Brütal Legend, a video game review

Brutal Legend
To say I’ve been looking forward to Brütal Legend’s release is a great understatement. I have been eagerly awaiting it’s release since the game was first officially announced two years ago in Game Informer. A culmination of Tim Schafer’s great comedy and artistic design with Jack Black’s own brand of comedy in the form of a video game so thick with a beautiful atmosphere was far too hard for me to not be excited about. Brütal Legend is the second game developed by Double Fine Studios and published by EA for the Xbox 360 and the PS3.

The game’s art is perhaps one of the most apparent and strongest points about the game. Every minute detail in the game is so entrenched in metal or some other extravagant music genre that it’s awe inspiring. Ignoring these landmarks and brilliantly detailed landscapes, characters, enemies and weapons is almost a travesty, which is why the game emphasizes them often with concept art unlocked constantly or the viewports in the game that focus on these giant tributes.

With a Tim Schafer game you expect comedy and good characters. Good characters there are a plenty, some of which are used more than others, but they’re all in large very complex. From Eddie Riggs, the hero of the game whom you play as, to Magnus, the Ironheade’s Engineer, to Lionwhyte, a glam metal general whose hair is so voluminous that it allows him to fly. All of the characters are so well crafted, if either for dramatic story purposes or just to make you laugh, as is often the case with cameos of comedians such as Brian Posehn and Kyle Gass.

Which brings me to the voice acting. The game’s motley crew of voice actors, comedians and rockers seems like something that might not work on paper, but does resoundingly in every respect. Specific praise in acting has to go to Jack Black himself who has, without a doubt, done his best job as an actor in Brütal Legend. Eddie Riggs is completely unlike any other role Black has done, and he does it brilliantly. The game’s antagonist, Doviculus, is unsurprisingly masterfully played by Tim Curry who lends his voice to a role that’s dark and yet funny due to his leather bound appearance. ?

That’s not to say no one else is worth or praise, far from it. Every musician in the game has done a commendable job in their roles. Ozzy Osbourne, playing as the Guardian of Metal, is feature solely in the area to upgrade but does a great job delivering some exceptionally funny lines with a great charisma and clarity you’re not used to from Ozzy. Rob Halford, vocalist for Judas Priest, plays not one, but two completely unique and unrelated roles in the game. The aforementioned General Lionwhyte, and the Baron, leader of the fire barons. Both characters are immensely funny and given so much character due to Halford’s great performance. Lita Ford, former lead guitarist for The Runaways and solo metal artist, and Lemmy Kilmister, bass guitarist for Motörhead, both lend their great voice talents to the game, however disappointingly sparsely.

Going with sound comes the soundtrack, of which Brütal Legend will undoubtedly have no equal in. The game consist of a face-melting 108 heavy metal tracks from 75 different bands including over 70 minutes of music made specifically for the game. The soundtrack consists of a number of metal bands so large to name them all would be insane. The collection of songs chosen is prime and will leave your neck aching from headbanging. Perhaps the most perplexing choice in the game is the lack of three bands I would expect in the game, Metallica, Iron Maiden and Gwar, two of which either influenced the characters or were apart of the marketing. Despite their absence, this game features a huge soundtrack that almost entirely warrants buying the game for alone.

The game’s story is one of a strange creation that works exceptionally well, however the comedy in the game doesn’t really stay as consistent as it does in Schafer’s past games. There are plenty of laughs in the beginning of the game, but as the story progresses it slowly drifts away to a more serious narrative. The jokes aren’t completely void, but they’re not as thick than they are in the beginning of the game. The story itself though is rock solid, and full of twists and dramatic rises as you play through the game. Much of the backstory is hidden through out markers in the game that tell you the legends of the game, but missing them won’t ruin any part of the game for you.

The game has two modes, a single player campaign and a multiplayer mode. The single player mode is driven by several elements, such as sandbox exploration, car driving, hack and slash, and RTS. Each feature is well developed with it’s own unique flavors. The sandbox really makes the game worth playing by virtue of the lush environments and collectables. The car driving is primarily used as a means of conveyance, but constantly gets more entertaining by unlocking new power ups and weapons for it. The hack and slash is largely combined with the RTS elements and uses the button combos to deliver different status effects to the enemies.

The real time strategy is really the focus of the big battles and the multiplayer in the game. Unlike most RTS games, where you control everything from a omnipresent point of view, Brütal Legend drops you into the heat of the battle letting you choose to fight along side your army, or command it from the sky via flying. During the fights you can command units, usually as a whole, to points to capture for more resources, upgrade select characters, and give them commands that are simple but very effective. The primary difference between Brütal Legend and most RTS games is the solos and your interaction with your units.

As you upgrade your stage you unlock new solos allowing you to buff, debuff, or deliver devastating attacks with a short rhythm based game. Timing these solos for the right time and place where you won’t be killed can turn the tide in the blink of an eye making it a huge point for defense. Double teaming with your units can give you first hand control over a single enemy during the heat of a battle allowing you to more directly effect the combat with abilities you yourself don’t have. This unique combination makes for an RTS experience unlike any other I’ve experienced, but as a whole plays like a lot of RTS games, meaning that if you’re not fond of RTS titles or not good at them, then it’ll translate to the multiplayer.

Perhaps the biggest fault with the game would be it’s repetitive nature. The side missions have the tendency to repeat themselves, often playing out one of the same dozen or so side quests between each main mission. The game does a good job of spacing out new ones between plot points, but can be tedious. Some of the side mission are more fun than others, or harder than others, with the shooting side quest being one of the more frustrating side quests. In all they don’t really seem to detract from the game, but don’t do a lot towards it.

Brütal Legend is perhaps not the game it was hoped to be in terms of gameplay due to the repetitive side missions, but it doesn’t disappoint at all. Tim Schafer has created a game filled with character, be it in the brilliantly voiced characters or the game’s brilliantly detailed art design of the land and it’s inhabitants. The RTS focused gameplay is a rather unique twist on the genre that lends itself as the base for the a solid sandbox title. Brütal Legend is a great game and indeed an admirable piece of art that warrants the attention it’s gotten and reflects it’s heritage in both it’s creator and influence well, brought to life by it’s massive painfully awesome soundtrack. Get this game.

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