Brutal Legend is a deeply weird game. Half real time strategy, half open world exploration, and a third half hack and slash action game, you could argue that there's just too much going on for any one game to handle. Then there's the story: you play as Eddie Riggs, superstar roadie to a sell-out pseudo-metal band that would prefer singing about girlfriends over the traditionally important things, like sonically kicking ass. An accident happens, and Eddie is magically transported to the primordial time of Metal, where humanity is held in bondage by the evil Doviculus and hair metal bands run rampant.
Like I said, deeply weird, and that is its saving grace. The writing is consistently hilarious. After a heated battle, Eddie asks his stage manager Mangus what he thought. "I didn't really see it," replied Mangus, "I was like, in the kitchen? I'm kind of a nervous eater." Chatting with each of the characters after a mission became one of my favorite things to do, as I was sure to laugh at more than one of the responses.
The problems start and end, unfortunately, with the game play. Eddie himself moves stiffly, Eddie's car "The Deuce aka The Druid Plow" does not control tightly enough to maneuver around the game's busy -- but awesomely heavy metal -- geometry, and then comes the big surprise, this is actually a Real Time Stategy game, ala Starcraft or the Red Alert series.
Yep, it's an RTS. Throughout the course of the single player campaign you are taught how to gather resources (from geyers of fans), summon new units from your home base (the stage), and give them orders, ("Everything in that general direction must die!"). It's not pure RTS, in that you play as Eddie and can join in the battle as a hero unit, but in the big set pieces of the story, it's you trying to collect enough fans to make the units you need to stop the enemy from collecting fans, and eventually take out their stage.
RTS games on the console have a rough history. The console's controller can be an awkward way to give the detailed instructions this style of game often requires. In the case of Brutal Legend, it does come up with an adequate control scheme, but it has a definite learning curve. Perhaps because of the control limitations, your ability to fine tune the control of your units is very limited as well. The staged RTS battles become exercises in gathering a large number of units, and sending all of them at a particular target. The game also doesn't do a very good job of telling you everything you can do. I had no idea you could summon and drive The Deuce during an RTS battle, which is unfortunate because when I did learn that it made them way more fun.
They did get fun. The last few battles were big enough, and I had a good enough grasp of the control scheme, that I got that fun, frantic feeling I always get from Starcraft. It's a very simplified RTS, but not without merit. Check that, it's a simplified RTS, open world, racing, tower defense (Did I mention that?), heavy metal, hack and slash, action game. It's both funny strange and funny ha-ha, and the soundtrack is incredible.