Game Review: Brütal Legend

Brütal Legend, and Jack Black, score a Busy Gamer 4
Brütal Legend, and Jack Black, score a Busy Gamer 4

First Glance:
Jack Black is the hero, heavy metal carnage is the theme, and Lemmy and Ozzy are part of the game? I’m in. Seriously. In.

The Short Story:
Brütal Legend is the game that almost wasn’t. EA made the wise choice to pick up the title and after spending a good amount of time with the game, I’m glad the project came to fruition. With excellent voice acting, a mind crushing sound track, and solid gameplay, Double Fine has produced a product that would have a shame to lose.

The Score:
Brütal Legend is the type of game that tries to blend several different types of play into one game. Hack and Slash, RTS, driving, rhythm and put together a story to tie it all together. A lot of companies have tried this approach and failed. But Brütal Legend pulls it off admirably and you’ll find yourself looking forward to what comes next. The controls are basic but solid and take very little time to learn. The story itself is well done and when Jack Black voices the main character, you can count on the humor level being high. There’s a lot to do in Brütal Legend but you may find yourself ready to pass on a second helping of the same story on a higher difficulty level. Short sessions are very possible and the game will humor will keep you coming back for more. Brütal Legend scores a 4 on the Busy Gamer scale.

Body of review:
I’ll admit it. I was a metal head in high school. I had the weird long hair, the jean jacket, the concert tees, the whole nine yards. I’m also a big fan of Jack Black’s acting and of Tenacious D as well. So when I say I had some high expectations going into Brütal Legend, you should know I mean *high* expectations. And it didn’t fail to deliver.

So that's why they call it an "electric" guitar.

So that's why they call it an "electric" guitar.

Brütal Legend is the tale of roadie Eddie Riggs who is a stylized, buff, ass kicking version of Jack Black who also voices him. Eddie can fix anything, build anything, get anything, and while he’s a roadie, he’s also a pretty good musician. As the story begins, Eddie is working for what passes for a heavy metal band in this day and age and lamenting the fall of metal. While pulling one of the band members fat out of the fire, a piece of the set falls on Eddie and what appears to be a fatal accident transports Eddie to a land where heavy metal is not only alive and well, it’s a way of life.

Once the action begins, our hero finds an axe of legend to wield and then finds another axe… to play. He discovers that the guitar he plays can cause his foes to burst into flames or be struck by lightning. So between the two “axes”, he finds a means to quickly and efficiently beat his foes. And throwing up the horns is completely acceptable after a successful fight.

As the story moves on, Tim Schafer’s wickedly humorous writing and Jack Black’s perfect delivery as Eddie drives the story while solid gameplay and the oddly beautiful graphics pushes us to hear more of it. Combat consists of three buttons for the most part. One to swing the axe, one to play the guitar to different effect, and the third is to block. And while it may seem like an oversimplified game mechanic, the game offers a variety of foes that Eddie must learn to overcome using a combination attacks. This keeps the combat flowing nicely without being an intimidating factor. Once you learn the moves, it’s hard not to appreciate the devastation you can cause.

After dispatching a few waves of demonic foes, it’s time to move on to one of the driving portions of the game. Initially, to learn the controls of the car (called the “Druid Plow”, HA!), you’ll race down a path to escape the evil horde that’s coming for you. And with just enough time behind the wheel to feel some confidence, you’re thrown into a battle for Eddie’s life… using the car. And then, if you’re victorious, you get to drive very fast to cross a bridge that’s crumbling behind you.

All of this action and we’re less than 20 minutes into the game. Yes, you didn’t misread that. The pace of Brütal Legend is set to the soundtrack that fuels it, heavy and fast. Fortunately, Double Fine gives us chances to screw up while we learn the initial controls and still make us feel like we’re getting somewhere. And once we’re solid on the controls, we get thrown in head first.

You only wish your game had strangely sexy demon nuns.

You only wish your game had strangely sexy demon nuns.

Driving around in the Druid Plow (or the Deuce as it is called at times) lets us explore a strangely beautiful landscape and get from mission to mission. There’s side missions to take which can consist of fighting, racing, or even using the car as a turret to fight off enemy forces. Just like I said in the beginning of this review, there’s a lot of game here.

In addition to your skills with weapons, you’ll find tablature shrines across the countryside which lets Eddie learn new solos which vary in their use. One allows you to summon your vehicle, another inspires your friends to follow you into battle and one… Well, it melts faces. Not even kidding here, face meltage does occur.

As you progress through the game, you can earn “Fire Tributes” from the Rock and Roll Gods. This is indicated by a graphic of a multitude of hands holding up lighters when you do something particularly awesome or complete a side mission. The points earned from these Tributes can then be spent at a Metal Forge to improve your skills, your weapons, or your vehicle. There’s even a point where you can put your face on the side of a mountain using the points. And visiting a Metal Forge is worth it even if you don’t have any points. There’s someone waiting there who’s sure to blow your mind if it’s still intact at this point.

Eddie continues to kick ass across the countryside and learns there is an evil ruler, Lord Doviculus, who seeks to enslave the population and rule unopposed. He then learns there is a prophecy that he may be the destruction of this strange land. He may also be the salvation. The translation is hazy. Damn hazy prophecies.

The Druid Plow is too much Metal for some.  But for the ladies, it's just right.

The Druid Plow is too much Metal for some. But for the ladies, it's just right.

Taking the prophecy in stride, Eddie takes it upon himself to assist the leader of the rebellion, Lars Halford, in building a rock and roll army since tyranny is not cool. More believable is that he’s doing it to impress the hottie Ophelia he met when he landed in this strange world but far be it for me to make such shallow accusations. I imagine men have done stranger things for rocker hotties…

Eventually, you build your army and learn to command it and how to gather resources. Resources are generated by the mystical fans who are drawn to the prospect of a show by building… merch booths. It’s too weird and awesome for me to be making this up. Win your fans with a solo, build the merch booth, and then proceed to fight off waves of baddies with your army.

Initially the controls for commanding your army can feel a bit clunky but with practice, you’ll find the interface to be streamlined and easy to use in the heat of battle. And while there’s a definite RTS feel to the battles, you can still hack, slash, and solo your way through the fights as Eddie who is not removed from the action during the conflicts.

Rock and Roll weaponry... check.

Rock and Roll weaponry... check.

The overall goal is to bring your army to Dovilicus’ doorstep, to rock your way into Ophilia’s heart, and make sure to kick as much ass as possible along the way. Simple and yet oh so awesome. There’s a ton of references to the battle between heavy metal and the “hair bands” throughout the game and they all made me laugh. As an example, Dovilicus’ main henchman is named General Lionwhyte who uses his long, lustrous locks to fly into battle. I swear, I’m not making this up.

It’s a great game for some weekend play or to get in a few hours a week on. The voice acting is top notch and includes some serious talent from the heavy metal scene. The soundtrack will swallow your soul given half the chance and it probably won’t be long before some lame imitations of this game pop up on the scene.

If you have an ounce of Metal in you, you’ll be playing this game. If you don’t, you can turn your jean vest in on your way out the door.

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Posted By Gritskrieg

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