By Eric DiGiovanni
Another game that I can play,
Another word I learn to say,
Another bloody foreign coast,
Another set of scars to boast,
We Are The Road Crew
Get this game right the fuck now. I don’t care if you rent it or buy it, because you have never played anything like it. Having said that, I liken the game to the movie adaption of Watchmen: not perfect, but the best we’re going to get given the circumstances.
Brütal Legend is made by Double Fine Studios, headed by Tim Schafer. Schafer was a LucasArts alum who worked on classic adventure games such as The Secret Of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, and his most recent project before Brütal Legend was the highly-acclaimed, but not-that-highly selling Psychonauts.
You play as Eddie Riggs (a thankfully reined-in Jack Black), a roadie for crap-rock band Kabbage Boy (think a combination of Linkin Park and Fallout Boy). When the stage collapses on him and some of his blood gets on to his belt buckle, it releases a giant demon that destroys everything and sends him to another world. The people of this world are oppressed by General Lyonwhyte (Rob Halford of Judas Priest) and Emporer Doviculous (Tim Curry). Riggs is assisted by a group of freedom fighters called Ironheade and also The Guardian of Metal (voiced by Ozzy Osbourne). It’s a good story, but the second half falters a bit, and it felt like more could have been done to diversify the experience.
The gameplay switches between straight up action sequences in an open world and a real-time strategy portion dubbed “stage battles.” The latter concept is by far the most interesting, but if you play these sections like a traditional RTS, you’re going to lose. In a way, the single player game slowly introduces you to the stage battles, which is the core of the multiplayer. I found these sections interesting enough as a refresher from the typical hack n’ slash, but not interesting enough to try out in multiplayer. Even then, the control can get a little wonky. In “normal” missions as well as the stage battles, you have various minions, like “headbangers,” who with their thick necks provide basic melee assistance, or “roadies” who are invisible to turret fire and can destroy buildings with a wall of feedback. Occasionally, you have to choose a specific type of unit to get an objective done, but it’s impossible with a controller, since you have to hold a button, turn around, walk up to the unit you want to choose, turn around again, set a beacon, and command your troops.
The entire game is a love letter to heavy metal and is thick with references (one character is named Lita Halford, after Lita Ford and Rob Halford). Now, I’m not a real huge fan of metal because most modern bands devolve into incoherency, trying to growl louder, mash bass pedals faster, and play solos that sound like someone plugged a Guitar Hero controller into a MIDI program and just started flailing on buttons. But Brütal Legend changed that (sorta). The songs fit in perfectly with the medieval world, and actually work to accentuate the missions. Riot’s “Road Racin’” plays when you have to race against time to deliver bass strings to the Killmaster (played by Lemmy from Motorhead) so he can heal an ally. You drive a hot rod out of collapsing ruins to Dragonforce’s “Through the Fire and Flames.” There are no words to describe how sweet it is to launch off a ramp and have King Diamond wail “GRAAAAAAAAAANDMAAA!” over the in-game radio.
I can’t recommend this game enough, not just because of the experience, but because of what it represents. Going back to my earlier point, the Watchmen movie was an advertisement for the graphic novel. Brütal Legend, at least for me, was an advertisement for heavy metal, and the artwork thereof. If this game gets you to start listening to an awesome new band, to try one of Tim Schafer’s other under appreciated gems, or to not only turn off American Idol and Top 40 Radio, but smash ‘em, set ‘em on fire, and let Satan take over for DJ, then the game did its job.
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