Developer: Double Fine / Publisher: Electronic Arts / ESRB: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes) / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $19.99
Today on Pay Rent or Pass we are checking out the brainchild of Tim Schafer and his new studio Double Fine, its Brutal Legend for the Xbox 360. First thing you need to know about this game (if you don’t already) is that its the latest creation of one the greatest video game storytellers to date, Mr. Tim Schafer. Schafer is responsible for creating some of the most entertaining gaming stories over the last few decades from titles like Monkey Island, and Full Throttle, to Grim Fandango and Psychonauts. Brutal Legend is a highly anticipated title and many gamers have been looking forward to this one for a long time.
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Brutal Legend is the story of a Roadie named Eddie Riggs voiced by Jack Black, who is killed during a show and transported back in time to help save the world. The world he ends up in is made up of different sections of the rock world. Heavy metal, emo, glam rock, and industrial make up the factions in Brutal Legend each with their own armies and areas on the map that represent the best, and sometimes worst, of the genres of metal. The game takes place in an open world environment that players are able to explore and tackle side missions as well as the main storyline in the game. The main story in the game is hilarious and is one of the main driving forces behind why this game is so damn good. Players will be cracking up from start to finish in Brutal Legend thanks not only to Tim Schafer and his amazing writing, but also to the great cast of characters contained within. Obviously, story can only carry a game so far so the question becomes, how does the gameplay hold up in Brutal Legend? Well the answer is simple… it rocks. Its something completely new that I can assure you, you’ve never played before. It blends two very different genres together…hack and slash with real-time strategy. At first it was a little jarring to realize that most of the main storyline was going to be taking place in this new format. It can be a little overwhelming having to worry about building up an army, controlling points on the map, as well as getting into the action yourself to assist your army. That’s only at first. After I got a few battles under my belt I quickly gained a firm grip on the extremely unique gameplay and its a helluva lot of fun. While in these battles players are able to combine Riggs with his troops and team up for special attacks which are a great addition that keeps the gameplay fresh in these sections. On top of the main story line, players will find a bevy of side quests that include everything from racing to locked-in-place shooters. It’s amazing how many different genres of gameplay are packed into this title, even more amazing is that they all work. While there are plenty of side quests it would have been nice to see a little more variety; a lot of the times you will be attempting the same side missions in different places on the map. One place the game does offer up some variety is in the upgrades department. Throughout the game, Eddie will gain fire tributes by completing quests and pleasing the titans. These tributes can be traded with the Guardian of Metal who is played by the rock lord himself Ozzy Osbourne. There are quite a few upgrades, from new guitar strings for your guitar, new moves and abilities, paint jobs and even different attack modes for your axe, the game doesn’t lack in the upgrades department. On top of a stellar single player experience the game offers up online multiplayer. Once online players can select any of the different factions to battle as, and against, in the mish-mash style of RTS and hack and slash gameplay. It’s fun taking control of the leader of the other factions and using all of their special abilities as well as combining them with their units to see all of the great team up combinations. My time with the game online was short but a lot of fun. I did run into a few matches where the lag was pretty bad, but the rest of the time everything ran pretty smooth.
The graphics in Brutal Legend are a sight to behold. It’s extremely obvious the team at Double Fine spent a very long time creating the world Brutal Legend takes place in. The amazing art direction and very unique character design make playing through this title a visual delight. Every area in the game reflects the nature of the faction living within it. I was blown away with how different each of the areas in this game actually are. Unfortunately the game suffers from a lot of pop-ins, things will load right in front of players and it can become a little distracting. Other then the pop-ins though, the game is full of plenty of eye pleasing scenes.
Brutal Legend has an amazing cast of characters and the voice actors selected for the game really bring them to life. Jack Black is a little more subdued as Eddie Riggs but it’s a fitting style for the character and it’s one of Black’s better performances. Rocker legends Lita Ford, Lemmy from Motorhead, Rob Halford and even Ozzy Osbourne all are major characters in the game and do a great job with their characters. Legendary character actor Tim Curry plays Doviculus the Emperor of the Tainted Coil and puts out a performance similar and superior to his role as the Darkness in the movie Legend. The soundtrack in this game is extremely impressive, with around a hundred different songs from a wide selection of well known rock and metal bands, the soundtrack sets the tone for the game. On top of the great soundtrack over 70 minutes of original score was created for the game by long time video game music composer Peter McConnell. All of this combined makes for a quite impressive presentation of sound in Brutal Legend. The only part that doesn’t work in the sound department is that sometimes lines of dialogue will overlap one another and things will get repeated over and over. It’s frustrating that a technical flaw undermines the great quality of audio work in the game.
This was one of the MAJOR issues I had with Brutal Legend. There are so many different genres of gameplay in this title that the controls are overwhelming to learn and master. The hack and slash part is simple enough but then combine in unit management, movement commands, special abilities and the like and things start to get a little complicated. It’s a lot to take in at first but after a while I got the hang of it and to my surprise, I started to enjoy the controls. So overall it’s a little frustrating at first but once you get the hang of it, it’s very rewarding and a lot of fun.
Tim Schafer and team at Double Fine have crafted a memorable, unique, visually pleasing game that, in my opinion is one of the best games released in 2009. The story is entertaining and hilarious, the voice acting is superb, and the gameplay is unique and pretty solid. The game doesn’t get everything right, but is entertaining enough to be able to look past the small shortcomings. Hopefully when the sequel is released… the end of this one is left wide open… the small problems will be fixed. Brutal Legend for the Xbox 360 is a pay.