Finished with my woman 'cause she couldn't help me with my mind
Thankfully the overused song in the title does not exist in Brutal Legend. Double Fine delivered this heavy metal inspired action game in 2009. It might not be fair to categorize it as just an action game since there are lots of elements from RTS, racing and even brawler games.
Eddie Riggs is our main protagonist who is voiced by and roughly modelled on Jack Black. Eddie is a roadie who gets involved with ancient Norse-like heavy metal mythology and hooks up with Ophelia, who is the story's love interest. The story takes place in a fictional heavy metal world which is an open world for Eddie to roam freely in his hot-rod. The plot revolves around a hair god who is terrorising the good folk of the fictional heavy metal world but whose name is never actually given. The story, what there is, is not really long. It has couple of interesting twists and even thought there is good amount of cheese in the telling. The ending is gratifying. Window was left open for a sequel which we most likely wont ever see. The plot itself is very funny in a typical Schafer way. Even my wife was laughing at the jokes. Which is said lot for a such a niche game.
Besides the Jack Black voice, the characters are voiced by real metal gods, such as Rob Halford, Lemmy, Lita Ford and Ozzy, not to forget the general bad guy Tim Curry who as usual does a great job. The amount of chatter and jokes across the game is amazing, except for the passerby brutes who always seem to be shouting the same thing. Also Mr. John Osbourne or Ozzy as most of us know him does a good job as a games shop keeper, Guardian of Metal. Would have not been necessary to have him comment on each freaking item though.
Graphically game is bit on the plain side. That is not as pretty as GTA IV to name one open world game. The open world is still a beautiful with its dark theme. The character models have their proportions in exaggerated shape. Men are long haired and muscular and ladies thin and pretty. Just like in real world. One the visual high points are the enemies. These never stop changing. All the way to the end battle game keeps throwing new monsters at the player.
Coming to the worst part of the game next. Namely the gameplay. The open world allows Eddie to travel and explore the world freely and game has a ton of unlockables and good number of side missions. Eddie's ride, The Deuce can be upgraded with different weapons and effects. A lot of time is used on the car and the environment is very forgiving for the speeding hot-rod. Works fine for the exploration and the racing side missions. The other side missions are not as smooth. Kill missions and the turret missions feel forced with no real relation to story. Not to mention the odd escort missions. Eddie is equipped with a Flying-V that he can use to "cast various of spells", or solos as game calls them. This is done by doing a short guitar lick in form mini Guitar Hero game. Fun at first, but no on the umpteen battle. Which comes to the other piece of equipment Eddie is carrying around. His battle axe, sharp bladed one. This can be upgraded, done combo moves and so on. Adding a good addition of brawler action to game. Shame the the enemies come too strong too fast for Eddie to be any good at it.
The so and so side missions, driving and the brawling had been decent had it not been the main battle mechanism. This is the RTS element. RTS of course stands for Real Time Strategy, shamefully there is not an ounce of strategy involved here. The bigger story missions are done in a stage battle. Magnus, Eddies stage manager is setting up a stage which is used as a home base. Goal here is to destroy opponents stage/structures. This is done by gathering fans that is used to purchase new team members (minions). Team members are again used to attack fan geysirs, which when conquered will of course give more fans. This itself doesn't sound too bad. It is just a shame that the execution does not work. To begin with it is easy to spam out lots of minions and make this charge enemy. Later on when more tactics is required this falls, hard. The assignment is done with the d-pad which uses the standard, stay/follow/attack/guard orders. Where it goes wrong is that there is no way of seeing what has been ordered. Also the minions need to be so close that they see what is assigned which starts to fall a part when Eddie gets wings and has ability to fly and assign targets from air. It is impossible to know which minions have seen the assignment. Assigning from individual level doesn't work either since Eddie's useless axe skills and spells are required in the battle, especially later on. All and all major disappointment. For a RTS player who is no stranger to these game I had to change the difficulty to easy. Or gentle as the game fitting calls it. The end battle would not have been doable without it. Strange to see Scafer to come up with such a mechanism that is so far from a fun experience that one can deliver.
Of to the best part of the game. This being the soundtrack. Game consist of more than 100 cleverly selected metal tracks. These for a metal head like me are a perfect match. These range from: Anvil, Scorpions, Running Wild and Coroner which represent different genres (and times)but certainly names that don't (shamefully) come up too often. To more known bands such as Black Sabbath, Manowar and Judas Priest which still leaves the most obvious songs a miss. Not to mention some more newer names as Mastodon, Deathstars and DragonForce. And lastly the more extreme genres such as black metal which is gets a fine recognition by having bands such as Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Tvangeste and freaking Emperor. This game has Emperor song on it! Songs can be listened while cruising around, which of course is done a lot. Songs can be changed in best GTA radio style. What also adds further praise for the soundtracks is how some some songs are fixed to certain action sequences. Such as Children of the Grave blasting through on the first action sequence is just kick ass moment. On this sense, on the selection and the placement this part would get a full score from me. Won't be the same for a non-metal fan of course. Also, it doesn't stop there. Game has more than 70 minutes of original music composed. Which is more low key tracks that are placed in slower pace sequences. While still keeping the metal theme with the "celtic" inspired themes.
Unfortunately, Brutal Legend didn't sell all too well. Fully understandable since the biggest flaw here is around the gameplay. This is a real downer to heavy metal fans especially being such a fan-service. Had it not just been for the idiotic gameplay mechanism. Schafer has also confirmed that there will be sequel.
The most important part of the game. IE the gameplay is broken but still I give the game a full score? This game did several things for me. It reminded of me of how much kick ass cheesy bands like Manowar are and what awesome memories this genre (of music) brings me by celebrating it in such a crazy way. I've been listening to heavy metal since I was 7 years old and will never stop. At certain age it is too easy to forget what an amazing range of feelings this music can be bring. For only that this game deserves a full score and for the fact that I am allowed to post this here:
So 5 stars for the idea and the theme. Shame that game is not too special.