System: Xbox 360 (Also on PS3)
Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Brutal Legend is the most recent project from comical genius Tim Schafer, the driving force behind critically acclaimed games like Psychonauts and Grim Fandango. Never heard of those games? I wish I couldn’t say this, but I’m not surprised.
For some reason Schafer’s games tend to go unnoticed by the general gaming public despite rave reviews, likely due to a severe lack of marketing push from Publishers. Chances are, though, that you’ve at least heard of Brutal Legend. This game has gotten plenty of attention from general gaming press and public as well as music-centered publications thanks to a stellar heavy metal theme and all-star voice cast.
In Brutal Legend players take control of Eddie Riggs, a beefy roadie who is perfectly happy keeping out of the spotlight and doing nothing more than making the rockstars look good. The game opens with a hilarious sequence that heavily criticizes the weak, poppie “metal” that is popular amongst today’s angsty 14-year-old skateboarding posers that have nothing better to do than hang out at the mall.
During the above mentioned scene, Eddie is somehow transported back through time to a strange and thoroughly awesome heavy metal-themed land by his magical belt buckle. Rocking a powerful guitar and a huge-ass axe, Eddie soon finds himself being a roadie for a new crew.
Unsurprisingly, Brutal Legend has a hilarious and very engaging story, but it’s also shockingly deep and very interesting. Tim Schafer has proven himself over and over again as a competent, clever, and brilliant writer and Brutal Legend is no exception. Throw Jack Black, one of the funniest musician/actors in the industry today, and you’ve got one hell of a duo. During my play-through of the campaign I found myself laughing hard several times, and I also developed much more interest in the story than I had originally expected. Unfortunately the laughs slow down as the story becomes more epic, making for a front-heavy feel when it comes to comedy, but luckily the game never once drags.
Throughout your quest you’ll be engaging in several different styles of gameplay to complete a variety of different missions. Side missions offer a variety of styles ranging from racing to action, and main missions also incorporate a decent amount of variety from mission to mission. This variety ranges from simply killing everything around you to trailing behind your tour bus and blasting bogeys with your ride (dubbed The Deuce) to well-executed Real Time Strategy-style stage battles that play out like giant murder-ridden rock concerts.
While the combat is very basic, the ability to use solos helps spice things up a bit. Solos play out like mini Rythm-Action style bits in which you’ll be pressing the A, X, and Y buttons in sync with an onscreen fret board. The solos are a key part of the entire gameplay experience, and allow you to do anything from simply summoning The Deuce to literally melting enemy faces off with the Face Melter to earning fans, which act as your gold-mines in the RTS portions of the game. Still though, the mechanics for smashing skulls with your axe and burning flesh with your guitar attacks are a bit over-simplified for my taste.
When not engaged in a mission you will find yourself exploring a decent-sized overworld in search of new solos to incorporate into your arsenal, Motor Forges to customize The Deuce, statues that offer rewards once you’ve found a certain amount, and other relics that reveal a creation story which attempts to explain how everything got where it is.
You are going to be doing a lot of driving to get from point to point, and for some reason the developers decided not to include a mini map, something that would’ve been very helpful when trying to navigate the overworld. Instead players set travel markers on their world map and a giant penumbra falls from the sky over your target to direct you in the right direction. The thing is, you aren’t always going to be somewhere where you can see said marker, making it easy to get lost on your way if you don’t constantly pull up the map every 10 seconds.
When it comes to graphics Brutal Legend may not be a technical marvel, but its creative visual style more than makes up for it. Throughout your quest you are going to discover some very awesome rock-themed scenery and plenty of Rock and Roll memes throughout the adventure. It’s like you’re playing the cover of a late ’70s album cover, and there is always a feeling of awe when you discover a new area.
Everything else set aside, the sound design of Brutal Legend is by far its greatest aspect. The game’s key characters are professionally voiced by an absolutely absurd cast that’ll make any metal head wet their pants. Just a few of the rock legends you’ll run into in this game include Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead, Rob Halford from Judas Priest, Lita Ford from The Runaways, Ozzy Osbourne and many more. Jack Black does an astounding job with the lead roll of Eddie Riggs, and Rob Halford in particular does a very impressive job voicing both The Baron and the game’s hair metal antagonist General Lionwhyte.
In addition to the absolutely stellar voice acting, Brutal Legend’s soundtrack is made up of an astounding 107 of the greatest rock and heavy metal songs from 75 different bands. The set list is simply mind blowing, and you’ll likely find yourself driving around the overworld just to listen to the soundtrack. Simply awesome.
In terms of entertainment value, Brutal Legend has a disappointingly short main campaign mode which clocks in at just about 10 hours. Despite this short coming, there is a ton of crap to do both before and after your final face-off with Lord Doviculus. In addition to a fat, dimply ass load of side missions there are tons of hidden relics to discover. If treasure hunting isn’t your thing, go ahead and take the game online to compete against other gamers in Stage Battles in which you can control any one of three factions. So while the campaign may end a bit too soon, there’s a lot of juice you can squeeze out of this adventure.
Brutal Legend is awesome. There isn’t really much more I can say about it. An epic adventure, engaging story, mind-blowing art style, outstanding voice cast, fantastic sound track, and addictive multiplayer all come together wonderfully and make Brutal Legend one of the most refreshing and entertaining games I’ve played in a while.
Sure it has its shortcoming, like no local multiplayer, only one save slot, short campaign, and oversimplified controls, but the good far outweighs the bad in this video game power ballad. I highly recommend this game to anyone looking for a fun adventure game and everyone with even a passing interest in metal.
- A plethora of different gameplay styles
- Hilarious dialogue
- Engaging story
- Awesome voice cast and soundtrack
- Wicked art style
- Combat is oversimplified
- Driving around from point to point can get tedious
- Short campaign
Score: 8.6/10 (Great)
Entertainment Value: 8.0/10