The lights are on
Developer: Double Fine
Release Date: October 13, 2009
Pros: Hilarious voice work and dialogue, unique worlds, fitting soundtrack, relatively enjoyable multiplayer, loads of collectibles
Cons: Targeting can be a pain, repetitive side missions, no custom map markers, curse of the basic RTS on a console, Pretty easy even on Brutal difficulty
Tim Schafer is well known for providing games with unique story and hilarious dialogue. It comes to no surprise that after the completion of Psychonauts, he would have to follow with something just as enjoyable. Taking a step from the Teen rating into Mature territory, Brutal Legend was born. A love letter to any fan of metal, the game proves to be an enjoyable experience fans of Schafer and gamers alike can appreciate.
You assume the role of Eddie Riggs, a roadie for a "metal" band known as Kabbage Boy. After a stage prop falls apart Eddie saves the life of one of the band members, but in turn is killed by the falling debris. The stage prop of the metal god comes to life and transports Eddie to a different time in a world clearly influenced by metal. It's up to Eddie to discover why he has arrived at this time and help a small band of resistance fighters in reclaiming their world.
Schafer never fails in delivering a story that keeps you interested. The characters you come across and worlds you explore are never dull. The plot takes its occasional turn just when you think you know what will happen next. The story of the world you have come to inhabit is expanded by the Legend statues you find scattered across the world. These are actually very well done and work to explain why the world is in this chaotic state as well as expand on key figures frequently mentioned.
The true highlight of the game proved to be the voicework by the main cast. Jack Black provides a hilarious performance as Eddie Riggs, truly fitting of the character. Jennifer Hale (Bastilla from KotOR) also delivers as the female role of Ophelia. Schafer even managed to nab Tim Curry for the role of Doviculus, the antagonist. He also assembled numerous metal icons such as Ozzy Osbourne, Lita Ford, Rob Halford, and Lemmy Kilmister. As nice as it is to have them on board with this project, a few performances fall flat in comparison to others.
The soundtrack to the game is as impressive as the voice casting. Over one hundred different metal songs were chosen for the soundtrack, and prove more than entertaining when they cue up. Certain songs are unlocked by raising Relics and others unlocked as you progress through the campaign. Songs range from "Rock of Ages" by Def Leppard to "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" by Dimmu Borgir. With such a large variety, you're sure to find your favorites to play over and over as you drive through the worlds.
Character Models resemble the cartoon style that Psychonauts portrayed. Not giving an incredibly rendered figure, but one that delivers facial expressions that are on point. Coupled with the cartoon look, this boosts the hilarity of character interaction and makes you reminisce to a day of morning cartoons....except this time with blood and the language of Tarintino film. Bosses are quite a sight, especially the chrome spider queen's metallic luster.
The environments you explore are truly a sight to behold. Every metal album cover you can think of is portrayed in the various lands, ranging from gigantic swords plunged into the ground to trees with eyeballs gazing as you pass them. Little things like chrome pipes for trees and freeing headbangers from "The Pitt" all add to make the game even more enjoyable. Though you lack finding any pre-rendered cut scenes or incredibly detailed pieces, the overall cartoon look and feel of the game make up for it.
The campaign functions as both a tutorial for multiplayer as well as a single player story component. The game is generally an open world "sandbox" game, allowing the player to explore and complete missions on their own time. Players can move along with the main story, complete side missions, or collect the number of items available through the world.
The main campaign generally holds your hand through the basics. What starts as a simple hack and slash game flips halfway through and becomes a basic RTS. They don't continually consists of these missions however, and mixes it up with escort missions, vehicle based missions, and even the occasional solo venture into a dark cave for a boss fight. The hack and slash aspect allows you to use one button for axe attacks and one button for guitar attacks. Combining these together allows you to pull of other moves. You can also use the guitar to play various solos that give you an upper hand in battle in some way. These are simple button timing commands that prove lenient enough so that even those unfamiliar with Guitar Hero should not have a problem. My main complaint about the hack and slash combat is the troublesome targeting (holding L) and useless block move. If I am attacking and see someone raise their arm, I press block only to roll because the game assumes I am in motion, thus rolling just far enough to be hit by the end of their axe....
The RTS functions much like you would typically expect. You have a base (Stage) and must gather resources (Fans). More fans allow you to send out more troops or upgrade your stage for better ones. The entire time you act as a general, flying over the battlefield and ordering who should attack what location, occasionally landing to deal with a group of baddies personally. Fighting in the campaign has a few variants you must deal with in particular, but nothing requiring a dramatic shift in strategy. Units vary from the typical grunts to gun units to large tanks. Each unit has a "co-op" move they can share with the general, once again showing that you are more useful on the ground with your troops than in the air issuing commands. The units can also be "buffed" by your solos to further their use.
In addition to the main missions, there are numerous side missions to complete in the game. Most of these are very general, like ambushing a small group of enemies or mounting The Druid Plow on a "Death Rack" and playing turret defense. These progressively get slightly tougher, but become repetitive very quickly and feel more like a duty rather than a mission you want to participate in. There are also tons of collectibles to gather such as Relics to unlock songs, serpent statues to free that can upgrade your stats, and jumps to take that can give you more fire tributes.
After completing missions, side missions, or gathering collectibles you earn fire tributes from the metal gods. These can be spent at Metal Forges to upgrade your abilities. These range from new weapons to vehicle upgrades. You can also purchase Mt Rockmore faces of various characters...which have absolutely no point other than to have your favorite characters on the side of a mountain. Generally most of the basic upgrades require little participation in side missions to obtain, but if you really want the upper hand you're going to have to do a little collecting.
Collecting can be a pain if you see something during a mission and wish to return, as you can only mark key locations on the map.
Multiplayer maps are much like their Campaign components trimmed to a small arena. There are a pretty decent amount offering a little variety in fan booth placement. You have the option to take control of 3 different factions: Ironheade, Drowning Doom, and Tainted Coil. Each has its own set of unique troops and abilities, not only including different units but different general solos. This adds a bit of variety in play style as you must adjust depending on your faction as each plays differently.
There are no defense towers, there are no key structures...only merch booths and a stage. These are all you can capture/attack. This makes the game suffer from what I like to call, the very basic RTS console game....I'm working on the title. Strategies are limited to what units are in your party. Attacking with a large assault of the same kind of unit won't work, and you must vary them to truly overtake the enemy. Thus the main idea is to gather a lot of big dudes and throw them at this point hoping they overtake the other big dudes placed there. Selecting specific units and forming two separate parties can be more of a challenge than the actual enemies. The controller is limited in how it can issue commands, making it difficult to get units exactly where you want them. Still, it's very manageable and can be pretty fun online.
Despite its few flaws, Brutal Legend still delivers a truly fun experience. You don't have to be a fan of metal to enjoy the humor of the game. Though the RTS element takes some time to get used to, the campaign holds your interest long enough to keep you playing and the multiplayer proves to be enjoyable. It is not quite as entertaining to me as Psychonauts was, Brutal Legend comes pretty close. The uniqueness of the world and hilarious characters hold up nicely, but the gameplay just felt a bit lacking. A game still worth your time and as Jack Black so eloquently puts: 'You can't kill the metal, the metal will live on.'
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