Video Game Review – Brutal Legend

I’ve got another video game review for you, and one for a game that’s actually rather current (having been released just over a week ago). The game is Brutal Legend, and it’s the latest game from Tim Schafer, who put out Psychonauts. I’ve previously covered news articles about the game’s trials and tribulations in coming to market. The question is, was it worth the wait?

Company Credits

Title: Brütal Legend
Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: Electronic Arts
System: X-Box 360 and Playstation 3 (I played the PS3 version)
Release Date: October 13th, 2009
Game Type: 3rd Person Action/Real-Time Strategy hybrid.

Available from Amazon.com

The Premise

Eddie Riggs (played by Jack Black) is an underappreciated roadie for the psudo-metal/emo band “Kabbage Boy”. When he’s knocked unconscious during a stage accident, some of his blood splashes on his belt buckle, which contained the bound demon Ormagöden, The Fire Beast. The demon transports Eddie to a heavy-metal world where he joins forces with Lars & Lita Halford and their metal resistance to fight the evil Demon Emperor Doviculus (Tim Curry) and his minion, the Glam Metal General Lionwhyte (Rob Halford of Judas Priest). To triumph, they will have to gather allies to them, such as the healer/bassist The Kill Master (Lemmy Kilmeister of Motorhead), beastrider Rima (Lita Ford of The Runaways), biker The Fire Baron (also played Halford), and the Guardian of Metal – who provides the player with weapon upgrades and new special moves (Ozzy Osbourne).

Content Notes:

The game did get a “Mature” rating from the ESRB for graphic violence and profanity. However, the profanity and the graphic violence can be turned off – the profanity will be bleeped out (and for subtitles, the swear word will be covered up by an PMRC “Parental Advisory” sticker). There isn’t any nudity, though Rima and her fellow beast-riders are very scantly clad.

The High Points:

Driving Eddie’s hot-rod, the Deuce, is fun, and I particularly enjoyed the racing missions and the escort missions (which is a rarity for me). The action missions in the game, and generally slicing the heck out of bad guys is usually pretty fun too.

The game also wears its metal trappings on its sleeve, hat, coat, and any other article of clothing that is outwardly visible. Aside from the various metal musicians in the game’s cast (all of whom put in excellent performances), the game has around 107 metal tracks representing most of the major sub-genres of metal, and featuring most of the significant metal bands. The exceptions being Iron Maiden and Ronnie James Dio’s solo work – though Iron Maiden is represented in spirit through Eddie Riggs – Eddie’s first name comes from Iron Maiden’s mascot, and his last name comes from the designer of Iron Maiden’s mascot.

The Low Points:

The storyline driving missions that aren’t escort missions are, unfortunately, not as fun as the other driving missions. There’s too much going on at once, making it difficult to navigate. Additionally, the game tries too hard to be immersive, which actually ends up kicking me out of the game (which I’ll get into later).

Probably the game’s main weakness is the RTS missions, which take up the majority of the storyline missions for the second half of the game. Early on they’re executed okay, but later they become a little less fun, and a little more tiresome, until by the last mission I’m desperately wanting to carve the crud out of some demons, and about to do so… when we start up another RTS mission again.

Oh, and there’s no jump button.

The Scores:

Originality: The game derives a lot of its inspiration from heavy metal music and album covers, but it does so without trying to be a marketing vehicle for a specific band – which makes it probably the only other game of it’s type (the other ones that come to mind are the various Kiss licensed games and CrueBall for the Genesis), and the only game that does it in this format. 5 out of 6.

Story: The story is, frankly, kind of shallow, but enjoyable. The only real “twist” in the game feels like it’s there because they felt like they needed a twist in the game. That said, the characters are very well written – particularly Eddie, who is always (like a roadie should) staying out of the spotlight and being an enabler for others. 4 out of 6.

Graphics: The graphics are alright, though there is some pop-up while driving, as well as some stutter when transitioning between areas. 4 out of 6.

Sound: The sound appears to be okay. I don’t have a cutting edge sound system, so I can’t let it cut loose, but what I’m getting on my TV speakers sounds fine. 5 out of 6.

Playability: As mentioned before, the hack & slash portion of the game is fun, the driving is fun, but the RTS could use work. 4 out of 6.

Immersion: Here’s my main problem with the game. The game tries very hard to be immersive, to the point of having an, essentially, nonexistent HUD. Now, I can cope with having the screen slowly turning red as I take damage, and turning back to normal as I heal back up. I’ve done that in a lot of other games, I can handle that here. What I do have a problem with is in the boss fights not having some sort of on-screen life bar or visual short hand to show how much more I need to wail on the boss to kill it. I have a problem with not being able to tell how close I am to destroying an enemy building in the RTS missions. I have a problem with having difficulty navigating because I’m stuck relying on turn signals in a very cluttered driving sequence. 2 out of 6.

Overall: I enjoyed playing the game, but now that I’ve beaten it (which I did in about a day), I really don’t feel any inclination to beat the game again – not even to go for 100% completion (and all the PSN trophies that go with it), nor to go online for multiplayer (as online multiplayer is the RTS battles). 3 out of 6.

In Total, Brutal Legend gets 28/42.

5 replies on “Video Game Review – Brutal Legend”

  1. GrimSean says:

    I really think that this is the most accessible of Schafer’s work since the LucasArts days, but it’s probably not his best (that honor either goes to Grim Fandango or Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge). Brutal Legend is a game that tries very very very hard to make you like it, and for the most part it succeeds due to the fact that you can tell it was made by people who genuinely enjoyed themselves making it. Jack Black (whom I think is at his best when voice acting) and the rest of the voice actors really make you feel for the characters, plus the dialogue is superb (“I shall now teach you of French Kissing”, “DECAPITATION!” and pretty much anything Tim Curry says). The story was pure cliche, but when you’re driving around in a land of cliche, fighting the cliched fight and wooing the cliched girl, it’s completely acceptable I cheered when Eddie pulled Ophelia out of the Sea of Black Tears a the end.

    Brutal Legend is a little clunky; it’s an alright action game, a decent driving game and a so-so RTS, but it’s got real heart and that holds it together. I definitely had more fun playing through it than pretty much any other game I can think of recently, and I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to recommend it as a rental.

    • GrimSean says:

      Also! Was I the only person who was surprised by how sober Ozzy sounded? If it wasn’t for the fact that I had been following the game, I would have thought that it was a really bad impersonator – there was no slurring at all!

      • I was rather surprised by Ozzy’s sobriety as well. Though, the way I figure it, if he’s reading (or singing) something prepared in advance, he can read it or sing it clearly. If he has to do something more off the cuff (like conversation, or an interview, or so forth), he slurs his words.

        Oh, and it bears mentioning, (and I forgot to say this in my review), that if you’re wondering which Jack Black performance you get in Brutal Legend – the Over The Top Tenacious D Show Jack Black, or the More Subdued School Of Rock Jack Black, it’s the latter.

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