Brutal Legend Review
developer: Double Fine Productions
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Oct 13, 09
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Once you are safely down the mountain, Ophelia recommends meeting Lars who is trying to form an army and break the hold of the evil LionWhyte. A spotlight shines on a point far off in the distance and this will serve as a beacon for you to follow to your next mission throughout the game. You can drive directly to the light to advance the plot line or scout around on your own to find side quests to complete. As you move through the game and complete missions, artwork and other features unlock and give you extra incentive to fully explore this new world. Also, you gain perks for upgrading combat moves, weapons or repainting your hot rod. This certainly helps increase the desire to explore the strange, yet beautiful landscapes.
Lars is the bare-chested, feather haired 'leader' who seems a bit reluctant and clueless on how to get the revolution started. Eddie recognizes that in order to mount a battle, you need warriors. The first members to fill the ranks are a bunch of long-haired, thick browed, head bangers with necks as thick as a side of beef, that spend their lives working in a quarry by, well, banging their heads to break the rocks. Serving as a kind of a tutorial, this mission teaches you how to play epic riffs on your guitar to perform special actions that include rallying the head bangers to your cause. You also learn how to command your long haired troops to attack specific targets, guard areas and rush to your side. This serves as prep for the strategic element of combat that makes up much of the game later on.
Even though this is essentially a tutorial, the gameplay is fun as you free the slaves, and try to take down the supervisors while learning the finer points of the expanding combat. And I appreciated the way Brutal Legend eased me into the more advanced features. Later the game takes a more strategic turn as you capture resource points to summon different kinds of troops to meet the enemy on the battle field. Other missions include hacking and slashing, racing your vehicles or if you prefer, you can mix it up in multiplayer with up to 8 players.
It's not all about combat however; the interaction between Eddie, his new troops and the supervisors of the quarry are well-scripted and funny at points. And the humor is not limited to the dialog. Having lived through the 80's, I find it especially funny that the main protagonist has a name that is similar to a not so popular hair band. Also, Lionwhyte is able to fly from place to place by flapping his, wait for it... hair. I am glad Schafer chose to go the 'Hair Band' route rather the less flattering 'Butt Rock' phrase. Sure Brutal Legend is a 'Mature' title but having Lionwhyte use his butt as a mode of transport would be pushing limits in a way I don't want to witness. The game gets its Mature rating thanks to the language which seems more prevalent at the start of the game and the graphic violence during combat. Limbs and heads get severed; blood gushes and spatters in viscerally satisfying ways. Again, this fits with the overall style of the game but it's not something for kids.
Now that's a chopper.
Something I have neglected to mention until this point is the character animations. The expressions are pleasingly well-preformed and for lack of a better word, expressive. Characters show a wide range of emotions as they converse with each other and although this does not happen very often in games, looks and reactions are able to convey points and feeling without a word having been spoken. It's yet another attention to detail that is the mark of a quality game. Coupled with the rich and colorful palette the overall look of the game is one that is as much fun to watch as it is to play.
While the classic Heavy Metal music that serves as background for the action scenes brings nostalgic smile to my face, it may not be to everyone else's liking. I would suggest you embrace the music as it adds to the overall setting of Brutal Legend. And who knows, as with the rhythm games that have flooded the market in recent years, you might find some golden oldies you will love. What I did take issue with was the fact that on the battlefield, your troops and the enemy grunts are sometimes difficult to tell apart when you are battling the same faction. The only different between your leather clad army and theirs is the pastel colors that other team wears. In the thick of battle I found that I would rush into a group of head bangers or rocker chicks and swing away like mad only to find out that the group was mostly composed of my troops. Also, as the game moves through the main story, the humor that was present front and center at the start falls a bit by the way side. It does not disappear completely but it does noticeably lessen.
I also found that controlling the vehicles in the game was a bit more difficult than I was used to. At first I would often confuse the camera control with the steering but this could be that I am more used to a mouse and keyboard than a controller. What can I say? I'm a PC whore (Don't be so hard on yourself - Ed. Vader). Finally, the game is a bit short if you rush through the main story. But there are enough side-quests to help stretch things out and the desire to find all the unlockables is enough to encourage players to either take their time or go though the game a second time.
Earlier this year it was not clear if Brutal Legend would ever actually make it to the market. Had this happened gamers, would truly have missed a fun, visually unique and pleasing world that every mature player should enjoy, even with its limited short comings. However, other titles from Tim and company have also received similar compliments in the past and still garnered less than stellar sales when they were first released. Now is the chance for gamers to reward publishers for releasing quality titles by voting with their wallets. Brutal Legend is a game that may seem a bit different at first glance, but the important thing is that it's a labor of love and it's fun. The variety of missions and humor mix well and should be enough to hook anyone. The professional voice acting allows you to enjoy the dialog and cut-scenes in a console title for once. If you don't want to take a chance on a game that seems a little off the beaten path, that's your loss. But as Twisted Sister (a consummate Butt Rock band) once said "I Wanna Rock!"
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.
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