Brutal Legend looks to build its own legend in this action adventure, metal inspired opus. Staring non other than Jack Black as Eddy Riggs, Brutal Legend brutally servers up a good does of gaming destruction. The metal gods would be happy and so are we. Prepare to rock with Double Fines' Brutal Legend.
Three years off the heels the critically acclaimed platfomer Psychonauts (2005), Double Fine Productions heads in a new direction with the action-adventure Brutal Legend. Brutal Legend follows Psychonauts same sense of originality and innovation creating a world that is interesting, original, and above all else, fun. Tim Schafer, the man behind Double Fine is known for his passion in the gaming industry and it shows in Brutal Legend. This heavy metal tribute turned fantasy action game is nothing but a labour of love that twists gamers into Schafers' unique world. Even if the gameplay doesn’t follow the same innovation as the concept, Brutal Legend will be remembered as one of 2009's most original games.
In October, cleverly renamed Rocktober by Brutal Legends promotional avalanche, Brutal Legend has hit store shelves and much like the source material the hardcore fans have lined-up to pick up Schafer’s latest. Brutal Legend initial publicity has to go to their lead character, Eddie Riggs, who is voiced and modeled after comedic actor Jack Black. Black plays a stage hand that is warped into a fantasy world after a tragic accident during a live concert. In this fantasy world which is based off the lore of classic Heavy Metal music, Black—Riggs learns that he and his skills can save this world from an enslavement of evil. Brutal Legend isn’t groundbreaking when you break down the storyline and objectives in their purest form, however in its disguise of metal Brutal Legend is cagey and astonishingly intelligent.
The gameplay follows Eddie in the third-perspective in a combination of real-time strategy game and your classic beat em’ up action affair. In the initial stages you will be in the guise that you’re playing an a-typical action game and then Brutal Legend shifts gears and brings in the real-time strategy gameplay. This transition is done smoothly and feels natural, but it does run the risk of alienating some of the players who aren’t interested in split gameplay mechanics. Don’t let the world RTS scare you, Brutal Legend can still be played at ground level (for the most part), but you will still need manage your troops, build upgrades and manage resources, just like a RTS. Micromanagement if you will, but more on the light side.
The RTS portions of Brutal Legends are called “Stage Battles”. These stage battles are only a part of the single player game in Brutal Legend, however the multiplayer potion of the game is made up sonly of stage battles. Stage Battles have Riggs and his band of vagabonds defending a monstrous sized stage from oncoming attackers. New units can be called upon to help depending on your fan support which is harvested by playing on your electric twanger (guitar). As you fan support (looks like glowing souls) power up the stage resources are gathered and units can be built. Units spawn from the stage and can be directed into battle with the D-Pad. Like an RTS you have different units which can be upgraded and although its not archers and fighters you have a similar class structure running with ranged, melee, healers and such. RTS fans will find Legends stripped down RTS mechanics a breeze while others might struggle for in the first few battles, however trust me, Brutal Legend is easier than other, quicker RTS games like Starcraft, or Warcraft.
In the multiplayer section the stage battles can have up to 4vs.4 teams with each player selecting a different faction. There are three factions starting with Ironheade (Humans-Led by Eddie), The Drowning Doom (Goth & Emo- Led by Ophelia); and the Tainted Coil (Evil Creatures-Led by Doviculus). Online matches run the same as in the single player although you will have to be a little craftier as human players can be much more frantic and unpredictable. One problem with the stage battles that is amplified online is camera issues. Targeting the right enemies or simply keeping focus on everything that is happening can be troublesome because of the wild camera. The system in Brutal Legend isn’t as innovative in making the RTS play good on the console... a common problem that occurs in all RTS titles, so expect to have a few headaches online. This doesn’t ruin the online game, but it is something you’ll have to deal with.
For Those About To Rock
I’ve mentioned a few other characters like Ophelia and Doviculus aside from Riggs, so let’s explore the other characters in the game. Beyond Jack Black’s voice talent Brutal Legend also has a number of other famous rockers, and actors to the list of credits. The main bad guy in the game is Doviculus (Tim Curry-Rock Horror Picture Show) who has enslaved the human race in this world. Doviculus is more of the mystical wizard type bad guy who has his minions do a lot of the leg work. In this case it would be General Lionwhyte (Rob Halford-Singer of Judas Priest) who hair is so big he can use it to fly around the world. Lionwhyte is made up to be a glam rocker and his troops all follow the glam style of rock, the mortal enemy of pure metal-heads.
On the good side of the fight we obviously have Riggs, but he has a few friends that help him along the way, or he helps along the way and they are introduced early in the game. This small band of rebels is led by Lars Halford (Zach Hanks) and his sister Lita (Kath Soucie-Cooke from Lost Odyssey) and the lady of Riggs desire Ophelia (Canadian Jennifer Hale-the Naomi Hunter in Metal Gear Solid). This is the starting core bunch of characters, however soon after you start rolling you will meet the Kill Master (Lemmy Kilmister-Singer of Motorhead), the Fire Baron (Rob Halford) and the Amazonian Rima (Lita Ford-Singer). Lastly you have to know the real “Prince of Darkness” Ozzy Osbourne would have to be in a game based on metal lore, and Ozzy roles comes in as the Guardian of Metal, the merchant in the game that upgrades Riggs equipment and ride.
The script behind why all these characters meet is your standard affair; it’s the surroundings and art design behind the game that really stands out. As it has been heavily publicised Brutal Legend was inspired by classic Heavy Metal and Rock Album cover-art, you know the kind with demons, swords, and half-naked woman. Iron Maiden would be the first example that comes into most metal heads minds as Maiden’s cover-art has always been of their mascot Eddie in various situations in the world of fantasy. Along with this mystical metal world Schafer has dreamed up you will also see elements that now follow rock-a-billy culture like V8 Hot Rods, lots of flames, and even exhaust pipes coming up in shapes as tuning forks from the ground. Brutal Legend’s world isn’t overly diverse, but what it does, it does with style and conviction.
Metal on Metal
Now when you’re dealing with a landscape that is inspired by Heavy Metal music you’re going to expect a sound track that is pumping the black metal. Brutal Legends soundtrack is epic and has over 100 songs from 75 different artists... Now that’s how you do a soundtrack! A few of these artist include the obvious choices like Motorhead, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Motley Crue, Judas Priest and Megadeth, however you’ll have more obscure selections like Omen, Apostasy, Candlemass, Saxon and a lot more. All these songs, some which have to be unlocked can be selected on one mega playlist when you hop into your ride, The Deuce.
Axe Em' All
So far Brutal Legend is a pretty stand out, knock down game however there are some flaws outside of the RTS format. The controls seem to bring the most pain and switching between using you guitar’s special tabs and combat makes Eddie pause in the middle of the battle. From there you have to hit a Guitar Hero-esq button combo to unlock a power move. This leave Eddie unevenly unprotected which is a strange decision because some of the moves like the awesome FACEMELTER is a move that burns the enemies faces in a small radius. This isn’t a huge complaint, but the controls feel a little sideways at times. The secondary complaint is even with the world being so cool; it becomes a little dull after a few hours. Objectives are interestingly woven between the music references and the real-world, but at times they can feel dragged on. Again, this is a small complaint and one that doesn’t effect the true enjoyment Brutal Legend brings.
Search and Destory
Brutal Legend also has a lot of unlockables and side-missions to uncover during you travels throughout the land. Many of these grant you new gear to purchase or new abilities. They are also associated with Trophies/Achievements, so hunting these down can help you out in upping your points. This includes online achievements which will making you try out the games multiplayer. One interesting tidbit of information about Brutal Legend is that Double Fine actually produced the multiplayer first and builds the game around that concept. This is very interesting because exploration and beat em’ up action seems like the games roots. That being said, Brutal Lengend is fairly legnthy and will keep you playing for a while if you want to search out everything.
Brutal Legend is another creative release from Double Fine that showcases how you can mix several conventional game mechanics together with an original concept to make a fun and interesting game. At Brutal Legends core it’s really nothing we really haven’t seen before, its how the game executes is Metal inspired storyline that is brand new and refreshing. The only real issue in Brutal Legend is how it splits up the game between exploring the world and beat em’ up enemies like an action game and then switches to a micro-management war-like strategy game. Gamers who don’t enjoy both elements might be turned off. Thankfully, EA picked up Brutal Legend and gave it a chance after it could have been to the purgatory with Schafters' original concept. Brutal Legend isn’t going the ultimate “Best Game of 2009” however it is one of the most interesting action adventure games we’ve seen in years. Bottom line-- Brutal Legend Rocks! Now let’s see more of Riggs in Brutal Legend II.
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 10.27.09