Brutal Legend Review (PS3)

Brutal Legend is the culmination of a lifelong obsession with metal, making entertaining games, and creating epic tales. Creator Tim Schafer has dreamed about this day for too long. Now that it’s arrived, we’re both praising the lords of rock and putting our controllers down early.

Following Eddie Riggs, the “greatest roadie that ever lived” and voiced by Jack Black, players go on a power rampage through another time and another place, one where everything revolves around music. And not just any music, but metal. In fact, Brutal Legend is best described as the greatest tribute to metal ever.

Meet Eddie Riggs, the ultimate roadie, hero of the day, guardian of metal.
The landscape is as metal as it gets. Everything from skulls and bones to swords and foggy swampland.

Besides all of the characters featuring some sort of rock-like behavior or style (Ophelia, the goth rocker; Lars, the long-haired band singer; Lita, the hardcore metal chick, etc.), the entire world revolves around it, from the art style to the soundtrack to the wildlife. The metal gods would surely be pleased.

As are we. Driving around a seemingly barren map becomes blindingly colorful when filled with giant statues of swords, old stages, broken down muscle cars…the list goes on and on. One mission involves taking speakers from the “Screaming Wall”, a wall made entirely of speakers that stretches as far as the eye can see. Several sections introduce different genres of metal, but we won’t say them all. It’s best to experience it for yourself.

However, just like the land, its people have nearly forgotten the great music that inspired it, and it’s up to Eddie to not only save humanity from itself, but from its demon overlords. Most of the game is the battle against humans (which, from a historical standpoint, makes perfect sense), with Eddie leading the way for freedom and musical delight. Very little time is spent fighting demons in any respect, which is a shame for gameplay and for the story.

In fact, much of the game does incredibly well, up until the finale. After completing the majority of the campaign, a few key plot points are shoved down the player’s throats, and while they don’t confuse, they don’t impress. Where the majority of the game left us feeling as manly and buff as Eddie, ready to take on the world with the power of metal, the end is a complete lack thereof.

What’s worse is how short the actual campaign is. I managed to get through the game in less than seven hours, which included secondary missions and lots of just driving around. Even spending the time to complete every secondary mission and find every secret won’t have players reach a ten hour mark on normal difficulty, which isn’t acceptable these days.

That’s not to say there isn’t anything else to do. Secondary missions are bland after performing the same set over and over (ambushes and death-rack battles get tiresome once players understand how to use double-team attacks and have decent weapons), though some are unique and rewarding. Much of the time I spent after completing the game was completing secondary missions, which opened up the map and helped me find many secrets that I’d missed previously. Racing, for instance, never gets old, though once the car’s engine is fully upgraded, it’s hard to lose.

Headbangers, with their extremely thick necks, only do one thing well. Guess what that is.
Car battles like this one are the only way to keep the tour alive.

There are three types of gameplay: car battles, standard combat and boss battles. The Druid Plow, Eddie’s awesome ride, is his main source of transportation in the metal world (though riding shotgun in other vehicles or riding wild animals is also an option). It is easily upgraded, along with Eddie’s weapons, in the Motor Forge, where Ozzy Osborne is the lord of metal and explains, in stunning detail, all of the available upgrades. Fire emblems, the currency of the game, are awarded for completing missions, finding secrets and helping out the troops when they’re being attacked.

The Druid Plow, or Deuce as it’s more commonly referred as, is great for running guys over or shooting them from a safe vantage point. For finer attacks, Eddie needs his feet on the ground, and his hands on his axe. Using his axe and guitar, Eddie has multiple combo attacks, and he can block and dodge. My experience was that most of these were unnecessary, and using the simplest combos works best. Only towards the end of the game are blocking and dodging even useful.

Boss battles are completely different, and act more like an RTS than anything else. Eddie sprouts wings and has to build troops, amass fans by building merchandise booths, and destroy the enemy’s stage to win. Upgrades are available throughout the game world, and I strongly advise that players look around the world for these upgrades so that boss battles are as fun as can be. Some of the upgrades are extremely useful (though not required), and are easy to miss if you aren’t looking.

Unlike an RTS, Eddie can drop onto the playing field and fight alongside his forces, and acts very much like a queen in chess. He’s extremely powerful, can quickly jump into and out of a skirmish, and has several special attacks that can decimate foes, instantly summon more allies, and more. He can also order more troops to be built from anywhere on the map, and he can’t die (he can be killed, but he’ll be brought back to life for a small fee of fans, the currency in boss battles).

Those boss battles can be difficult, and they cannot be played like a standard RTS thanks to Eddie’s additional powers. If you play it that way, battles can go on for over an hour, and they’re meant to last around 15 minutes in the campaign. Some of the toughest battles turned out to be very easy once a reasonable strategy, based on the gameplay mechanics and not old memorized RTS plans, are employed.

As a weapon, the guitar is useful but weak. As an instrument of the gods, it can make or break the game for you.
Worried about gore? Bad language? Don't worry, everything can be set to bleep out the blood and foul language. Kids still can't play, but it works!

Multiplayer functions just like the boss battles, but with up to five players per team. The three factions, Ironhead, the Drowning Doom (goth and punk rockers), and the Tainted Coil (demons), are very different from each other and have remarkable strengths and weaknesses. Ironhead acts as the standard, with troops that act exactly as they sound, build normally, and are fairly strong. Drowning Doom has weak starting troops, but once they upgrade their stage they get full access to some seriously dangerous allies. Tainted Coil is even stranger, only able to build “mothers” from the stage, who then give birth, right on the playing field, to troops. This means they can add troops anywhere on the field at any time, and that they’re quite disgusting.

Playing online is a very unique experience, one we relish. When players know what they’re doing, these battles can be very fun, and can last quite a long while. I don’t think it’ll catch on like Halo, but the unique style of play will have plenty, myself and the staff included, coming back for more. It isn't great or memorable...unique is as good as it gets.

Saving the best for last, the voice acting. Unlike other games, where professional actors are hired for all of the major roles, Schafer opted for the more awesome, and undoubtedly more painful option to bring in some of the pioneers of metal themselves. And not just for voice acting, but to be placed directly into the game. Ozzy and Lemmy (of Motorhead) and Lita Ford, to name a few. Not only did they do a terrific job in bringing their characters to life, but they were their characters, literally! Not something we get enough of. The actual voice actors did great jobs as well, from Tim Curry to Jack Black.

As a cinematic experience, Brutal Legend delivers. The heavy metal we’ve all enjoyed at one point of our lives, or still do, returns in full force. In fact, driving around in the car and listening to various tracks, or even just letting it sit there while you go about your business, is great thanks to the excellent soundtrack. I never wanted to change the track, which is incredible by itself. However, the story falters towards the end, and the fact that the game is so short is the biggest bummer of all. Regardless, it’s a great game that will be remembered for a long time coming.

Top Gaming Moment: The hunter missions, where I drove around listening to great music while running over the creatures of the land.

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