Born out of creator Tim Schaferâ€™s love for all things heavy metal, Brutal Legend had a plot of truly legendary proportions, an art style dripping in nightmarish delight, a stellar voice cast and a studio behind it that was committed to bringing gamers a truly unique and incredible experience (as evidenced by the horribly underrated cult classic Psychonauts). The road to release has been long and sordid to say the least as the game found itself on the precipice of cancellation more than once, and for a while disappeared from the gaming scene entirely. But, like a bat out of hell, this title just wouldnâ€™t die and after almost 3 years I finally have my hands on a game that promises to be unlike anything I have experienced before. So, does Double Fineâ€™s heavy metal opus deliver? Well, yes and no.
When the worldâ€™s greatest roadie, Eddie Riggs (voiced with tenacious gusto by Jack Black) is gravely injured during a concert performance, he finds himself transported to a strange world full of S&M demons, chrome plated beasts, screaming stereo cliffs, and timeless Rock. There he meets the last remnants of human resistance (not to mention an alluring love interest) and together they set out on a rampaging War Tour to free the land from demon emperor Doviculusâ€™s clutches once and for all. With a memorable cast of characters voiced by the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Lemy Kilmister, and Rob Halford, the adventures that unfold along the way are hilarious, pyrotechnic fueled action fests that feel right at home in a world that seems crafted right out of the lyrics and cover art of the greatest metal albums of all time.
Youâ€™ve never played a game that looks like Brutal Legend, this I promise you. The art style is inspired and delivers on every level including landscapes, character designs, costumes, and weaponry. Driving through the world in the Deuce (or Druid Plow as Eddie lovingly calls her) will keep your eyes glued to the screen for hours as you blow past titanic granite guitars, clouds of spark-plug fireflies, monumental rock fists, and the occasional meteor shower. Atmosphere plays a huge role in setting the mood as you transition from scorching chrome dotted deserts to haunting bogs complete with a skull shaped moon, creating a world I canâ€™t stop wanting to visit even after completing the storyline.
Any fan of Schaferâ€™s previous work will know theyâ€™re in for some laughs with this title. Dialogue is often gut-bustlingly funny, while the overall story arc proves to be suitably epic in scope. Even the most minor characters shine, thanks in part to great facial animations which really bring the gameâ€™s cut scenes to life. Black is perfect for the role of rock-loving Riggs while Ozzy Osbourne almost steals the show as the Guardian of Metal, stuck in the underworld upgrading Eddieâ€™s axe, car, and guitar but always willing to offer you some friendly advice or a dirty innuendo.
Gameplay proves to be an interesting blend of third person hack-n-slash, sandbox roaming, and a sort of modified Real Time Strategy dubbed â€œStage Battlesâ€ (More on this in a bit). Eddieâ€™s guitar, â€œClementineâ€ can dish out magic attacks (think godly pyrotechnic effects) while his mystic axe slices through enemies with ease. When you come across friendly units you can team up to perform combo attacks with hilariously effective results. Running around with an attractive groupie on your shoulder weilding the steel innards of a Razorfire Boar as a shotgun is always awesome.Unfortunately, when it comes to utilizing numerous units in tandem for the large-scale Stage Battles, the awesomeness tends to wane.
This, for me, is where Brutal Legend has a bit of a misstep. RTSâ€™s have been infamously incompatible with consoles, so to solve this issue Double Fine simplified the controls and geared battles toward amassing a horde and then going to kill your enemies to death. This also means that if youâ€™re used to handling an army from an RTS perspective, youâ€™ll be beating your head against your controller in minutes as there is virtually no way to command individual squads, unit strengths and weaknesses are discovered through trial and error while your orders only work half of the time due distance ranges. If you keep getting your ass consistently kicked, you can always stop by the Double Fine blog to get some tips from the creator. Thanks for looking out!
Stage Battles have the potential to be pretty fun, but end up falling flat. The control scheme for Battles are iffy at best, confoundingly confusing at worst. While the onset of a new Battle often had me sighing in despair I canâ€™t fault Double Fine for at least attempting to give gamers something new when they could have easily just left us with some mediocre platforming. In a market steeped in sequels and rehashes of timeless mechanics, kudos for trying to rock our world. Still, if there is a sequel in Brutal Legendâ€™s future, letâ€™s try and cut back on the warmongering.
Some of the side-missions also tend to wear thin after a while, with the same ambush, tower defense and hunting quests taking up most of your time. It wouldnâ€™t be so bad if different dialogue cues came up from time to time. Still, that didnâ€™t keep me from scouring the land for hidden Serpent Stones and Rock Ballads that allow you to do things like summoning down a flaming zepplin or melt the faces off your enemies. Then thereâ€™s the soundtrack, filled to the brim with incredible heavy metal ballads. Some of the most enjoyable moments in my game were driving through the landscape with the likes of Dragonforce and Judas Priest blasting over the carâ€™s Mouth of Metal.
In the end, Brutal Legend is a solid entry from Schafer and Double Fine, a refreshingly original experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. Metal fans will love all the great cameos, music tracks, and attention to detail that the developers crammed into the disk while gamers should appreciate the twists on hack nâ€™ slash combat, art style, and hilarious experience of going on tour. There are some opportunities missed here and there, and I wish the main campaign was longer, but honestly it played out perfectly seeing as how so many other great titles are slowly piling up on my shelf. Stage Battles mar an otherwise awesome experience, but even these can be salvaged with enough time and patience. So give this one a whirl, if only to encourage other developers to get out there and go nuts.