Brutal Legend Review
Rock the underworld like never before.
There are very, very few games which truly make me sit back and go “wow”. Among the slew of games that I’ve reviewed this year, there are only a couple that I really enjoyed playing, and continue to do so. Brutal Legend is one such game – even though I aced my Public Speaking and English Literature classes, words only slur together when I try to describe this game. Truth be told, after spending a good amount of time with it, I was transformed from a mere gamer into a rocking, die-hard fan.
The fact that the title has Tim Schafer attached to it was enough to set the wheels in motion in the gamerverse. Having had plenty of gaming success at LucasArts helping to churn out such classics like Day of The Tentacle and Monkey Island, he founded his own games studio Double Fine Productions in 2000, and his latest creation is an absolute sight to behold. So where do I begin with this immaculate conception?
Let’s lay the basic groundwork first – the game centers around a character named Eddie Riggs, who works as a roadie for a wannabe heavy metal group. During a gig one night, a slip up with one of the band members causes the stage set to collapse on top of Eddie. When a few drops of Eddie’s blood falls on his skull-shaped belt buckle, it summons Ormagoden, a firey beast of the netherworld, who teleports Eddie to a world where humanity has been enslaved by demons. But rather than being a world painted with depressing scenery and brooding hellspawn, the setting is much more different. Discarded speakers, rusty engines, burning tires, and graffiti-strewn props lie scattered across the landscape, as if basking in the aftermath of one truly awesome rock concert. Once you’ve taken in the lovely scenery, you meet up with several other characters who are trying to fight the demons and free humanity. While this may sound like your run-of-the-mill rescue operation, it soon becomes evident just how deliciously crafty the game gets. For example, your very first mission is to build up an army by freeing your fellow rockers from the mines. The fun kicks in when you discover that your crew has been sentenced to a lifetime of breaking rocks with their heads (and in the process developing ridiculously thick necks from all the headbanging). The rocker humor starts very early, and carries on through every single aspect of the game.
Rescuing your fellow rockers is what introduces you to a new angle of the game – a scaled down RTS element, if you like. As you build up a sizeable ‘rock force’, you gain access to several basic yet crucial squad commands. You can order your posse to attack a location, follow you, defend an area, or go to a spot. These orders come in handy at almost any given time, and keen management of your fellow rockers is what will aid you in the harder levels. At first it’s almost strange to see an RTS element in what’s predominately an adventure game, but it just works so well that you can’t help but rock on with glee.
To help you out on your noble quest, you have two mighty weapons at your disposal – an appropriately large axe that you can swing around to dice your enemies up, and an electric guitar that can send shockwaves through your enemies. Both weapons can be used to mix up your attacks, resulting in some fairly powerful combos that can completely obliterate your enemies. Of course you can always earn upgrades for more powerful attacks, but we’ll talk about that later. The other show-stopping part of the game is the guitar itself. At any point in the game, you can whip out your guitar and play a quick guitar solo, which has a number of effects. Some solos can be used to raise hidden relics for new guitar solos or summon troops to you, while some guitar solos can buff up your troops or cause harm to your enemies. Activating a guitar solo is as easy as tapping the right face buttons in time to the screen prompts, and in a blinding flash of light and fog, Eddie pulls off the solo with ease – this is certainly going to get the Guitar Hero boys to jump onto the bandwagon too. If jamming on your guitar doesn’t give you kicks, you can always team up with an ally on-screen to pull off a number of unique combo attacks.
As mentioned before, powering up your attacks (and your guitar) is crucial in the game, and here’s where the fun begins – you get to meet the one and only Ozzy Osbourne, who coyly fills you in on the history of the land and its inhabitants while offering you advice on guitar upgrades and special attacks. Ozzy Osbourne is probably the last person you’d expect to see in this game, but his character and fantastic voice acting just works so well that you can’t help but grin stupidly at the screen. Of course, other rock legends do make their cameo appearances, but I’ll let you find them all for yourself. You can even upgrade your car – a hotrod hearse – and scoot across the landscape in a matter of minutes (while running over demons of course). Earning the upgrades is a matter of completing some of the many side missions, or unlocking some of the many secret shrines hidden around the maps
One thing I certainly didn’t think I would see in a game like this was a multiplayer mode. The online multiplayer is slightly different from the single player mode, and puts more emphasis on the RTS side of things. The premise is simple – select from three factions, Iron Heade, Drowning Doom, or Tainted Coil, and gather up enough troops to destroy your enemy’s stage. In the place of resources, players have to gather ‘fans’ by building merchandise towers around the battlefield. The more fans you gather, the more units you can summon. All the regular squad commands feature here, and you can even command your champion to take to the skies and command the action from afar. The game soon becomes a frantic battle to gather the most fans and completely obliterate your opponents from the map. Though it may take you a few practice matches to get into the full swing of things, it’s still hugely enjoyable to see your opponent’s stage burn to the ground.
Presentation wise, the game wins every time. While Brutal Legends doesn’t feature mind-blowing textures and three billion polygons per frame, it does have an absolutely fantastic art direction going for it. The almost cartoonish presentation is easy on the eyes and doesn’t distract from the gorgeous lighting effects that come into play during different times of the day. Every detail of the game has been painfully crafted to echo the heavy metal theme – from the character outfits to the level designs, the game is every rocker’s ultimate playground. And if that wasn’t enough, there are over a hundred rock and metal tracks that feature in the game, from the gods of rock such as Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Sanctuary, Testament, and many, many others, making the game’s soundtrack and absolute bliss to listen to. To top if all off, there is some fantastic voiceovers in the game (and plenty of swearing), with an equally witty script. Did I mention that Jack Black voices Eddie Riggs? Oh and Jack also does the very cool game-intro, which shows him walking into a record store to pick out a Brutal Legend LP, which then becomes the main menu – top points for creativity there.
There were only a few occasional times where the game played up a bit, either stuttering during a cutscene or not properly aligning the camera, but these are mere blemishes on what is otherwise a must-play game. The side missions may give you extra points, but they don’t always offer much originality, so you can give them a skip if you like. But that aside, Brutal Legend is just too good a game to not get a great reception from gamers. The combination of adventure, RTS, and guitar ripping solos make this an absolute must buy when it comes out.
|An absolutely hilarious ride through a rock-themed universe that just screams to be destroyed.||
|Presentation is king here, with beautifully rendered levels and great character design helping to build up the game’s atmosphere.|
|Amazing rock soundtrack + genius script = one happy gamer.||
|If you manage to finish the single player missions, the frantic multiplayer mode will have you going on for a good amount of time.|
|It’s hard to decide if it’s more fun to play the game or just to sit back and watch the mayhem unfold.||
|Brutal Legend is proof that there are still some great titles to come out before the year ends, so stop reading this and go buy it!|