The Yankees win! Now onto relevant stuff.
In Brütal Legend, you play as the greatest roadie in the world, Eddie Riggs (Jack Black). Riggs is killed while saving his wussy band’s pathetic guitarist after he does something stupid on stage. Instead of dying, Riggs is transported back in time to the World of Metal where he takes on the small task of saving the human race with the power of his metal.
The Basic Game Mechanics
Riggs is armed with two axes. The first axe (the chopping kind) is used for melee combat, while the second axe (the musical kind) is used to electrocute, blow away, and explode enemies… in the World of Metal, guitars can do that kind of shit. However, that’s just the tip of the mechanics iceberg. You also have an awesome car, “the Deuce” (as in the Deuce (not douche) from Bruce Springsteen’s song “Blinded By the Light”).
Finally, there is an entirely unique portion of the game, and that’s a real-time strategy (RTS) component. Riggs leads his army, the forces of heavy metal into battle against the likes of General Lionwhyte’s (Rob Halford of Judas Priest fame) glam metal army.
The game is part sandbox/ hack & slash, and part hack & slash/ real-time strategy. The combination works well.
There is a lot to love about this game; especially if you enjoy metal… but I believe that you don’t need to enjoy the music to have a good time playing this game.
First, the game is hilarious. The dialog is brilliant and well-crafted.
Sample dialog from the opening scenes:
Eddie: “I can fix anything, except that” (in reference to his band’s awful music)
Roadie: “Metal is dead”
Eddie: “Ever feel like you were born in the wrong time, like you should have been born earlier… when the music was real?”
Roadie: “Like the 70’s?”
Eddie: “Earlier… like the early 70’s.”
The voice acting is great. Metal legends like Ozzy Osbourne (who is unusually coherent), Lemmy Kilmister (or as I like to call him, “the fucking man”), Lita Ford, and the aforementioned Rob Halford all lend their legendary voices and faces to the game. They are joined by other actors like Tim Curry (the Tim Curry), and Brian Posehn.
The World of Metal is gorgeous. It looks exactly like what heavy metal world look like if the music and album covers became a functional reality. The landscape, people, weapons, buildings, cars, men, women (especially the women), and even the creatures all look like they could grace a stage or album cover.
The story is oddly compelling, and pays such a loving tribute to the often misunderstood musical genre.
My favorite part of the game was visiting the location known as “the Wall of Sound.” Guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen play with a wall of amps behind them… the Wall of Sound is a cliff of amps.
While returning from the Wall of Sound, Riggs & Co. are attacked by a flock of seagulls; the joke was so subtle I had to pause the game to cackle (if you don’t get it, click this link & this one, but this link is at risk to your ears).
The subtle, and inside metal jokes were superb.
The use of the music was wonderful, especially in certain areas of the game where the music was deliberately selected. The getaway scene where you are speeding in the Deuce, avoiding the onslaught of some big and ugly monsters is set to Dragonforce’s shredfest, “Through the Fire and Flames” (I can’t help but speed in real life when this song is blasting in my car, so I was happy to race to it in-game). During one critical story moment, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley” struck me as particularly beautiful and powerful.
Throughout the game, music constantly plays through the stereo in the Deuce. The selection is broad and generally good. I was especially pleased to hear song’s like Motörhead’s “We Are the Road Crew,” and a pair of songs by Racer X.
The driving and combat was intuitive, and the RTS components were easy to control after I got the hang of it; fortunately the learning curve was pretty shallow on the RTS battles.
The Not So Good
Brütal Legend gets everything almost perfect, but it could have used some polish. For example…
- Riggs often gets stuck on things like rocks – a jump button would have fixed that
- Riggs dies in water – I’m so tired of characters dying in water (especially when you see them swim in the during cinematic sequences of the game without dying)
- A mini-map while driving the Deuce would have saved me from constantly pausing to check the damn map
- Cinematic scenes, particularly at the beginning and end of the game cut to load screens in odd places; this yanked me out of the narrative
- A lack of instructional cues – There are things throughout the game that aren’t explained and you have to discover them for yourself (how do you a free serpent statues, or disabling songs that you don’t enjoy [I can’t stand industrial metal], among many other key features
None of these ruin the game by any stretch of the imagination, but an extra month or two in development would have gone a long way.
I’m not completely sold that this belongs in the “Ugly” category, but I need to put something here, and this bothered me the most about Brütal Legend…
It was too easy, even on the Brütal difficulty level.
Once I got the hang of the RTS system, and discovered that the old Starcraft Zerg rush technique worked insanely well, I destroyed the computer without any resistance.
This is a great game, and well worth your time and money; if only for the humor, story, and music. Brütal Legend is a breath of fresh air, and a truly original experience in an ocean of sequels and rehashed game mechanics. There are so many great things about this game that I couldn’t even get into all of them. I guess you will just have to play and discover them for yourself.