A masterpiece, but would you expect any less from Tim Schafer?
Tim Schafer. Any adventure gamer worth his or her salt gets chills when they hear that mans name. Tim Schafer. See? Chills. He's one of the most brilliant game designers ever. "Imaginative" doesn't do his brilliance justice, there are game developers that let their imagination roam free, but Schafer is quite possibly the only game developer that has full control over his imagination, but its so rich and full to the brim that when he wants to, he opens up a massive flood gate and lets it all come spilling out. Creating such classics as Full Throttle, Psychonauts,
and of course the forgotten gem Grim Fandango
, the last of the truly great LucasArts adventure games.
Once again, Schafer has opened up his mind and has let a sea of ideas, concepts, and art find its way onto a disc but hes not alone this time. Jack Black has joined him, and they've collaborated to make Brutal Legend. Did you ever see that movie "Heavy Metal"? Y'know, the fantasy movie with lots of metal music, stoner humour, cool action scenes, and rampant misogyny? Well, imagine that on a game, but presented as a comedy as well as action thingy, and without the rampant misogyny. That's the easiest way to describe what Brutal Legend is like. It's got kickass metal music, its got kickass action, its got funny, and its got fantasy. The fantasy world presented here is awesome, and is like entering a giant arthouse dedicated to Metal. Any game that manages to look like the cover to "Bat out of Hell" and various other legendary rock albums is OK in my book.
In fact, in many ways, its the art that saves an otherwise mediocre graphics engine. When you look under the hood, there isn't anything special about the graphics, but the artwork is so distinct, so eye catching, so awesome and well animated that you won't even care or notice the somewhat poor technical qualities and this is easily one of the most eye pleasing games made this year.
The story, while it has some cliche elements, has enough characterization and whatnot to make it entertaining. Basically, there's a roadie named Eddie Riggs (played by Jack Black) who isn't happy with the way rock music has gone these days and dreams of being around when "The music was real." After an accident with one of the sets he built for a pop-metal band, he is killed and blood trickles down onto his belt in the shape of a metal demon, and once it tastes his blood a massive metal monster awakens and he is quickly transported into a world where metal isn't just music; its an ultimate power. As the plot goes on, you'll be saying "Star Wars much?" and it goes into your standard "Chosen one" and "Overthrow the evil emperor" stuff, but its executed in a compelling manner thanks to the art, the imagination of the setting, and last but certainly not least, the characters. Schafer's games always have great characters that leave an impression, and all the characters here are interesting in their own unique ways; enhanced by the absolutely incredible voice acting. Eddie is a funny and likable character and his romance with the character of Ophelia is given care and time, and you really get to care for them as well as for the other characters. Whether its a serious scene or a silly scene, almost every character in the game has time to share the spotlight and grow on you and each one has a distinct voice and style that makes them stand out. This gives the game a certain charm that is hard for most developers to pull off.
The games plot is also entertaining because the humour here is perfect, almost every joke is a hit; rarely do they miss. This is one of the funniest games released all year. Jack Black & Schafer make a great team, and you'll see both of their styles of humour and they both mix together surprisingly well. Even if you aren't a Jack Black fan, I'm certain this game will have you laughing at several points thanks to the sharp and combined writing of the two.
The gameplay does something I thought was impossible: RTS On a console, except not a piece of s**t. Yes, believe it or not, Schafer has found a way to make console RTSing not suck in a rather innovative and unique way. What kills pretty much all console RTSes is that RTS games are made for a Point, click, drag interface; something nigh impossible on consoles (Although this doesn't stop retarded publishers like EA forcing ports of C&C or Middle Earth RTS games on consoles :|) and has been a plague since the genre started. The RTS element in Brutal Legend disposes of the point,click,drag mouse interface and instead uses controls similar to a tactical shooter like Rainbow 6 Vegas. You still remain over the shoulder and you can still hack and slash at enemies as well as double team with units (Which is also a cool feature for an RTS) but you have a simple 4 button command list and an easy to use menu to select troop options. The controls work well, and battles are fun online and off, and its very fun to not only control the battles but partake in them first hand as well.
The other gameplay elements are a mix of GTA and hack and slash games like God of War. You are given an impressive sandbox to go around in, a kickass car known as the Deuce/Druid Plow to drive around it while listening to music, and you can fight enemies with an axe and use an electric guitar to electrocute them, make them explode, or play unique combat based guitar solos, my favourite of them is the face melter. Any game that lets you melt an Emos face off with a guitar = A OK in my book. Guitar solos are also used in battles for rallying and building merch booths to get money from fan geysers; or in the world to raise relics and find secrets. Exploring the world can be fun, and there are things to find out there like new songs or statues that give you upgrades or power ups.
The licensed sound track kicks ass. There's tons and tons of great metal from the golden age of the genre, from Black Sabbath to Def Leopard and beyond there are tons of excellent metal tracks; and thankfully none of the crappy Death Metal or other modern sub genres. You can listen to tracks in your car, and there is always something playing during missions, some missions even have customized versions of the song to fit the scene. There's a mission where you are in a lair of metallic spiders and it starts off with a slow and creepy guitar riff from "Cry of the Banshee," but when you fight the queen spider the song goes full force, and its a creative use of the soundtrack to go with the action. If you don't like metal, you are going to hate this game, but if you even have a passing interest in metal, this is easily one of the best licensed soundtracks out there.
The single player campaign is relatively short for a sandbox game. It'll still last a bit and you'll have tons of fun with it, but it does end up on the short side.
Side missions aren't all that great. Racing missions would be fun, but you only have one car to race against and the racers AI is pathetic and you'll almost never be overtaken or lose unless you make yourself lose. The hack and slash missions are *occasionally* fun, but can get extremely repetitive if you do them in heavy doses. Other missions are fun the first couple times, but get way too repetitive and they don't have much variety. Doing side missions earn you fan tributes, the games currency, and you can buy upgrades from the Guardian of Metal (Ozzy!! :B) with them but sometimes its annoying and feels like a chore to do these; and some upgrades you'll find simply aren't worth it.
Although the game makes up by being consistently fun, there's not as much variety in the overall package as there could have been. Compared to other sandbox games, there's a limited amount of secrets or objects in the world and while its still fun to explore the map and find these as well as get yourself into hack and slash battles; it would've been nice to have a bit more to do. The single player missions also sometimes don't have a whole ton of variety, but once again they make up by being consistently fun and exciting.
WHERE THE F**K IS AC/DC!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! I WANT SOME GODDAMN AC/DC!!!!!!!! HOW IN THE NAME OF GOD CAN YOU EXCLUDE AC/DC FROM A GAME LIKE THIS??? THERE IS NO EXCUSE!!! PUT SOME GODDAMN AC/DC IN HERE. >:(
Sometimes the game can be a bit frustrating, you'll occasionally find yourself near death even when you've only been hit a couple times and you'll die a lot, and sometimes it can get to a point you'll snap your controller in half. The aforementioned spider lair took me about 18,000 tries because of the queens baby spiders which are hard to shake off, and because there was one specific moment where she sent out 3 underlings and the underlings were for some reason rigged.
The controls, while for the most part tight, can be a little cumbersome most notably when trying to do combos. Combos are often delayed and feel clunky, and are hard to pull off because the game doesn't always register certain moves.
DAMMIT SCHAFER, GIVE ME SOME AC/DC!
The Bottom Line
So yeah, Brutal Legend, one of the best games of the year. It has great music, it has a great story, its innovative, its bloody, its funny, its entertaining, it looks awesome, it sounds awesome, it plays awesome, its awesome. If you don't like metal music or the culture of it, you won't like this game, but if you like metal music and the culture its established than Brutal Legend is an excellent tribute and parody of it all. The voice acting is superb and the writing is sharp and entertaining, and almost every idea poured from Schafer's mind is a good one and clicks with the games design and style well. The multiplayer is great and the game pulls off certain gameplay elements that have never been successfully done on a console before. What faults it has are often buffed out but the excellent design and gameplay, and this is yet another golden gem from the one of the most brilliant minds in video game history. Check it out.