Having completed Brutal Legend, having experienced its lands and most importantly, experiencing its music, I have come to 5 distinct thoughts on the title. This is no review, but rather a mulling over of the title de metal!
The World: The land and inhabitants of Brutal Legend was something of a treat. Monuments and terrain, all inspired by some part of metal’s heritage. From the Wailing Wall to the Sea of Black Tears. The units themselves were classic parodies, from the Headbangers to the Fire Barons. All of them were touched with a loving pencil and brush. Though, as far as the world’s events went I found it to be dull and boring. After the initial two hours of exploration the world began to become increasingly empty and uneventful. Even the occasional skirmish or side event felt tacked on and plain. Never has such a beautiful and personality driven world been so horribly neglected! It was a real shame for me to drive around aimlessly (literally) from mission to mission, only to realize how shallow the world really was.
The Music: Music, music, music. Brutal Legend has music. Whether it’s during a tense main mission event or while wandering around the world, mission to mission, the game always had music. Better yet, it had a customizable playlist with a skip button. In essence, it was Burnout: Paradise. Better yet, it was Burnout: Paradise with a ratio favoring quality! Still, maybe it was too Burnout: Paradise, for the music was only playable and emittable while in or near my car, the Deuce. It was so disappointing to realize that I could not wander away from the Deuce with the knowledge that my heavy shreding would quickly silence itself. Worst was the fact that every event that caused me to lose the Deuce would, without a doubt, stop my music cold. Forcing me to summon the Deuce every time was cruel enough, but not keeping my spot was just inhuman. A form of novelty turned treaterous to its masters!
The Voice Acting and Story: The cutscenes were the perfection of the game. If there were any reason why I completed Brutal Legend, it was because of the mythos and the talent behind the voices. Even as a neutral to the, uh, talented Mr. Black I found myself loving his voice and vigor while playing lead rodie Eddie Riggs. He wasn’t alone, as he had a whole cast of talented voices to back him up. From Ozzy to his own partner from Tenacious D he was never short of others to form a chorus of amazing dialog. Add that with a story chalk full of delicious myths and legends and it was just pure extasy. If the harpies of the Odysee did indeed exist in the real world, this is what I’d imagine their banter would consist of!
The Gameplay: Probably the weakest point of the whole game, if not ironically, was the gameplay itself. Mucked up in a collision of Action meets RTS meets a “how to for dummies” book, the gameplay to Brutal Legend was the true definition of brutal.. in the negative connotation. The action itself was fine, if not limited. I could perform combo attacks and do special rifts. Fine and dandy. It’s when the other elements of the gameplay try to rear its head is where things became mucked up. The main story missions, band battles if you will, were the ghastly uprising of a RTS title that held Pikmin and Overlord beliefs but with a Dynasty Warrior spectrum. I collected fans, I upgraded units, I sent them to fight. Occassionally I could jump in to offer a quick moment of relief to overwhelmed troops, but more often then not I was watching from above, guiding units to the next position until my special moves cooled off. While not terrible, the mechanics of this part of the game were incredibly laiden with limitations and odd semantics as to how I could control the battlefield. While an interesting attempt to broaden a percetively action-slasher only title, if fell on its face with a thunderous thump!
The Deception: What was, more than anything, the greatest disappointment of Brutal Legend was how deceptive it was about the final product. From gameplay trailers to the product demo gamers were never informed as to the actuality of the title. Even taking a glimpse of the box will leave players with hints of a action-shlasher, but nothing else. In fact, gamers were lead to believe a whole different idea of the game. So, to find out about the purchase regretting RTS elements was a dire hit to my morale. Even the amazing parts of the game were not oblivious to the complete shock of the game’s true identity. The backlash has been so harsh that even Tim Schafer, in an attempt to save face and morale, has offered a guide on “how you’re doing it wrong”. While understanding as to the reason of its existence, I felt the guide was rather insulting. To think that some how, using the tools given to me, I was doing something wrong was incredibly crippling to my enjoyment. While not the first time this has happened (think Resistance 2), this is the first time in a while that a major, hugely anticipated multiplatform title has ever been so deceptive to its nature.
Brutal Legend, more than any game in recent memory, has torn my being. At one point I loved the story and dialogue, which is the epitome of comedic Schafer writing. Though, at the same time I felt the game was incredibly painful and tear enducing to have to plow through for progression’s sake! If only Schafer adopted Nintendo’s philosophy of “games that play themselves”. If only..