November 15, 2009
No doubt everyone is well aware of Brutal Legend by now, as the Jack Black fuelled marketing machine was in full swing for months prior to the game's release. Something that is an unusual trait for a Tim Schafer game, which generally enjoy slipping into existence under the radar and then attaining a cult following over time. Still a rock-and-roll odyssey featuring Mr Black is surely onto a winner, especially considering the obvious love for the genre that has been bestowed upon this title. The real question here is whether the game, as with the source material, is going to be to suited to all tastes.
Tim Schafer, and Double Fine Productions, have always been known for creating games with a humorous streak and this one is no different. The behind the scenes publishing issues have also been well documented, but thankfully do not seem to have affected the end product in the slightest. The real key here is the fact that a game about metal, dedicated to metal and acting as the ultimate homage to metal, can still be great fun for non-metal fans.
Straight from the off you can see that this is nothing less than an over the top indulgence into everything that is great, and a little bit ludicrous, about rock. From the insane introduction, right the way through until the typical rock style ending, you can see the influence of hundreds of music artists on every single moment of the story. For people with only a slight interest in the genre, you would expect things to get tiresome far too quickly, but that never seems to be the case, as the story, voice work, world and soundtrack constantly throw up surprises.
The story is full of trademark humour and subtle references as you would expect, and the talents of Jack Black, Lemmy, Ozzy Osbourne and others bring the whole thing to life. You can really feel the genuine enthusiasm they have for the game and some of the obviously improvised dialogue is superb. Black plays Eddie Riggs, a roadie, who is transported into another dimension during a gig only to discover he is destined to be a saviour for the land. When your lead villain is played by Tim Curry, you just know that you are in for a delightful mix of evil and twisted fun, and he delivers on every front. As Eddie battles his way to glory through his own trials and tribulations, you cannot help but cheer him on and enjoy every bit of banter that he dishes out along the way.
The world that you inhabit is a vast open space full of things to see and do. Eddie can traverse the world in his hot rod, the Deuce, and also use it to mow down his foes or pump out some anthemic tunes. With twenty odd main missions and a bunch more side quests, you will have plenty to do. You can also hunt down collectables and upgrades for your weapons and ride while you go. Generally you can use your trusty axe to dispatch the hordes or foes that face you, or bust out your other axe (of the guitar variety) to cast a variety of spells with which to decimate your opponents. Who has not always dreamt of actually melting faces with an awesome riff? Well now you can.
While exploring and fighting your way around a gorgeous rock themed world is all well and good, the real fun comes when you step it up a notch and engage in an over the top boss battle. Each of them kick things up a notch and are always accompanied by a suitable song which really captures the mood. On the less entertaining side of matters are the game's stage battles which is where the RTS side of things kicks in. The real issue here is that the fights themselves seem strangely detached from the rest of the game and you can use the same tactics on pretty much all of them to achieve the same results. It was a neat touch to add them in there, and it does help to break up the gameplay, but it just feels that the ideas were never fleshed out enough to make it truly entertaining.
It would also make sense to question the relative length of the game. You could breeze through the main story in under eight hours easily should you so wish and it is only a few generic and - at times - dull side missions that help to flesh things out a bit. Thankfully you will be having too much fun just going along for the ride and if you take the time to truly appreciate all that the game has to offer, then it will be time well spent.
Heading online is where the RTS style of the game really comes into its own, as you can engage in team based rock battles with your friends and rivals. It would be a lie to say that the system was not still a bit restrictive, but at least it is something a bit different and can provide plenty of fun. The real problem is finding people to play against as the online population is hardly burgeoning, which is less than surprising considering the fact that most people will of signed up for a fun bit of hacking and slashing rather than an online rock RTS. Still if you can find some compadres and rock it up – you will have a blast.
On the achievements side of things Brutal Legend boasts a very solid list and one that is a nice blend of easy tasks and slightly trickier ones – plus who does not like the fact that some of the names are homages too? If I had to pick fault then I would say that a few too many points lean towards the RTS multiplayer side of things, whether it be online action or against the AI. The multiplayer action is somewhat of an acquired taste so forcing achievement hunters to pimp that mode out over a long period of time is a bit much. At least the difficulty achievements are stackable and you will not have too many issues snagging all of the solo tasks.
It is about time that some humour was injected into games again and this title does it superbly, with a sprinkling of wit, fun and brashness that will appeal to everyone. The rock theme may not suit everyone but it is hard to deny the overriding sense of charm that allows the game to shine. The RTS side of things is a bit more hit and miss, and means that the game loses focus at times, but when it is focused on balls to the wall rock horns goodness, then it truly succeeds.
With a truck load of classic tracks that were hand selected for the game, you really cannot go wrong here. Hell, it sounds better than most Guitar Hero games at times, not to mention the superb voice acting that is constantly drawing you in.
Nothing too outstanding in terms of cutting edge visuals but the game has a superb rugged feel to it that makes everything look exactly like it should.
A fun cross between an open world beat ‘em up and some RTS style goodness. The latter does not work quite as well as you would hope though, but can still be fun in small doses.
An ashamedly brash and funny game and one that strives to be entertaining all the way. This is a rock fan's dream and great fun for us mere mortals too.
A solid list that covers the whole spectrum of tasks within the game, but one that has a few too many multiplayer tasks considering the dearth of the online community.
You owe it to yourself to give this game a test drive at some point, just for the laughs if nothing else. It may be rough around the edges and have an RTS system that would confuse some people, but overall it’s a solid game that will entertain you time and time again.