Brutal Legend

October 20, 2009

Brutal Legend is a metal-inspired action/adventure game that has a lot of the same humor you’d come to expect from the lead designer and writer, Tim Schafer. The game blends several different elements together, and it does so rather successfully, but it is not without its problems. However, it is safe to say there are a lot of things to like about this trip into a new realm of fantasy. 

Speaking strictly about production values and the script writing, this game is truly brilliant. The world itself is very immersive, and has a look that is one you will not see anywhere else. It brings together many elements of rock music history, and even if you are not a fan of the genre, you can still appreciate just how beautiful it all looks. The voice acting matches the hilarious script brilliantly, with the included talents of actors such as Jack Black and Tim Curry, as well as famous voice actors such as Jennifer Hale. Each character fits into the world perfectly, and there is never a dull moment in the game’s story.

The story itself is not only funny, but very compelling as well. Although the entire game begins as what appears to be a parody of some sort, by the halfway point certain events happen that actually show a more serious side to the story. There are a lot of moments that are incredibly epic and truly make you care about these characters more than you thought you would. And then, the final piece of the puzzle is the soundtrack, which fits perfectly into the game. Once again, you may not be a fan of heavy metal, but you can at least appreciate the time and effort that was spent to bring together all of these songs and bands, which truly completes the experience.

There are three major parts to the game: the basic hack n’slash action, the driving, and then the real time strategy portion. All of these blend together rather well in an amazingly detailed open world environment. It is wide open, and there is a lot to do and explore. There are plenty of things to unlock and collect throughout. There are also side quests, which can be fun at first, but tend to get a bit old after a while. You do wish there was more variety, but the handful you get can be fun. 

The first basic element, the core action gameplay, works well. You have your regular axe attack, which is your melee weapon, and then your guitar. The guitar uses long range attacks, kind of like magic, to do some major damage. And in some of the larger scale battles, these guitar attacks can come in handy. There are also several guitar solos which can be collected throughout the world and performed during battle. One you get early on is the Facemelter, which literally melts the faces off of any enemies that are within a certain range, killing them instantly. It all controls well and feels rather satisfying overall. 

Second element is the driving, which is how you easily travel throughout the open world. Eddie Riggs, the main character, has a vehicle which can be summoned at any time using a simple guitar solo learned early on in the game. Sadly, the car does not handle too well, and all too often you find yourself flipping over completely just for hitting a small bump in the road. This can lead to some problems during certain missions as well, where timing and accuracy are needed.

Both your basic attacks, guitar attacks, and your vehicle can all be upgraded in the Motor Forge. There are several of these you can find scattered around the world, and you spend fire tributes (which you earn for completing story missions, side missions, or finding other things in the world) to upgrade your abilities, weapons, and your vehicle. Some of these upgrades are essential for later parts of the game, mainly ones that add new weapons and armor to your vehicle.

The third and final part of the game deals with major battles that happen several times during the main story. It is here where all of the gameplay elements are combined. These RTS set piece events can be truly fun and engaging, but at the same time, they do not work as well as one could have hoped. You have several different unit types, a main stage that you can upgrade, and your main resource are “fans” which can be brought to your side by creating merchandise booths. But unlike any RTS, Eddie is very useful and actually incredibly crucial in combat. If you play it like any other strategy game, you are bound to lose, which is how Brutal Legend is able to bring in gamers who have no experience with RTS games into the experience easily.

The main problem lies with the controls. Commanding individual units or even trying to organize your troops in specific ways can lead to a lot of frustration. You need to go up to a specific group to command them separately, but otherwise you will end up commanding the entire army, and it could lead to many problems. And it is hard to keep up with a lot of the things happening during these major battles, and sometimes the enemy just gives you no time to think. There really is not that much strategy involved as long as you keep Eddie in the battle and not just commanding it.

And this is where the multiplayer comes in, which is two armies pitted against each other. Your main goal is to destroy the other player’s main stage, and the multiplayer can be a surprising amount of fun, but thanks to the control issues, things can become more tedious than enjoyable at times. With the right person to play against, you could get a lot out of the multiplayer; just don’t expect to come back to it too much in the long run.

Brutal Legend is a love letter to metal music, and there is nothing wrong with that. Even if you do not consider yourself a fan of the genre, you can still find a lot to enjoy with Brutal Legend. The core gameplay is solid, and even with its flaws, the game makes up for it with its amazing story and hilarious script. If you are looking for a fun action title to pass the time, you’ll be hard pressed to find one better than Brutal Legend. 

ESRB: Rated M for mature; rated for strong language, violence, blood & gore, and plenty of face melting

Pros: Consistently funny writing and acting; compelling story; amazing soundtrack; immersive and beautiful metal world; plenty to do and collect; basic hack and slash gameplay is great; blends a lot of different gameplay elements successfully

Cons: Driving controls are a bit weird; the RTS portions of the game can be annoying due to some control problems; side quests tend to get dull; multiplayer is a bit underwhelming

Score: 4/5

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