I’m not afraid to say I’m a fan of Jack Black. I find his predictable movies entertaining and his musical style refreshing yet obscene. Funnily enough, this is also the best way to describe Brutal Legend. Black voices (and looks suspiciously similar to) Eddie Riggs, the world’s best and most creative roadie who dies on stage while saving the life of one of today’s ‘rock stars’.
Crushed by a giant demon prop, Eddie is transported to another world; a heavy metal world populated by mythical beasts and characters you would expect from Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath album art.
As Eddie makes his way through the land, he must vanquish demonic enemies with his guitar, either with a powerful axe like attack or by strumming it to create bolts of lightning. Throughout the game you will also use your guitar to raise relics such as The Duece (your hotrod), open Motor Forges (garages) and unlock powers, combos and skills. It is your principle weapon and used extensively when in battle to control your legion of fans and loyal army of head bangers.
Whilst you can explore the world as much as you like, the game does actually have a plot. Basically you need to rid the land of an evil plague led by General Lionwhyte. From here a mythical back story unfolds and a wild adventure ensues.
Brutal Legend’s concept is solid. I like to think of it as Grand Theft Auto goes comic rock-opera. While it isn’t a controversial masterpiece like GTA, the free roaming experience of Brutal Legend is reminiscent of the game, especially when you stop your car to beat down monsters on the side of the road.
The whole game is based around heavy metal music, complete with an introductory movie featuring Black who takes you through a music shop to show you a mystical album. When he finally finds it, the game menu is shown, which is like flipping through an old record sleeve (Yes I just wrote a paragraph on the menu but that’s how much metal love has been poured into the game).
The comical characters are well drawn and animated while the metal inspired landscapes and overall art design are captivating. I seemed to spend much of my time looking at relics and icons of the land rather than stay on track and play the game.
More than just visually appealing, the mix of heavy metal themes and mythology coupled with voice acting of Jack Black make the game quite entertaining. With the musical nature of Brutal Legend being Black’s specialty, he truly brings Eddie’s character to life. Even cameos by Ozzy Osbourne and Motorhead’s Lemmy are done well and provide a little bonus fans.
Brutal Legend’s soundtrack is amazing, with music played during battles and while driving The Duece complementing the scenery and themes perfectly. More than just a few heavy power chords, the soundtrack contains classics from a long list of bands including Motley Crue, Motorhead, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and Tenacious D all blasted loud and proud across the land.
When I played the demo, I thought Brutal Legend was going to be more of an adventure game with hoards of demon bad guys attacking you followed by a boss fight. While much of the game is like this (but in a free roaming environment) the major battles require you to recruit head banging allies, build a stage and then direct your army to the fight. It essentially genre jumps from adventure to real time strategy, which I found really frustrating considering I can’t stand RTS games.
In the larger battles I had no idea what was going on. I’m fairly sure I didn’t even watch the main fight because I was too busy zapping people with lightning and rebuilding stages. At times I’d send reinforcements somewhere but then the fight was over and it cut to a cool movie.
I also found this problem with the mini-games. While the driving or shooting games were fun (even if they were easy) the Ambush games were confusing. The idea is to ambush a passing enemy patrol, but not only would the action start before the intro movie frames had left the screen, it was difficult to tell who the enemy was and where they were. In one Ambush, an enemy had run away from the battle area after his friends were killed. The fight music continued and it took me close to eight minutes to find him and enable me to move on to other things.
I also found many of the challenges simple and predictable. If I managed to die, it was a consistent indication that the end of the challenge was near. Also, the solution to a challenge might seem clear i.e. lightning bolt a monster so they land on a spike, but the game can be a bit slow and make you run around for a while before Eddie has a brain wave and says, “Hey why don’t you do....”. I was already doing that Eddie! Pay attention!
For me, the worst aspect to Brutal Legend is the RTS elements. I have little patience for them and never liked playing this style of game which wrecked the experience for me. I don’t like directing teams of attackers; I’d rather just smash it out myself, which is actually quite enjoyable when the game lets you. I felt a little ripped off because there was no mention of the RTS factor in the demo, just a whole bunch of demon beating and hot rod driving action.
That said, had I of known about the RTS elements I still would have bought the game (I got it on sale for $30), however my level of frustration and disappointment would have been low, if not non-existent.
6.5/10 - Brutal Legend is a good game but possibly a poor choice on my behalf. While the art and concept was a breath of fresh air and a well executed concept, the confusing battles and repetitive nature tends to bring the game down. While I’m likely to play Brutal Legend again soon so I can fully complete it, it’s not tempting me to stay up at night to get just that little bit further.