Brutal Legend User Review
It is an interesting attempt, to be sure, though seems to lose focus as it progresses. I’ll get to that later, as the idea behind it is far better than the execution. Now, my rating for the Sound portion is skewed because I adore Heavy Metal music. I want to acknowledge that, and let you know that if that type of music isn’t for you, the rest of the game is not likely to grab you. The music is glorious, with 107 different tracks from over 70 bands. This encompasses a broad range of subgenres, which will appeal to anyone that likes that style, and perhaps even outsiders can find something that they enjoy, as it isn’t all super-intense. The songs that play during campaign missions are usually well picked to fit the intended mood. The music, to put it simply, is wonderful.
This same quality carries over into the voice work. This is thanks in large part to the fact that Jack Black plays the lead role of Eddie Riggs. Now, he may not be the most high-calibre actor, but he is still decent, and his love of music is allowed to shine here. I actually have a slight problem with most of the roles that I have seen him play, as they seem overly exuberant and almost cartoon-like in their actions but that it toned down here, allowing for a more human experience. He’s backed up by a solid cast, with no major drawbacks, though the dialogue can get a bit corny, particularly with the way the writers have tried to mesh modern speech with ancient stylings.
Sound effects are not really a focal point. They are often played down and overruled by other aspects, and this is a complaint that I have to offer on the balancing of the sound in general. There are times when the voices can barely be heard over the soundtrack, though this is infrequent. The sounds also blend to become a discordant mess, and occasionally drop out. There are also times when the audio is out of synch with the action. None of these problems are especially common, though they do take away from this otherwise highly polished portion of the production.
It is a shame that the graphics do not really have the same sheen to them, but they are by no means terrible. The first thing to take into account is the cel shaded look of the game, which always appeals to me. This style seems often to be used as a scapegoat for less than stellar graphics, and that is proven again here. Some of the character models are exaggerated, including the main character, while others are quite faithful recreations of, may I say, Rock Gods such as Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford and David Bowie. But they are also blocky and, at times, poorly animated. Despite this, the characters serve their purposes well, and seeing these musicians represented really adds to the atmosphere.
The impression is also aided by the environments. Rather than trying to emulate any sort of realism, the landscape is made up of items iconic of medieval themes and metal music. It really is a strange mash-up of elements, but it works to give the game a unique flair. Whether it is amps sticking up out of the ground, giant crosses dotted about, or trees baring exhaust pipes as branches, it is rare to find something that takes itself so lightly. Beyond this, there is a great amount of variety as you unlock more of the island as you progress through the story. It opens with a large open plain, giving the game an open world feel, however this changes into more linear paths later on, and these range from snowy mountains to deep forests.
It all adds up to create an interesting look and feel. This is backed up by the creative enemy designs, but I will get into that in a moment. There are several drawbacks to the visual presentation of the game, in addition to the overall lack of definition. One is the occasional drops in framerate, which can result in mistimed button prompts when engaging an adversary. The other is screen tearing. No, it’s not as prevalent as in some games, but it is still present.
The reason that I wanted to get the technicals of the graphics out of the way is because the core of the gameplay comes from units. Yes, units. Now, it isn’t normal to hear of characters described in such a way outside of strategy games. And, Brutal Legend, surprisingly, is something of an RTS. However, it is so much more accessible than most because of the ease that is found in the campaign battles. You really don’t need to employ any real strategy, as you can often win by sheer brute force. It is not bad and helps as the controls are difficult to get used to consider the otherwise action based gameplay. However, because of this split focus, it really does feel as though some potential was missed. Neither the action nor the strategy feels as good as it could have been.
That being said, the controls are well implemented. X is a melee attack, while Square is a magical one and holding down Circle blocks (as well as rolling when moving the left stick while locked on to an enemy with L2). Triangle is a context sensitive button and R2 brings up the radial menu for the Solos that you have collected thus far. These have a range of effects, from powering up your allies, to dealing damage to enemies and summoning your trusty Deuce. Beyond that, all of the controls pertain to the control of your units.
This can actually be a pain, as it is apparently the focus of the game, but feels unpolished. Perhaps this is just because I have never been one for real-time strategy games, but it really didn’t gel with me. First of all, in a stage battle, holding down R1 brings up the unit menu, from which you select what units you want to purchase, and each of them have their own strengths, so you’ll want to take care to select the right type for whatever job you want them to do. L1 places a beacon, to which you can send those summoned units by pressing right on the D-Pad. Up asks them to charge forward to eliminate enemies in front of you; left asks them to follow you and down tells them to defend. These are all wide range commands, and are given to any units within range. However, you can select only a single unit at a time by holding down Triangle and proceeding to give them their orders. It’s a helpful addition, but one that I ignored in all but two battles.
The control scheme works well, but as I mentioned, the RTS elements threw me completely, and I usually ended up finding out the flow of battles through failure, then relying on brute force to win. The unfortunate part of it is that this is a very viable strategy to take in the campaign (the same cannot be said about the multiplayer). However, I mentioned the Deuce a short while ago. This is the vehicle that you will use to explore the land. It’s a necessary inclusion, given the size of the map, and thankfully very fun to drive about. As in most vehicles in games nowadays, L2 controls the brake and R2 the accelerator. L1 looks behind you, circle acts as the handbrake and the D-Pad controls the radio (sorry, Mouth of Metal). The vehicle, along with your weaponry can be upgraded in the Motor Forges that you will find scattered about the land, but this is par for the course in action games.
In combination with these, there are a number of other things hidden about. This ranges from relics, which add more songs to the radio to the jumps. Everything you do earns you fire tributes, which can be spent to upgrade and buy more items in the Motor Forges. In addition, the Solos mentioned earlier take the form of Guitar Hero styled rhythm segments in which you must tap the correct buttons. They are never difficult, which is good as it is most often in the heat of battle that you’ll be trying to use them. Further helping to keep the game feeling fresh, not every mission has you waging war. Instead, some of them focus on gaining more recruits for your army, while others set you alone on your task of battle, making it play like a regular action game. Still others see you escorting the massive tour bus and trying to keep it safe from attack by the minions of your enemies.
These missions all make some semblance of sense when put into the context of the story. It’s a decent enough story. Certainly different from most of what I’ve seen, but not at all spectacular. Eddie Riggs is transported to a land where Metal music is reality, and must fight for the resistance against General Lionwhyte. Yes, it’s clichéd, but the way it’s told, with comedy being at the forefront makes it feel engaging. In addition, may I just say that the opening sequence is without a doubt one of the most entertaining things that I’ve ever seen. Such a shame then that it is probably the best moment of the game. There are other, more emotional cut scenes, but there isn’t much to beat that for sheer entertainment value. Moreover, some of the things that happen just seem stupid; however, the graphical style helps to appease that part of my brain that makes me want to /facepalm at such moments.
Everything about the design of the game focuses on the fun factor. This is the best recommendation that I can give it. The campaign is short, easily being beaten in less than six hours if that is all that you want to do. I chose to find two thirds of all of the collectibles to be had, and this bumped my time out to over twelve hours, with still more to do. In addition, there is also a multiplayer, made up of Stage Battles. These can be played online, but also against the AI offline and I took advantage of this to try out a couple of matches. I found it to require more strategy than the story, though it was not really engaging enough as you start out with every unit and Solo type, which means that there is nothing to aim for. It is still fun and worthwhile checking out.
That is ultimately the best way to sum up the entirety of the game. Keep in mind that I would not recommend picking it up at full price, even with the originality of the title. Perhaps this is just because it wasn’t what I’d been hoping for exactly, but it not all of the elements come together properly. Still, Tim Schafer is clearly interested in giving the player new experiences. Double Fine have done a very good job on this game, even if it isn’t really top-tier. At $20AUD, I could hardly pass it up, and if you are able to find it at a comparable price, you can't go wrong.
Thankyou for your time and I hope that you found my words to be both informative and helpful. Until next time PSXE, Peace and Law be with you.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.