainly hope a sequel is considered, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if Brutal Legend ultimately earned itself a place among one of the best games of 2009.