Saturday, October 24, 2009

Brutal Legend

Game: Brutal Legend

System: Xbox 360, PS3

Release: ROCKtober 2009

Brutal Legend is a tough game to categorize. On the one hand it is an open world action/adventure game. Players drive around a huge expansive landscape while fending off attacks from enemy factions or wild panthers with laser beam eyes. (That’s right. There are panthers that shoot lasers from their eyeballs!) On the other hand Brutal Legend is an RTS. During “Stage Battles” players summon and command a small army to victory. So I guess the game can be categorized as an Action/Adventure/Open World/RTS. Wow that’s a few more slashes then usual.

Originally all the categories made me nervous. So many games attempt to be a jack of all trades, but end up being a master of none. Thankfully this is not the case with Brutal Legend. The Scrum production process employed by Double Fine—and should be used by all developers—ensured that each section of the game got the attention it needed. The action moves are solid, driving around the open world is fantastic, and the stage battles are fun and easy to manage. There is even an excellent story to tie all theses features together.

Players take on the role of Eddie Riggs. He is the ultimate roadie who is disgusted with what has happened to Heavy Metal. He dislikes the Linkin Park like state of rock, but he still does his job—to ensure the fans get a good show from the group on stage. During a show the stage collapses on him spilling blood into his belt buckle. This so happens to be a magical belt buckle that awakens an ancient god who teleports Eddie to a Land of Metal.

As soon as Eddie wakes up there are dudes out to kill him. So in self defense he picks up a giant axe and magical guitar. This also introduces players to the basic action segments of the game. Wielding the axe allows Eddie to hack, slash, and block his way to victory. When playing the guitar Eddie can attack using lightening and fire. He can also perform bitchin solos that produce a variety of results. Solos can summon a burning zeppelin that crashes to the ground, or melt the faces off your enemies. They also interact with environments and help Eddie command his army during stage battles.

The first solo in the game summons the Deuce. This is the car Eddie uses to travel about this fantasy land of Heavy Metal. He uses the car to escape the army of bad guys who have been trying to kill him since he arrived. With the help of the female protagonist—Ophelia—Eddie is filled in on all the latest gossip. Apparently humans are slaves, and demons control everything. There is, however, some hope. Eddie’s love of Heavy Metal has given him the knowledge and ability to unlock this lands secret magical power. Combine this with an army, and humans have a fighting chance.

The first handful of missions involves recruiting an army. Eddie finds head banging dudes, gun touting chicks, and a gang of healing bassist. Each mission is heavy on the action adventure, and also opens up the world for exploration and side quests. The unlockables discovered throughout the world will either power up Eddie, or tell an interesting tale detailing the history of this fantasy land. The handful of side quests are fun, but can get a bit tedious by the end of the game. Eddie either shoots, ambushes, races, hunts, or marks targets for mortar fire. My personal favorites were the races and hunting missions. I found the rewards very useful and fun.

Once players have completed some side quests and recruited some soldiers the RTS side of the game kicks in. Stage Battles pit band against band. The goal is to recruit enough fans to build an army, capture key points, and destroy the enemy’s stage. To capture a point players must destroy all near by enemies, and Eddie performs a solo to build a merchandise booth—fans like T-shirts! Each merch booth increases the accumulation of fans. The more fans you have the faster you can build an army to capture more merch booths and destroy the other bands stage.

During these battles players control Eddie. He still has all his usual moves, which can be utilized to help his summoned army. Melting the faces off of the enemy infantry can really turn the tide. Solo’s are also used to buff and dictate orders to units. To facilitate controlling your army Eddie is given the power of flight. This allows him to zip across the battle field and command numerous squads. Eddie is defiantly the most powerful during Stage Battles.

After completing the first Stage Battle against a boss the game settles into a rinse and repeat pattern. This isn’t bad because each repeat is in a different area with new recruits and enemies. Oh how I loved the Kiss Army recruits. Sexy Amazon Kiss girls that ride large fire breathing beasts are always welcomed. The new areas also introduce more of the same side quests and unlockables. Eventually Eddie and his crew fight there way to the doorstep of the evil emperor Doviculus for a final show down.

The story for Brutal Legend works well with the universe and has an all star cast. Jack Black voices Eddie, and he is joined by Ozzy Osbourne, Tim Curry, Kyle Gass, David Cross, Steve Agee, Brian Posehn, and more. The plot is cliché and predictable, but it is done well. The characters are well developed, the writing is good, and there are plenty of twists and funny moments. The world is also engrossing with outstanding visuals and a nice variety of environments. Finally Brutal Legend delivers numerous games into one package. It is rare to find one game where you can race, shoot, hack/slash, explore, and control an army. There is even an RTS multiplayer mode. Take on human opponents in a Stage Battle to find out who has the best Rock crew. All in all Brutal Legend is a fantastic game with few faults and tons of content. Snerts Snazzy Score grants this video game an impressive 4.8 out of 5.

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