In a world infused with danger, violence and betrayal, only one thing can save humanity. Its power is far reaching, its strength proven, and its determination cemented in history. What is this savior force? It’s pure, unabridged and unrelenting Metal. The kind of music you don’t just listen to, you hear.
Double Fine Productions, led by creative director Tim Schafer (Psychonauts), hoped to capture the root essence of metal in their latest body of work, Brutal Legend. Did they succeed? The short answer is yes, the team struck a resounding power-chord and shook the world.
Developer: Double Fine
Oct. 13, 2009
Brutal Legend tells the tale of Eddie Riggs, a proud roadie who, when we meet him, works for Kabbage Boy, a rap/pop/metal band who don’t see metal the way Eddie does. Nevertheless, according to Riggs, “a good roadie stays out of the spotlight” and so does his job without interruption.
Brutal Legend is an M-rated game, but in this first scene you’re given the option to hear swears or have them bleeped out as well as see all the blood, or skip it entirely. I, of course, went for all swears and blood possible, and to truly experience the metal world, you should probably too. Just be wary of children/parents/gnomes, in the next room who might not enjoy the cursing and flowing insides.
After a lengthy, detailed, and eventful opening cutscene, events finally come to fruition and Eddie is knocked unconscious and sent to a fantasy world embedded with metal at every corner and plagued by death by the domineering evil ruler Doviculous.
Brutal Legend is a third-person action adventure game with enough of a real-time-strategy element and open-worldliness to be noteworthy. Sound like too many genres at once? It’s not, and it works very well.
Where some games try to incorporate multiple genres and fail, Brutal Legend succeeds.
The game has three core game-play elements; open-world, mission-based, and large scale real-time-strategy battles.
At times you’ll be tasked with traveling from one end of the land to the next, traversing its hilly, sometimes barren, but always metal environments to get from mission to mission, and can easily do so in The Deuce, your upgradable and badass vehicle.
The mission-structure of Brutal Legend plays out in a “talk to this guy”¦start that level” kind of way. And the variance in mission tasks is phenomenal. In one level you’ll recruit literal head-bangers in a fiery mine to join your cause, and in the next you’ll be tasked with fending off Razorfires as they attack your precious tour bus. In the world of Brutal Legend anything goes and everything works.
The third facet of game-play in Brutal Legend is its real-time-strategy element. Admittedly, my knowledge and skill at RTS games is rudimentary at best, but this didn’t matter. Throughout the game you’ll recruit different allies into your rebel group and in the large-scale battles will need to employ them effectively to succeed.
In these RTS-moments called “Stage Battles” your goal is to destroy the opposing “stage” while protecting your own. You do so by building merch-booths, which in turn grant you more and more fans with every booth built. These fans are “spent” on bringing more allies into the world to fight for you. And once spawned, a quick and simple manipulation of the D-Pad commands your troops to go there, kill that, stay here, protect this, destroy that, etc. Having spent very little time with RTS games, going into the game I thought I’d suffer and die often, but a great tutorial level and easy controls made me feel powerful and most importantly in control. Eddie can either control the troops on foot from the ground, or in the air via magical wings he somehow has. Control from the air was my method of choice. You can see the entire battlefield, how many and where enemies are coming from, where your troops are, and what artillery you have in use at any particular moment.
Eddie can also set foot into any battle he chooses and has two primary weapons available to him; The Separator and Clementine. The Separator is a two-sided axe used to slice and dice enemies with brutal force, and Clementine is Eddie’s guitar that yields paralyzing magic. If used too much though it’ll overheat and you’ll have to wait for a short but still noticeable cool-down period.
Eddie can also perform “double team” attacks. These are more powerful assaults that involve combining Eddie’s skills with those of allies for a true knockout punch. These range from climbing the back of a fire-breathing beast to scorch enemies to calling a group of head-bangers to circle around you and mosh enemies to death. These attacks are very important for “Stage Battles” and you’ll always want to be “double-teaming.”
Additionally, Eddie can play a number of “Solos” as a buff to Clementine’s normal abilities. These range from “Face-melter” which does to enemies exactly what it sounds like, to “Battle Cry” which simply increases the damage dealt by Eddie and company. These solos are performed by successfully completing a mini-game where, like Rock Band or Guitar Hero, you’ll have to press the A, X, B, or Y buttons when the strike line passes over them. Now, when in battle you’ll have to choose wisely when, where, and how often to perform these solos, as the battle rages on, whether you’re busting out nasty fretwork or not. To learn and add more solos to your repertoire you’ll have to seek out the numerous “Tab Slabs” scattered throughout the world, and you’ll want to do this because at later stages, the battles really get tough and you’ll want all the power you can have.
Graphically, Brutal Legend doesn’t push any boundaries, but it doesn’t look bad either. Double Fine created a massive world of metal and the large scale imaginative environments and for the most part these locales look great.
Sound in Brutal Legend is better than phenomenal. When EA Denmark leaked a full song-list for the game months ago, my excitement for the title shot through the roof and after playing the game and experiencing the songs in action, I love the choices that much more.
Unlike most games where a publisher will seek out some award winning composer for a game’s score, Double Fine decided to use the melodies of “Black Sabbath” “Dethklok” “Dark Tranquility” “Enslaved” and so many more to set the tone of the world.
No other genre can heighten tension the way metal can. There’s something about listening to “Cathode Ray Sunshine” by Dark Tranquility that instills power within me to set out and slay enemies forces at a breakneck clip.
If you love mainstream radio and sing along to whatever the “flavor of the week” is, this game is not for you, at least thematically. In fact, I don’t think Schafer would even want you play and subsequently taint his game and its message.
That said, if you do love the metal music scene, as I very much do, this game is almost a necessary addition to your catalogue. Activision dropped the title after their merger with Vivendi, possibly fearing negative reaction to bands like “Rotting Christ” on the list, and while EA might have felt a twinge of that grief, they went through with it, and metal-heads will love it for sure.
The characters in Brutal Legend are some of the most memorable and interesting ones I’ve ever come across. The two main characters Eddie and Ophelia, voiced by Jack Black and Jennifer Hale respectively are executed wonderfully. Black provides hilarious spots of dialogue like “Please tell me I haven’t been killing hot girls this whole time” and Hale, who’s lent her voice to numerous projects including BioWare’s MMO “The Old Republic” and “Metroid Prime Corruption” as Samus Aran, performs remarkably in the game. There’s also a love connection between the two and their in-game chemistry is extraordinary.
Double Fine unleashed a total metal assault in Brutal Legend and recruited Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Lemmy Kilmister (Motƒ¶rhead) and Lita Ford (The Runaways) to lend their voices to the game. And from Ozzy’s abuse of the F-word to Kilmister’s sedated British tone, Double Fine did a damn fine job. Additionally, Tim Curry (the man who will forever haunt my dreams from his role as Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King’s IT) provides the voice work for the game’s villain, emperor Deviculous.
Once you’ve exhausted the game’s core missions you’ve “completed” the game, earned the “beat the game” trophy/achievement, and can gloat all you’d like, but I wouldn’t. Upon “completion” of the game, you’re actually only 48% done, leaving a whopping discrepancy. That void is made up in secondary missions. These range from hunting quests to racing challenges to even more huge-scale battles.
Playing these secondary missions and just exploring the vast world is something you’ll definitely want to do. You can unlock everything from more guitar solos to new parts for The Deuce and lots more. There’s an entire world of Metal out there. Why not explore it?
There’s also a significantly large multiplayer mode in Brutal Legend. It’s of the “Stage-Battle” flavor, and all your skills learned in the campaign tie directly into the multiplayer. There’s matchmaking, custom match, and AI Practice to play around with as well as new factions Drowning Doom, Tainted Coil all with solos and units unique to them. If you loved the Stage-Battles of the campaign, you’ll assuredly be logging hours and hours in the multiplayer, it’s a lot of fun.
Brutal Legend is just as much a statement as it is a game. It’s a tale of the power of music motivating those previously uninspired to conquer the evils both out there and embedded within. It tells the account of an unlikely band of rebels who, through their alliances, are able to attain the lofty goals they sought out in the beginning. Without getting too philosophical, I feel the message “Brutal Legend” conveys is one we should heed, or at least strive for, because without a unifying power (metal, or anything else), what do we have?
Blast Factor: With its abundance of metal, fantasy, and action, Brutal Legend is a truly phenomenal game. Born out of Schafer’s love of metal and executed damn near perfectly, the game is one every metal-head-gamer needs to play.
Brutal Legend is available on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 for $59.99. A copy of this game was given to us by the publisher for review purposes.