Published on October 17th, 2009 | by prime0
Brutal Legend – The Review
Summary: A wild and unpredictable glimpse into the mind of a hardcore metal fan
As much as the medium has progressed technologically over recent years, there are still disappointingly few videogames that can provoke an emotional response – be it laughter, tears, or a combination of two. But Brutal Legend is one of the few that positively bucks that trend, because sacrificing emotion at the hand of gameplay wouldn’t be very heavy metal, would it?
Of course, Brutal Legend playing host to an amusing script was always guaranteed give Tim Schafer’s history, who manages to mix dark humour and wit with solemn undertones, as he tells the story of a lost land fighting for its freedom from the clenches of omnipotent overlords. The role of Eddie Riggs, too – a roadie who finds himself transported back through time to a fantastical Age of Metal – is a perfect match for Jack Black who effortlessly carries the game, perfectly delivering laugh-out-loud one-liners and an onslaught of memorable lines. Indeed, Eddie’s one-word reaction to seeing off the end boss os so rip-roaringly funny and perfectly delivered that it instantly compensates for the trudge that immediately precedes it. If ever there was an award for best voice acting and script, Black and Schafer would surely walk away with them both confidently.
But it’s this confidence in the storytelling that is ultimately the highlight of Brutal Legend, and (begrudgingly) the game shares a similar fate to that of Schafer’s previous title, Psychonauts, where the concept, artwork and narrative end up being far more engaging – an entertaining – than the gameplay itself. Brutal starts off as an open-world hack ‘n’ slash, which proves entertaining enough at first as Eddie takes out – and gradually befriends – a variety of foes with his axe and guitar, ranging from hooded demons, hot ‘razor girls’, fire-breathing beasts and panthers with lasers for eyes. The combat system has a fair amount of depth with new combos and weapon upgrades purchased from the Guardian of Metal – himself voiced fantastically well by Ozzy Osbourne. But the game’s structure quickly falls into open-world convention. Although given a fantasy twist, missions don’t sway too far from that expected of the genre, predominantly relying around driving around from A-B, collecting items or defending particular objects/territory. These are some standout moments – a high-speed escape through a crumbling palace set to the sound of Dragon Force’s Through The Fire And Flames being one, and witnessing unlikely love rats Eddie and Ophelia nonchalantly slaying demons while skipping hand in hand through a field of flowers, another, but Schafer’s Burton-esque qualities and inspired environments can only hold intrigue for so long before boredom sets in.
Which, given its response, Double Fine must also recognize. Following the introduction of Eddie’s ability to sprout wings midway through the game (itself merely acting as a substitute for a cursor, and a tool used to quickly get and forth across the battlefield) the game shifts into something more indicative of a real-time strategy, commanding units to march into battle and take control of currency-producing Fan Geysers. Here, you’re given access to a wide variety of well-balanced units to do your dirty work, from the melee-focused headbangers and ranged razor girls, to the powerful but sluggish Rock Crusher. Eddie’s still able to join in the fight during these moments, through the unlimited respawns removes some element of challenge. Indeed, the only way to fail is by having your stage destroyed by your opponent – something that didn’t happen to us throughout the entire game. Regardless, they’re entertaining, if slightly drawn out, and despite the controls taking affair bit of getting used to, offer a refreshing approach at a time when it’s needed most. This section also from the game’s multiplayer, offering up a variety of maps with which to battle online against friends, or offline against the AI. And even when you are finished with the story, there’s still plenty to keep you going within the game world, with a variety of different collectibles to find, side-quests to complete the guitar solos to shred.
Brutal Legend isn’t Schafer’s best game – far from it, in fact. But it is what it is, a homage to music and a wild and unpredictable glimpse into the mind of a hardcore metal fan. Forgive its repetitive nature and occasional flaws and you’ll find a hilarious fantasy adventure set to the finest soundtrack seen thus far, and the funniest game you’ll play this year.