Brutal Legend Review
developer: Double Fine Productions
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Oct 13, 09
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Unless you have been living under a rock (Shut up, I like my rock! - Ed. Vader) and missed the recent marketing blitz or dismissed it out right because it looks an album cover from Iron Maiden circa 1983, you may not know that the latest title from Tim Schafer, Double Fine and published by EA, Brutal Legend is out today. Tim Schafer has already proven he can make games that are both entertaining and quirky. But with Brutal Legend, you might wager that playing a Roadie who is trying to liberate an enslaved Heavy Metal world that seems to exist in an alternate universe, might be a little too far out there, even for Schafer. Throw in a Heavy Metal sound track that would make the guy that runs the Tilt a Whirl ride at the traveling carnival squeal with delight like a little girl and you would be willing to bet your next paycheck that all but the most hardcore Schafer fans would be the only ones who would buy and enjoy Brutal Legend. Luckily, you would be wrong on all counts (Boy, I nearly gave up on the game just then, Vince - Ed. Vader).
When Brutal Legend first boots up on your Xbox 360, you don't start at a load screen but instead a full screen movie of Jack Black as he ushers us into the back room of a local record store (if you are unsure of what a record is, Google it). Jack tells us of a special disc that's kept in the back with the rare titles. No one knows where it came from, even the old timers. After a quick search he locates the platter and offers to let us take a look if we can handle it. As the album is opened up and laid on the table, the game menu appears among the stereotypical old-school heavy metal style artwork of alien vistas, mountains of skulls and other bad ass, semi-demonic, rock imagery.
Beats any family photo I've seen.
Starting a new game introduces us to Eddie Riggs (voiced perfectly by Jack Black). Eddie is the consummate roadie whose job is to take care of all the little details behind the scenes so the band can do its job: give the audience a rocking show. Unfortunately, Eddie's talent of stage and prop building, instrument repair and other knowledge is currently being squandered as he is working with a band that is so lame they make the Jonas Brother's look like AC/DC by comparison (Mickey Mouse has a perfect way of dealing with the Jonas Brothers - Ed. Vader). An on stage accident causes Eddie's blood to be spilt and then he is transported to another place in a very dramatic and satisfying way. At this point the game asks if you want to bleep out the profanity and to tone down the gore in the game. Since this is an 'M' rated game, it's nice to see that Double Fine offer players this option but make no mistake, even with the filtering turned on, it's not a good idea to let the kids play or watch this game.
When Eddie awakes he finds himself lying on an altar. Stairs on either side of the altar lead to a lower level where robed figures are kneeling and chanting. Upon seeing the new arrival, the figures raise their heads, causing the hoods to fall back and reveal faces that are made primarily of teeth. Drawing wicked, curved daggers, the figures begin to move towards Eddie. This is where the player takes control of Eddie and after dodging the bad guys, you spy a double bladed axe embedded in a pile of bones. This will be your primary melee weapon. You also retrieve a guitar that can be used for magical summons and ranged attacks. Fighting your way past the robed figures brings the house down around you, literally. During a break in the combat you get a look at your surroundings and see that you are at the top of a mountain made of huge skulls and bones in a Heavy Metal world. Muscle car parts litter the landscape and Gothic statues stand alongside the crumbling remains of a vast freeway system, which snakes its way through massive grasslands. It's all strange yet, somehow familiar.
At this point I realize I am grinning like an idiot (Ok fine, more so than normal) as it's clear that Brutal Legend is as much a homage to the great art of Frank Frazetta, Simon Bisley or the original Heavy Metal magazines as it is to the classic heavy metal from the late 70's and early 80's. What makes it work is that it's done with respect, a dash of humor and a wide variety of game play (I can definitely respect that - Ed. Vader). All punctuated with a classic metal soundtrack.
Eddie meets Ophelia, who is a dark-haired head banging beauty with enough mascara to make a raccoon jealous. Ophelia is part of a small resistance, fighting against the ruler of this land, General Lionwhyte. The two team up and decide it's time to flee as more enemies are swarming their way. After a bit more hack-and-slash combat, Eddie assembles a hot rod out of parts lying around the battlefield and he and Ophelia make a run for it. During these opening segments, gameplay varies between hand-to-hand combat, combating a massive boss creature with your car, using your guitar to summon a massive magical attack and then driving down a crumbling mountain road as you try to avoid obstacles and enemies alike. It's a rapid fire series of gameplay that leaves you breathless once it's over and wondering what could be next.
8.9 Very Good
Art style straight out of a Frank Frezetta painting, great voice acting, expressive facial animations, good humor though out most of the game;
Can be short if you stick to the main story only, grunts can be confusing if battling the same faction in the strategic missions, vehicle controls take some practice for people who are used to a keyboard and mouse.