Electronic Arts, was once known by gamers as evil and inspirationless. EA milked us with sequel after sequel and didn’t care about its audience at all. Luckily, two years ago that started to change and the company released some cash for new IP. Games like Dead Space, Mirror’s Edge, Army of Tow and Spore arrived on store shelves with the help of EA’s marketing train. And that’s also how Tim Shafer’s latest game, Brutal Legend, came to exist.
To immediately get to the point: Brutal Legend is quite a special game and “special” is thank to its developer. Tim Shafer, the creative mind behind games like Psychonauts and Monkey Island, is quite a strange figure with a funny look at the world. Brutal Legend lets you taste the world of Heavy Metal and does this in a succesful way.
The story is about the world’s best roadie, Eddie Riggs, fantastically cast by Jack Black. A roadie is a technician who travels along with the band and makes sure all instruments and other important elements are in order and tested. The game starts with a gig where Eddie gets burried under debrie and dies. Our of his cold body, however, some blood drips onto his “magical” buckle which makes him resurrect in the magical world of Heavy Metal. Not bad for a roadie…
First of all, Brutal Legend is a hack&slash game. With a couple of buttons you perform violent combos and with the help of your guitar you cast one spell after the other, just like Harry Potter. Butchering your enemies gives points that can be used to upgrade your axes, combos, guitars and life points. All hack&slash!
However, a returning problem of the genre is that these types of games tend to become boring after a couple of hours. Brutal Legend solves this issue by adding a second genre. Indeed, RTS influences in a hack&slash game… Throughout the story you get more men under your influence, including the hilarious headbangers and the shotgun firing rockchick, which you can give simple missions. During some of these called “Stage Battles” Eddie and his army need to get as many fans to their side as possible and protect them. By means of simple commands as attack, defend, go to point A you control your troops. These battles require some tactical insight and bring good variation.
Still, not everyone will be happy with the RTS elements. Throughout its marketing campaign, EA has only shown the action-adventure side which made RTS-haters get a wrong picture of the game which consists for 30% out of RTS. Very surprising is how big the world in which Eddie Riggs ends up. It’s filled with life and has many varying areas where lots of things can be collected and rewards carefully looking around with guitar statues, deadhead temples and other metal inspirations. Next to that the multiplayer, for those that like Stage Battles, heightend the replay value of the game.
Brutal Legend is all about personality. Throughout the world you’ll meet rock legends like Ozzy Osbourne as The Guardian of Metal to Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister as the Kill Master. Thanks to Jack Black the comedy in the game is uplifted just that little extra more and the over 100 Metal and rock tracks deliver a suitable atmosphere.
Brutal Legend manages to display the Heavy Metal world in game form and even may bring people not familiar with the music genre to appreciate it. The world is filled with fantasy, even unique and contains a ton of artefacts linked to Heavy Metal. The hack&slash and free-roaming parts are very well worked out and fun to play, but personally I couldn’t really get to like the RTS Battle Stages. Tim Shafer finally succeeded to create a “commercial” game and I’ll keep hoping that EA can keep suppressing its urge for sequels to give games like this a chance.