Let there be rock…
One day I was sitting at home thinking how great it would be play a game that not only had a banging heavy metal soundtrack but was steeped in metal lore. A game that wore its metal horns proudly for all to see & starred some of my favourite rock stars…and Jack Black.
Alas, I thought…such a game was nothing but a dream…
Then along came Tim Schafer & Double Fine who made that dream a reality, a game that was metal to its core, had a land sculpted on heavy metal album covers, starred the likes of Lemmy, Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford & err….Jack Black. It was perfect, everything I could ever wanted…or so it seemed.
Eddie Riggs (voiced & modelled on Jack Black) is an aging roadie from a different era of metal working for Kabbage Boy.
Eddie is crushed by a piece of falling stage scenery while trying to save a member of the band. His blood drops into his belt buckle which turns out to be an amulet for an ancient god known as Ormagöden who transforms on stage, kills the band & takes Eddie away to the heavy metal world.
This world is ruled by the evil emperor of the Tainted Coil, Doviculus (voiced by Tim Curry) alongside General Lionwhyte, a human with hair so big he uses it to fly (voiced by Rob Halford). Eddie wakes up in the temple of Ormagöden & runs into a woman called Ophelia who he instantly falls for. Together they fight off Doviculus forces before escaping in a custom built hot rod built by Eddie called The Deuce.
Ophelia leads Eddie to Bladehenge where he meets Lars & Lita Halford, a brother & sister team dedicated to breaking Doviculus’s rule. They believe Eddie to be the chosen one come to change the fate of the world (although the prophecy isn’t clear if that is a good thing) so he joins up with them.
The group is later joined by the Kill Master (modeled on & voiced by Lemmy).
The Fire Baron & his minions (modeled on & voiced by Rob Halford) & the Amazonian Rima (modeled on Kiss but voiced by Lita Ford). Eddie can also gain support from the Guardian of Metal (modeled on & voiced by Ozzy Osbourne).
Brutal Legend is a third person action/adventure game that has real-time strategy elements. The world that is available to explore is fairly big & very interesting. Wherever you look there are references or indications to heavy metal & rock music. It makes exploration a lot of fun as well as collectible hunting. As well as the main mission of defeating Lionwhyte & Doviculus there are a number of side missions that mostly consist of 3 things…races against a demon, helping a cannon operator find his targets & defending allies from incoming attacks. They are all very generic & offer up very little challenge.
It’s a pity that more wasn’t done with the side quests as the main quest line is excellent although quite short (4+ hours). The story (trying to avoid spoilers here) is downright brilliant with some wonderfully heart-breaking moments. Jack Black does an amazing job of voicing Eddie & he is one of the most likeable characters in gaming I have ever met (I don’t particularly like Black as well!) The supporting cast is just as good, be the famous voices & the not so famous voices.
Eddie has 2 weapons of attack…an over-sized axe & his ‘flying v’ guitar. The axe is used for melee combat while the guitar can cast spells. Both are upgradeable as you progress as well as The Deuce. Combat is a lot of fun & combining the 2 mode of attack can create a number of stylish ways to dispatch enemies. More upgrades mean more powerful & unique attacks so it is well worth getting as much as possible early on.
Brutal Legend breaks up its action by adding in some real time strategy battles known as stage battles. In it Eddie & his faction (Ironheade) will have to defend a stage against an opposing faction. The stage acts as a home base where troops are created…to be able to create troops you need to earn fans. Fans come from geysers dotted around the battlefield & to harness them you need to build merchandise booths on them bearing in mind the other team will be attempting the same thing.
Once enough fans have been earned you can build more troops to go attack the opposing enemy’s stage – destroying it will count as a win or you can upgrade your own stage to build more powerful ally types. It calls for a level–head & smart strategy. The player controls Eddie throughout directing troops, getting involved in the action or surveying the battlefield.
It’s an interesting step in an all action game & one that comes as a nice surprise. The battles are few & far between but they are a lot of fun albeit far too easy. Brute force can win out almost every time which negates any kind of strategy.
The stage fights are what the multi-player mode is all about & sadly this is where it takes a massive mis-step. For starters the community was dead from the get-go, finding matches was a nightmare & the match-making system seemed to take forever. A multi-player RTS game relies on the players to support it & there was just a lack of interest. When matches did happened too often the opponent would try to end it quickly to get a win & just go for the brute force approach. Putting it simply…it just wasn’t any fun which is totally at contrast with the way it plays in the single player.
Now where would a heavy metal game be without a heavy metal soundtrack?
Brutal Legend has one of my favorite soundtracks ever in a game. Selected by Tim Schafer himself, it consists of some of the genres best work to date & it is utilized in the best way possible. Background music during combat gets the adrenalin pumping & big notes hit at all the right times. Cut-scenes are enhanced by the music & my personal favorite involves the Ozzy Osbourne song, Mr. Crowley. That more songs are unlockable & the playlist are customizable is the icing on a pretty sweet-ass cake.
An interesting story with twists & turns starring a cast of legends. The main quest line is far too short & while it is bulked out by side quests they are pretty generic. The collectibles & upgrades offer plenty of excitement & references to make exploration fun even if the map isn’t the easiest to navigate. Brutal Legends main praise is always going to come from its voice work & its soundtrack but the clever introduction of the RTS elements can’t be overlooked. It’s just a pity that the multi-player didn’t take off…