Brutal Legend Review

By Kyle Wynen on October 13, 2009

Electronic Arts and Tim Shafer's Double Fine have teamed up to bring gamers and rockers alike the epic tale of Brutal Legend. Eddie Riggs is the world's best roadie, but sadly he's working for one of the worst metal bands imaginable. When that same band nearly get itself killed on stage during a concert, the show literally comes crashing down on Eddie as he saves the band. Thanks to his cursed belt buckle getting a bit of blood on it, the monster Ormagden is summoned, kills the band, and brings Eddie to a fantasy-like world of heavy metal. Dropped into the thick of things, Eddie Riggs begins what gamers will long remember as one Brutal Legend.

Brutal Legend is a third person action game, but increasingly stacks up more varied gameplay as the game progresses. In the world of heavy metal, Eddie wakes up on a temple pedestal as demonic robed men approach to kill him. Brandishing the guitar he dubs "Clementine" and a massive battle axe, Eddie literally rocks out and lays waste to the swarm out to kill him. It's on his full throttle escape from the temple that Ophelia enters the picture, the first human to encounter Eddie in the metal world.

As it turns out, in the metal world humans are enslaved by demons. However, there is a small resistance that stays in hiding, barely hanging on, and mostly forgetting the ages past of Metal Gods and Titans. Eddie stumbles into the shoes of a legend foretelling his coming as the saviour of humanity. He turns around the sour spirits of the resistance, and from there, they set out to build an army to take on humanity's oppressors. It's quite the foundation for Brutal Legend, and without continuing to spoil the story, it simply keeps on rocking.

The writing from the get-go is strong, and the voice acting really backs it up. At times the story doesn't make a whole lot of sense and doesn't particularly draw in players, but it's the attention to detail in story elements that sells it. The setting is great, and it's easy to become invested in the journey that the characters take due to a script that gets players rallying behind Eddie. The finer points of the acting don't stop with gameplay either, as Eddie and crew constantly banter throughout the game, and with one heck of a metal sound track to back it up, the story rarely misses a beat.

At the beginning of the game Eddie also acquires the parts to build his own hot rod which can be used to traverse the world. He calls it the Druid Plow. The game is set in an open world, with an art style right of the cover of classic heavy metal albums. It's got metal-themed monsters, a ravaged landscape of dark mountains and even the Resistance's own home-base of Blade Henge. Many beasts and enemies roam the land, and Eddie is given just about every tool along the way to take care of each and every one of them. Combat is split between Eddie taking on enemies with his Battle Axe and Guitar, and unit-based rock battles where Eddie's human army face off against a variety of different enemy armies.With the Battle Axe and Guitar Eddie can perform plenty of combos, decapitating and literally melting the faces off enemies. Thanks to upgrades, the Axe can be rather thoroughly improved, as too can the Guitar. The Guitar itself plays a bigger roll as it is also used to play solos, both in combat to unleash attacks and as a tool outside of combat. Summoning the Druid Plow, raising age-old relics from the earth, and recruiting troops are just a few of the uses of the guitar outside of combat, but in the game's second key area of gameplay is where it really rocks. The unit-based, enormous battles of Brutal Legend can accurately be described as a rock concert war. Both sides have a main stage as a home-base, with Merch Booths set up around the battle field. The unit-based battles are similar to playing a Realtime Strategy game, but at any time Eddie can fly into or out-of the fray for some hand to hand combat.

Mythical fan-geysers, which are simply geysers with heavy metal fans spewing out of them, are the resources in battles. Freeing fan-geysers from huge fan leeches and setting up Merch Booths on the geysers, then destroying enemy Merch Booths and units is the key winning battles. The more Merch Booths running, the higher the player's resources pile up, and as such, the more units at Eddie's disposal. Units range from head-banging rockers, to chicks with huge guns and its certainly not lacking in variety. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as special double-team attacks with Eddie. Furthermore each are introduced through the game's story until Eddie has one formidable arsenal of units.

Other gameplay elements are sprinkled throughout the game as well, like escorting the tour bus through various traps and attacks, and side missions to help others throughout the game's world. Combat with just the Battle Axe and Guitar is fairly tight, as connecting combos is easy, and provides plenty of entertainment and fun. However, elements like locking-on, blocking and dodging aren't well implemented, and thanks to this they're more of a mess to use frequently with all the other gameplay elements present. Control units in the battle environment are executed well, but this also isn't a shining example of good game design. Eddie will literally be flying from one corner of the battle to the other to round up troops, with little indication that an entire squad has been killed off. Furthermore it can be tricky to distinguish between player units and enemy units, a real pain when taking up Eddie's Axe to fight alongside player units.

Brutal Legend's world is by far the best aspect of the game, and really lifts up the game as a whole. There are plenty of Cameos, including Ozzy Osborn, Tenacious-D's Kyle Gass, and of course Eddie himself being voiced by Jack Black. Graphically speaking the game is good, but don't expect anything jaw dropping. There is some graphical pop-in from time to time, but it doesn't detract from the experience at all, and that's exactly what Brutal Legend is, an experience.

The game also features a robust online multiplayer mode, which sees the game's unit-based battles moved online where it's possible to wage war against friends and strangers alike. It's safe to say it works just like in the single player story, with everything unlocked and up to 8 players facing off at once. In terms of replayability, the large battles get better and better throughout the game and as player's improve their skills and more units unlock, it really becomes quite fun. There's lots to complete in the single player too, with plenty of side missions, tons of upgrades to unlock, and a large world to explore.

Final Thoughts

Brutal Legend is a unique game in the sense that it melds quite a few different forms of gameplay into one package, wrapped around the killer theme of Heavy Metal. Double Fine has done an admiral job, but there are a few elements of the game that could have used a bit more polish before putting the game on stage. Metal fans or those who like adventures with a sense of humour, charm and severed limbs should definitely check out Brutal Legend.

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