Heavy Metal is often looked down upon by society despite being arguably the largest and most popular genre of music in the world. The reasons for this vary from misguided reputation to misinformed media writings. So it’s not very often that someone or something takes metal and turns it into an amazing piece of media, especially interactive media. But Tim Schafer over at Double Fine Productions has done the impossible; turned everything great about heavy metal into one AAA video game to rock the ages. Brutal Legend is a game set in a world where metal reins supreme and rock goes hand in hand with combat. The game has high production values, great voice talent and a few nifty surprises sure to either get under the skin or have you rocking out in enjoyment. Read on for more.
Meet Eddie Riggs. He's a roadie and the best in the business too. He can fix anything and tune an instrument and he’s always sure to keep out of the spotlight. After all, that's what a good roadie does; he makes someone else look good. But now its Eddies time to shine, as he gets sent back in time to an age of demons and monsters and where metal means everything, where he must lead the loyal troops of Ironheade against the evil tyrannical forces of the Tainted Coil. But this isn't just your everyday demon infested medieval world; this one looks as if its ripped straight from the cover of every Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath album there is, with molten spewing volcanoes, demonic animals, ferocious armies and a large map of heavy metal terrain only able to be reckoned with by Eddies always-great Druid Plow, a gorgeous hot-rod with an engine of Rock'n'Roll.
The core gameplay of Brutal Legend involves a three button combat system, with two attacks (one is your sharp-as-anything battle axe while the other is your second 'axe' also known as a Flying V electric guitar with electric and fire powers to boot) and a block button, which while it may seem simple at first, later gets an extreme overhaul as you unlock and master more and more electrifying combo's with varying effects. The control scheme is very easy to get used to and will have you slaying demons in no time. Also available to end the lives of your enemies are the scorching guitar solo Eddie can perform, which is a little similar to the Ocarina back in the mighty N64 game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, just with a little more death and a lot more metal, which are always happy to go hand in hand. Or, if you're more of a rev head, you may be inclined to take Eddies Druid Plow for a spin, and with a little effort, upgrade it with some deadly weapons such as a machine gun or a heat-seeking rocket launcher, which will have you slaying the opposition quicker than a Van Halen guitar solo.
After the first few initial 'training' missions, you will let loose into the world which is your prerogative to explore freely anytime you wish, choosing to either continue with the games addictive storyline or take time off and clear away some of the secondary missions. The secondary missions come in a few different styles and after your first few, they will seem like a massive slab of boredom and their only use will be to earn some fire tributes to spend on upgrades. It’s a pity these are so dull, as the world of Brutal Legend leaves so many potentially awesome encounters and powers untouched. The game’s main story however is quite addictive. You grow to care about the characters, care about their stories and get sucked into the drama that is Brutal Legend. The only let down of the story is well, its length. This is something that plagues many great games, and is a shame since it feels like it ends not long after it starts, due to its addictive nature.
Brutal Legend also occasionally makes players face the enemy in what are aptly named 'Stage Battles', which take a sort of real time strategy turn and have you creating units for battle as you take to the sky, or alternatively lead the battle on foot with your axe in hand. Either way, the style in which these Stage Battles are delivered is great and will take time and patience to master the art of it. But you won’t just be facing off stage against stage in the campaign; Stage Battles are what the games multiplayer is made up of and can support up to 4 on 4 on a wide range of maps. Stage Battles are far more engaging and intense online then off, and will have you on the edge of your seat. The multiplayer really is surprisingly enjoyable and deep, too bad the only mode available is Stage Battle. The team who thought up such a great concept should surely have been able to think up other ways to pit player against player using Brutal Legends engine.
If you are a fan of Double Fine's previous work, most notably the Xbox hit Psychnauts, then you will know that there is sure to be a humorous script and awesome characters. Pretty much every character in Brutal Legend is completely and utterly heavy metal and looks and sounds the part. There are cameos from some metal gods such as Rob Halford (from Judas Priest fame), Lita Ford, Ozzy Osbourne and the always funny Lemmy (you may know him as 'that guy' from the metal legends Motorhead). But the games originals are also very cool, from Eddie to the possessively evil Doviculus not to mention Eddies love interest Ophilia and even the lesser characters like the simple minions are greatly modelled. Some of the enemies look like they have been created by film legend Tim Burton, and others (particularly the more vile creatures) look like they have jumped from the pages of a Clive Barker book (he's the guy who wrote such works as The Hellbound Heart and Abarat to name but two). In terms of character design and modelling, Double Fine has hit the mark perfectly for metalheads, demons and gothic minions alike.
Brutal Legend has graphics that will appeal to everyone. Although not a powerhouse of technology, Brutal Legends graphics are, for lack of a better word; fun. The straight forward approach of the games graphics increase the game world’s metal styling’s and includes some great character models.
The way the look of the environment changes seamlessly as you go from the snowy mountains to the dark and deceiving swamp lands of from the scorching desert terrain into the luscious tropical area is great. There’s many different areas of the game, and at least one for every terrain you can think of, from the previously mentioned desert to the gloomy cemetery feeling encampment of the enemy, and even a filth ridden mining area. Brutal Legends world looks and plays great, and will always have sights to see, things to do and demons to slaughter.
This is one game that thrives off of sound, and that sound being Heavy Metal. Everything from the games story, its characters, its world and even its weapons are influenced and directly taken from all genres of metal, from glam metal to black metal. And when driving around in your customizable hot rod, you can even choose from the 100+ metal songs in the games soundtrack which you want to play, toggle on/off and shuffle. There’s a song for everyone (unless of course metal isn't your thing) and bands of all metal genres, so whether your into the old school heavy metal bands like Black Sabbath and Motorhead, or industrial metal is more your thing, with bands like Ministry and KMFDM, you're sure to get pleased.
Brutal Legend doesn't just have a great soundtrack, it also has some great voice talent. No doubt, you should all know that Eddie Riggs is voiced by famous funny man and rock star Jack Black, but he isn't the only talent in the game. The characters modelled from the real metal gods are voiced by their respective musician, and the evil emperor Doviculus is voiced by the legendary Tim Curry (best known for his role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show). This all-star cast makes the story more engaging and the comedy interwoven into the script so much better.
The value of Brutal Legend will differ greatly from person to person. I for one, am a diehard metalhead thus to me, there is no greater value than a game which gives so much to the world of metal and I recommend this to any other metalheads out there. However, if metal isn't your thing, you would perhaps look straight to the short campaign and be put off, or perhaps the lack of engaging side missions. If this is the case, then ask yourself how you feel about a great multiplayer mode and unique gameplay styles that mix hack and slash with real time strategy. There is lots to be had in Brutal Legend, and even lots to find when exploring the large game world, like the continuously rewarding 'Bound Serpents' (best way to describe these is to say similar to GTA's hidden packages), 'Legends' and landmark viewers, all of which will take a good few hours to find. Brutal Legend is a game that while mainly appealing to metalheads, non-metalheads will still get enjoyment from the many other aspects of the game.
As far as games go, Brutal Legend is one of the most unique ones released this year. Sure, it has its flaws like dull side missions and an extra short campaign, but the heavy metal style and the extremely thought-through stage battles, particularly in multiplayer more than make up for these negatives. Not to mention the enjoyable exploration, great characters (both voices and models), combo provoking combat, addictive story and a great soundtrack. Brutal Legend is a rare gem and a must have for all metalheads, and is sure to turn a few nay-sayers along the way.
AAG SCORE: 8.5/10
- Great story
- Fun multiplayer Stage Battles
- Amazing character design
- Deep Combat
- Great voice talent
- Heavy Metal!
- Dull side missions
- Far too short
- Only one multiplayer mode
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott