Giant Bomb Review

275 Comments

Brütal Legend Review

3
  • PS3
  • X360

The heavy metal fantasy world of Brutal Legend and the characters that populate it are far more well-realized and engaging than the ambitious-but-flawed gameplay.


 The Guardian of Metal welcomes you!
It's pretty clear within the first few minutes of Brutal Legend that the folks at Double Fine have a deep, profound love for heavy metal. There's a reverence here, not necessarily for the reality of heavy metal, but for the gleaming, violent, sexy, and well, brutal power fantasy that a wicked Judas Priest album cover, and the contents within it, might inspire in a 13-year-old boy. And while heavy metal has a tendency to be pretty self-serious, Brutal Legend is anything but, taking all of the demonic imagery, S&M gear, hot-rod fetishism, closeted druidic fixations, and ultra-macho barbarian warriors, and blowing it out to its logical and absurd extreme. This is, far and away, Brutal Legend's biggest strength: its ability to be both giddily ridiculous and fist-pumpingly badass, often in the very same moment.

The gameplay, on the other hand, seems like a really odd fit for the subject matter. Brutal Legend goes in several different directions at once, trying to be a third-person action adventure game, an exploration-based, open-world driving game, and an action-oriented real-time strategy game in pretty much equal parts. Those parts aren't as fleshed-out and fun as they ought to be, and they don't always mesh together terrifically, either. Points are given for Brutal Legend's gameplay ambitions, and while it's never out-and-out bad, I often felt like I was tolerating the gameplay so I could savor the rich atmosphere and fast wit that carries it.

After a clever meta-intro featuring Jack Black in a record store, Brutal Legend tells the story of legendary roadie Eddie Riggs. He's the best at what he does, even when he's doing it for the snot-nosed, pierced-lipped, text-messaging poseurs currently sullying the sacred name of metal. Eddie's a man out of time, a leather-and-denim-clad road warrior that longs for a time when music was “real,” like the '70s, or the early '70s. So, when a nasty on-stage calamity ends up transporting Eddie to a fantasy realm that looks like a heavy metal album cover, or the last part of the movie Heavy Metal, come to life, he kind of just rolls with it. The world of Brutal Legend is a most fascinating pastiche of all things metal. It's a heavy metal fantasy, but one in which heavy metal music and culture as we know it exists as well, so it's not uncommon to see a thick-necked headbanger doing battle with some prickly, dangerous-looking beast.

Riggs teams up with a small band of humans living under the oppressive boot-heel of the behorned emperor Doviculus and his general, the lycra-and-leopard-print-clad glam rocker LionWhyte, and quickly finds that his skills as a roadie can be rather handy when it comes to waging an epic battle against the forces of darkness, which ends up more or less resembling a massive arena rock tour. The greatest joy I got out of Brutal Legend came from watching Eddie Riggs calmly acclimate to a foreign land that's still weirdly familiar to him during the first few hours of the game. The game definitely gets a little bit distracted by its own very dense and very metal mythology as it goes on, but that's countered by a simple and surprisingly sweet love story, and the narrative manages to stay engaging throughout.

 If only KISS actually looked like this...
I came into Brutal Legend kind of expecting Jack Black to be a bit of a liability as the voice of Eddie Riggs. Jack Black often has a hard time playing anything other than Jack Black, and it would've been easy for him to play Riggs as a loud-talking heavy-metal goofball, but he actually reins it in rather nicely, bringing just the right amount of working-man's matter-of-fact-ness to the role. Besides Black, the game's voice cast is packed with heavy metal luminaries, often playing quasi-biographical versions of themselves, most notably with Ozzy Osbourne as the game's merchant, and Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister as a shaman-type character called the Killmaster. Comedian and noted metalhead Brian Posehn also makes an appropriately baffling appearance as a master hunter, and Tim Curry kills it as Doviculus, bringing just the right amount of measured British malevolence to the role. The voice-work is consistently solid, though a fair amount of credit is due to the game's animations for bringing all the characters to life. I wouldn't call anything about Brutal Legend subtle, but there's an expressive quality to the meaty, caricatured faces in the game that really helps sell the dialogue.

While it wastes no time getting the story going, Brutal Legend eases you ever-so-slowly into its gameplay. The game starts off resembling a third-person action adventure game, with Riggs cutting down evil druids and freaky nun demons with his oversized battle axe and his trusty guitar Clementine, the latter of which shoots bolts of lightning at enemies when played. You can use the two weapons in concert to create a variety of combos, and you can unlock more of them as you progress. It's not long before Eddie assembles the Druid Plow (AKA The Deuce), a Big Daddy Roth-looking hot rod--complete with flames and an 8-ball gearshift--which you can use to travel from one mission to the next, and to generally explore the world as you please. Once you're out in the open, your guitar can also be used to perform solos, which can have effects ranging from unearthing hidden artifacts to summoning your car. As stunning and full of detail as the world is, the game doesn't provide enough motivation to go out and explore it. There are a number of side missions you can choose to take on, which will earn you money that you can use to upgrade The Deuce, your axe, and your guitar, but there's a real dearth of variety to the missions. Ambushing enemy troops and checkpoint-racing AI opponents repeatedly gets monotonous fast, and on the normal difficulty, Brutal Legend isn't hard enough to require additional upgrades, so it's easy to just stick with the story missions.

The game eventually grants you the ability to command other troops around, starting off with the grunts in your burgeoning army, the headbangers, whom you can give basic orders using the D pad. Later missions introduce you to additional units, like the Razor Girls, blow-dried, feathered-haired rocker chicks who have a basic ranged attack, and the comically big-handed bouncers, who serve as heavier melee muscle. Everything leads up to the stage shows, which is where Brutal Legend becomes a full-blown RTS. Though it's relatively streamlined, there's still resource management, tech tree upgrades, and nine different types of units to deploy, each with their own specific and unique strengths and weaknesses. You can still hack and slash away at enemies from the ground level during these large-scale battles, though Eddie can also sprout wings and fly, giving you a very necessary bird's-eye view of the battlefield.

 You can't go on tour without a proper tour bus!
The game introduces new mechanics and units all the way to the very end, but I found that the more involved the gameplay became, the less fun the overall experience was. Real-time strategy is a genre that has struggled more than any other to adapt to the limitations of console controls, and Brutal Legend is not the game to crack that particular code. I just felt like the controller couldn't keep up with the relatively frantic pace of the action, and trying to juggle the third-person and real-time strategy combat at the same time was a struggle. Also, for as much time as the game spends trying to acclimate you to the ins and outs of the stage shows, there are significant, meaningful mechanics, such as the ability to mount the stage directly for some last-ditch defense, that barely get mentioned. It seems pretty bold of Double Fine to incorporate such vastly different gameplay mechanics into a single game, though there's also the sense that perhaps there wasn't enough confidence in any one piece to let it carry the whole game.

In a way, the single-player game--which, if you stick strictly to the story missions, can be knocked out in around four hours--almost feels like a lengthy tutorial for the multiplayer, which breaks the RTS element out onto its own. In addition to the Eddie Riggs-led army of Ironheade, you can also lead Doviculus' fleshy, abominable army into battle, as well as the pale, gothy army of the Drowning Doom. There's a good variety of maps that you can play online with, but the same fundamental issues I have with the single-player stage battles still apply here, and without the story there to hook me in, I didn't feel terribly compelled to revisit it.

Brutal Legend is an intense, unique, and fairly bumpy ride, one that puts developer Double Fine's strengths and weaknesses in pretty sharp relief. The vision of this heavy metal dream world is strikingly rendered, and the comic timing is some of the best you'll find in a video game. The gameplay, as singular a combination of gameplay styles as it is, suffers from being a jack of all trades and master of none. Like most teenage metalheads, this game has got issues, but if you're willing to look past some very uneven gameplay, Brutal Legend will rock you. Hard.
275 Comments
Posted by OwnlyUzinWonHan

Oh boy, waiting for this to turn bad.

Posted by TomA

I think you need to like Jack Black AND enjoy Heavy Metal to fully enjoy this game.

Posted by donhonk

Shit storm incoming.

Posted by listerfeend

I'm still going to buy it. It's for you Tim Schafer.

Posted by LiquidPrince

Hmm. I might pick it up when it's cheaper.

Posted by Bigbombomb

Well I'm suprised…

Posted by LethalKi11ler

o that is really surprising :s 
But yeah I might pick it up just for Tim Schafer that guy deserves it!

Posted by Osphere
@Bigbombomb said:
" Well I'm suprised… "
Posted by handlas

kinda surprising that they didn't feel the need to give the game a score higher than they thought it deserved considering they were hanging out with Tim Schaefer and stuff.  Plus they seemed to initially be really into the game in the quicklook.  Perhaps that's a good thing?
 
oh well, one game to scratch off the buy list and put on the rental since there is enough coming out these days.

Posted by DanielJW

Surprising, but oh well. I bought and I'm having fun with it.  
 
Great review, a lot of good points in there. ^_^

Posted by Cheapoz

Wow, 4 hours?! Damn.

Posted by Legendary
@Osphere said:
" @Bigbombomb said:
" Well I'm suprised… "
"
Posted by Kryptinite

Yep. Seems spot on.

Posted by august

Ouch.

Posted by pause422

I saw this coming honestly. It looked like a decent pretty fun game, but after hearing more about the way the gameplay is all over the place, along with the short length of the game, I knew it wouldnt be as good as people had thought.

Posted by Jerr
@TomA said:
" I think you need to like Jack Black AND enjoy Heavy Metal to fully enjoy this game. "
Posted by RsistncE

Man reviews are ALL over the place for this game. It has all the way from 100 down to 60 (the GB review being the 60 and the single lowest score given). I can already tell this is going to be a game which polarizes gamers opinions...afterall it wouldn't be a Tim Shaefer game otherwise.
 
As for me, I picked it up today and so far it has been...fucking brilliant. It really is unlike anything I've played for a while and I've been having a blast. Next to Batman this is the best game I've played so far this year. Maybe I'll write my first GB review on it :D

Posted by WallacetheGreat

Sadly, I have to agree. :(

Posted by Brunchies

This at least Deserves a rent, Hope it sells a little more so it isn't a commercial bust. 

Posted by SuperfluousMoniker

After the Destructoid review I was kind of expecting this. It's a shame the RTS thing didn't work out so great.

Posted by TwoOneFive
o_O 
Wow im really surprised. 
Posted by SleepyDoughnut

Great review, Ryan. It had a nice pace to it and was quicker to read than many reviews are, while covering all the important information. A little disappointing to know that the game doesn't fit together as well as it anticipated, but I really like metal and the tone this game has, so I'm still gonna check it out.

Posted by Dan_CiTi

I agree with this and the Destructoid review. The game is wonderful, but certain flaws keep it from what it should be. It's worth playing for sure, but everyone will have problems with the interface and multiple gameplay systems at times that make a good portion of the gameplay frustrating or feel like a chore.

Posted by Boom_goes_the_dynamite

I am a little surprised, but not super duper surprised by this review.  I was always kinda iffy on the game, but only four hours for the story mode ouch, that kinda kills any chance of me getting it in the near future.  $60 is too much for my jobless self especially when it seems the story is what makes the game good but when the story is sooo short I just can't fork over that kind of cash.

Posted by Vance_Helsing

I was totally expecting this, after hearing what Ryan had to say every time the game was brought up during the Bombcast. Not at all surprised that this game got a 3 out of 5. But I'll still be picking it up sometime soon. The fantastic soundtrack & voice acting is what's drawing me in, not the gameplay.

Posted by mikecardii

Usually I find Giant Bomb staff reviews to be spot-on, but unfortunately, this is where our tastes diverge. I've been playing it for a little while and I thoroughly enjoy this game. At least 4.5/5. Oh well. Still love you guys Giant Bomb.

Posted by SenatorSpacer

This saddens me greatly :( Oh well

Posted by PureRok
@Legendary said:
" @Osphere said:
" @Bigbombomb said:
" Well I'm suprised… "
"
"
I'm not.
Posted by JackiJinx

I won't read this until I've played a decent amount of the game, but I shall say that although our opinions will most likely differ since I have an unfair adoration for Schafer games, I shall respect the difference...possibly while silently grumbling something about appreciation of genius.  
 
The weekend won't come soon enough.

Posted by coldmilk

maybe when it's $20, the four hour length is an incredible turn-off for me

Posted by HypoXenophobia

3 out of 5 isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It's just hard to recommend over other great games. I feel Ryan conveyed that it was still a competent game, so I don't see how it's worthy of say "Ouch." While I personally wasn't going to pick up the game anytime this year, it seems like a decent romp to go at when the price lowers.
Posted by TooWalrus

This is a bummer, it's like the first Giant Bomb review that I've wholeheartedly disagree with. I'm having a great time with the game, the RTS aspect is cool. Maybe they should have let Vinny review this one... meh, I'm not going to tell to tell them how to do their jobs. Ryan, I respect your opinion.

Posted by Nadril

Good review. Disapointing, as I was really excited for the game today but after reading reviews I've decided to put off buying it or wait for a rental. :(

Posted by DavidSnakes

I kinda felt this was going to be the score.  The gameplay never looked that sharp

Posted by RedFive

I still love you, Giant Bomb, but you are wrong on this one! I put the game in straight away when I got home today and only stopped several hours later to check the internets, finding this review. It made me sad, if only because many people will not buy Brutal Legend as a result. :(

Posted by cstrang

This is pretty much a spot-on review.  I think a 3/5 is a but harsh, but the game is all over the place.  It's slightly repetitive and I was disappointed when it turned into an RTS.  I just want to cut dudes.  I want to cut dudes with lots of different axes.  I want to have a lot of different combos so I can cut dudes in different ways.
 
The open world is huge, as promised, and it's relatively cut to explore.  I'm disappointed in the way both the collectibles and the mission markers were done, as the color scheme is so pastel-y that you can't really see them.  I was hoping for more of a Batman: AA way of collectibles.  That way I'd have a chance of finding them all.
 
The Schafer charm will work magic for you.  It's the driving force for you to finish the game.  I guarantee you won't be addicted because of the gameplay, but because of the humor and the characters.  If you had an interest in this game, at least rent it.  Give it a shot.

Posted by Bigbombomb
@PureRok said:
I'm not. "
That's surprising!
Posted by Metric_Outlaw
@coldmilk said:
" maybe when it's $20, the four hour length is an incredible turn-off for me "
I got it early this morning and I still haven't beaten it. The only break I took was to pee and eat a pancake. Maybe if you skip all of the dialouge and never do a side mission it can be a four hour game but I've gotten way more than 4 hours out of this. If you were a fan of any of Tim Schauffer's other games dont let any reviews stop you from getting this game. Its honestly been worth it to me as a Schaffeur fan.
Posted by turbomonkey138

Now we see who are the GB fan boys who were hyped when GB was hyped and now won't buy the game becuase of this review . In my opinion i never was going to buy this game becuase of jack black ..... sorry it had to be said

Posted by megalowho
@Tallica9000 said:
" @TomA said:
" I think you need to like Jack Black AND enjoy Heavy Metal to fully enjoy this game. "
"
Not necessarily - I think you just have to value certain aspects of game design highly (atmosphere, story, sound, art direction) and be more forgiving when it comes to core gameplay mechanics. 
Edited by demonbear

Is it me of Ryan just told a couple of times that Metal is for kids?? come on....the guy listens to pussy techno music and hip hop and he's gonna take a piss on my music, insinuating i should've start listening to indie rock because im 30?
 
Fuck you Ryan Davis, yeah you heard me.
 
Btw this game looks like a rental....

Posted by tactis

yeah not too surprising short campaign and the RTS seemed like a real downer to me.

Posted by mikecardii
@turbomonkey138 said:
" Now we see who are the GB fan boys who were hyped when GB was hyped and now won't buy the game becuase of this review . In my opinion i never was going to buy this game becuase of jack black ..... sorry it had to be said "
 
This has been mentioned in many reviews, but Jack Black is extremely (for him) subdued in this game. JB is a bad reason not to buy this game.
Posted by Blueblur1

As expected. I might give it a rent.

Posted by SoulEdgeSlayer

Meh, guess I will wait, but the very second it hits the $30 price point, it's mine!
 
Good review. I learned things about the game that hadn't been discussed before, or at least I hadn't read about them.

Posted by Light_Bahamut

I am actually really surprised at the quality of the comments on this review. I was expecting nonsensical trolling, but it is totally civil. Thank God for the Giant Bomb community being made up of pretty chill people for the most part. Also, great review. 

Edited by artofwar420

I'm gonna get because is Double Fine. Any other studio wouldn't get my money, why? Because I love the way Schaffer can do funny, genuine funny. I don't mind having another "Psychonauts" (gameplay not so hot) but-the-rest-is-worth-it game. 
 
None of my opinions towards this game have anything to do with Jack Black, in this game, to me he's just a voice over actor, no more. So that doesn't sway me one way or the other.  
  
I can't wait to start this game.
Posted by ep_driver

It's so horrible to be stoked about a game getting a low score (not that 3/5 is all that low on GB), but that's what I'm experiencing. I guess it's not all that odd that I'm happy it only got three stars when that's what I've been expecting from this game, of course I'm happy when something agrees with and reaffirms my viewpoint. Hurray for only 3 stars.
Posted by Quacktastic

From all the things I've seen, this review seems dead on.  It's a shame but I'll still play it.
What I don't get is all the high reviews that keep namedropping TS (which Ryan avoids) like they are just giving the game what they thought they were supposed to, without accurate or adequate criticism.

Posted by taco484

I've been thoroughly enjoying this game, a 3/5 seems somewhat harsh... but whatever, its certainly been enjoyable for me thus far, and it might be goofy enough to be the game that I actually play online regularly.
 
 
Also, Tim Schafer rules!