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Brutal Legend: Being brutally honest

I like games and music that are completely and unashamedly over the top.  That’s about half the reason why I picked up Brutal Legend for the Xbox 360 a while back.  The game, which was hailed as the most metal game of all time, featured a ridiculous metal soundtrack, cameos and voice contributions from numerous metal artists, and had Jack Black as the voice of the main character.  It either spelled success or hilarious failure, and god knows I wanted to be in on the ride.  Unfortunately, though, mediocrity gripped the game about halfway through, with a fundamentally broken stage battle system breaking up what I really wanted to do in the game:  run dudes over in my totally sweet ride.

The game opens with lowly roadie Eddie Riggs fixing up a guitar after the pathetic boy band he works for smashed it.  Eddie’s an old school rocker and the best roadie there is, so when one of the performers takes a potentially fatal stage dive, Eddie jumps into action and gets crushed by the stage set for his trouble.  Then, as these things go, Eddie gets some blood into his mysterious demon belt buckle, and awakens the guardian beast of metal himself before being transported to the world of metal.

The world of metal has seen better days, however, as a small group of free humans are working diligently to cast off the chains of oppression from a race of strange demons who are into S&M for some reason that’s never really explained.  And I’m okay with that.

Guitar solos can be used to literally melt the faces of your foes.

So, yeah.  Eddie, armed with an axe and a guitar, has to hack, slash, blow up and electrocute his way through the world, which is actually a lot of fun once you figure out where you’re supposed to go.  The guitar, which Eddie brought with him into the new world, becomes rather magical, and serves as a basic magic system for the game.

Understandably, you’ll enjoy the game a lot more if you’re a metal fan.  The soundtrack is amazing, and you’ll find music from heavy metal, hair band metal, dark, goth metal, and ridiculous dragons-into-the-sunset metal.  It’s a fantastic time.  The world of metal is littered with sights ripped straight from album covers, there are tons of unlockable songs and throwbacks to metal culture, and Eddie will actually play solos to help the war effort against the demons.  But then, ugh, about a quarter of the way through the game, they introduce a new aspect of the game.  Large, epic stage battles that serve as a watered down realtime strategy game to poor effect.

After the resistance sets up their stage, Eddie takes to the skies and directs the army from above.  Troops need to capture “fan geysers” and put merchandise booths on them.  The fans then serve as your primary resource, which Eddie uses to buy more squads of rockers for his side.  This all sounds good in theory, but the battles all seem very scripted out.  There seems to be one good way to attack, and if you want to try something different, well, don’t try something different.

About a third of the way through the game I really started getting irritated with the stage battles, because Eddie kept recruiting new types of rockers for his cause that I knew I’d NEVER EVER USE.  Once again, they all sound good in theory, but battles between armies seem very lopsided in favor of the enemy, which can direct multiple units with precision to wipe out all your dudes quickly.  Eddie’s basic “okay now go in this general direction” commands just don’t cut it, and as a result all the special, passive benefit units you get will be slaughtered in quick order.

Argh durr no stage battles please

The game itself runs out of steam about halfway through the main story.  Once I moved on to the new area, after felling an annoying and lame hair band empire, I got the feeling there was nothing really new for me to do.  I’d seen what the metal world had to offer, and that was that.  The remainder of the game was the same escort-the-bus and fight-these-dudes missions I had seen already.  It was pretty disappointing.

The multiplayer, incidentally, is just large stage battles against your friends and foes.  Though, due to how much I disliked the stage battles in the main game, I never actually felt inclined to go online to share the misery with someone else.  I mean, misery loves company, but it was just easier to pretend the online did not exist at all.  Apathy wins again!

Stage battles and plot problems aside, I did enjoy playing this game for four major reasons.  First, game producer Tim Schaffer knows how to craft dialogue, and just about every exchange the characters had left me giggling.  Second, the world of metal is so over the top, you can’t help but love it.  Trees, crafted entirely of exhaust pipes rake the sky, and “Bladehenge” is just as ridiculous as it sounds.  Third, the world of metal has its own over the top history, which is read out loud to you by a deep voiced guy in a revered tone every time you find a monument.  It reminds me a lot of the cybernetic ghost of christmas past from the future from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, actually.


Fourth, the soundtrack is fantastic.  But I think I told you that already.

Still, I felt like there was more that could have been done to this game to make it even more awesome.  The story, for one, had tons of places it could have gone, instead of just getting stuck in some kind of swamp land, I dunno.  I mean, come on.  This is a game where you can literally use that power of metal to melt faces off and crash an enormous zeppelin (not sure if it was lead or not) into your foes.  It could have gone that extra mile.

So, yeah, that’s Brutal Legend for you.  Honestly, I didn’t want to be that harsh with the game since I’m a big fan of Tim Schaffer and his work.  But man, its metal we’re talking about.  Metal doesn’t have time for this frilly, always-be-positive crap, man.  You just got to be brutally honest.


One Response

  1. “Eddie takes to the skies and directs the army from above.”

    …And this is where you went wrong. The point of the battles wasn’t to ‘take to the skies’ and stop doing all the fun action shit you’d been doing for the rest of the game. The entire point was to put ALL of it together, and freely use whatever moves you wanted – the axe combat, the guitar solos, the troop double team attacks, and your car. You said how much you liked mowing dudes down in your car, right? WELL THEN WHY THE HELL DIDN’T YOU DO THAT IN THE STAGE BATTLES?!

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