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Brutal Legend (Xbox 360) artwork

Brutal Legend (Xbox 360) review

"Eddie Riggs is the world’s greatest roadie working for the worst heavy metal band. Following a stage accident, Eddie inadvertently summons the beastly fire god Ormagöden and is transported to a fantasy world of METAL. Brütal Legend’s opening segments are exhilarating. Eddie awakens in a temple surrounded by demonic monks ominously chanting unholy prayers. Taking a nearby gigantic axe, you then start cleaving enemies in two while the doomy riffs of Black Sabbath echo through the room. Mi..."

Eddie Riggs is the world’s greatest roadie working for the worst heavy metal band. Following a stage accident, Eddie inadvertently summons the beastly fire god Ormagöden and is transported to a fantasy world of METAL. Brütal Legend’s opening segments are exhilarating. Eddie awakens in a temple surrounded by demonic monks ominously chanting unholy prayers. Taking a nearby gigantic axe, you then start cleaving enemies in two while the doomy riffs of Black Sabbath echo through the room. Minutes later you’ll be given Eddie’s guitar Clementine, which has a variety of powers. Quick chords can fry foes with electricity while big, bassy riffs can cause the environment to crumble and shatter. By the time Eddie is riding down a collapsing bridge in the heavy rain smashing into enemies that get in his way, you’re feeling like this is going to be one sweet adventure.

It’s a shame that doesn’t last. Brütal Legend never rekindles the excitement from its stellar opening. From here the world opens up into a Norse-inspired landscape populated by demonic porcupines and other ferocious beasts that often end up becoming roadkill after meeting the bumper of Eddie’s car, Deuce. You’ll soon continue the story after meeting up with Lars Halford in Bladehenge. It turns out Eddie is some prophesied hero carrying the “power of the ancient Titans” (as you probably guessed, it’s heavy metal). Eddie promises to build Lars an army to combat the S&M-loving Emperor Doviculus, who rules over the land along with a flamboyant hair metal singer obsessed with money.

From here the game begins introducing its real-time strategy elements as Eddie “collects” the various units that we’ll be using during the game’s large-scale battle. It’s unfortunate because the RTS elements are not executed entirely well. Most of these recruitment missions involve using the individual units in very easy situations. For example halfway through the game Eddie takes a group of roadies to the Wailing Wall to snag gigantic amps. The climax of the quest occurs when Eddie’s squad is attacked by a deadly flock of seagulls, which are quickly and effortlessly dispatched by using a simple combo attack with the roadies.

Things pick up when the band battles begin. As Eddie, you can summon and give orders to various units like headbangers who attack by forming moshpits and bashing foes with their thick skulls or fire-breathing jungle beasts in KISS make-up. You’ll essentially need to complete two objectives each battle: take over fan geysers to set up merch booths and acquire fans, which are spent on units, and destroy your opponent’s stage. Individual units can be given separate orders and Eddie can perform combo attacks or play his guitar to buff units but all of this is very cumbersome and unnecessary. Enemies never spread their troops out, so it’s easier to just send a whole army to one fan geyser or enemy stronghold and then continually redirect them. Once you figure this out, the battles become pretty repetitive: summon rank 1 units, make merch booths, upgrade stage, summon rank 2 units, and so on depending on your progress in the story. Fortunately the Guitar Solo attacks unlocked throughout the game are awesome. By performing a quick Guitar Hero-esque button sequence, Eddie can cause a variety of effects and attacks like stopping enemy unit production momentarily or literally melting the faces’ of nearby attackers.

Outside of the main quest Brütal Legend offers a wealth of optional content, but very little of it is interesting or worthwhile. There’s an obscene number of secondary quests mainly because most of them are the same. The majority involve either racing or fighting small battles with a handful of allies. The open-world hub has tons of goodies to hunt down like electric fireflies obtained from jumping ramps, dragon statues, landmarks, and such. Most are simply to earn fire tributes, which you can exchange to the Guardian of Metal for various upgrades. Unfortunately many of the upgrades are unnecessary and expensive making the dull optional content an easy feature to skip. Only the dragon statues will likely lure you into searching the landscape, as they unlock health boosts for Eddie.

Really the only thing that prevents Brütal Legend from dragging is Tim Schafer’s humor. If you’ve played any of the other games Schafer has worked on, you’ll know what to expect: excellent dialogue, great comic timing, and humorous gags. For example when we’re introduced to the Battle Nun enemies early on Eddie announces that he knows that he’s supposed to think it’s just a nun but it’ll turn around and be big ugly demon. Surely enough it turns around revealing a face full of nothing but jagged, decaying teeth. Eddie then exclaims, “Aha! I knew it! Big ugly demon!” and then adds, “Kinda sexy though in a weird way.” Likely the effect isn’t as good in text and without Jack Black’s surprisingly entertaining performance (he’s thankfully not in his “raging lunatic” character he often plays). Brütal Legend also has some of the funniest facial expressions I’ve seen in a game thanks to the help of ex-Pixar staff.

I suppose something should be said about the soundtrack. Brütal Legend features tons of licensed tracks from various subgenres of metal, but the majority of it tends to be popular “classic” acts like Motörhead or Judas Priest and popular American thrash like Megadeth and Anthrax. Though some choices are questionable (Cradle of Filth? Manowar?), many of the songs enhance the aesthetics of the game. I couldn’t help but smirk when Eddie is caught stealing scaffolding and right on cue Ministry’s “Thieves” kicks in at the start of the quest.

Brütal Legend is a game with tons of great ideas, but frankly the game is bit of a mess in execution. It does not play as well as I’d hoped. If Schafer and Double Fine had stuck with making over-the-top, simple action quests like the game’s early moments, I’d have been a lot happier. The RTS battles are too poorly implemented to capture your attention for long, so it’s probably a good thing that the game barely lasts five hours. Schafer’s creativity and talent for humor are the best thing the game has to offer, and they kept me playing. Likely anyone who isn’t already a Schafer fan will have a hard time enjoying Brütal Legend.


Genj's avatar
Community review by Genj (January 16, 2010)

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honestgamer posted January 16, 2010:

Your review made this game sound so awesome. I was chuckling at the parts that you described as dull, such as setting up merch booths in a Norse-inspired wasteland. I think that I actually want to play this now... Not a bad review or anything. I think that I'm just the sort of audience this game was built for. I'll maybe pick it up when it's cheap.
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Genj posted January 16, 2010:

Well the thing is like I said Tim Schafer is a creative, funny guy. He thinks up great ideas, but they aren't really executed as well as they should be in Brutal Legend. As a result the game does sound a lot better on paper than in practice. If you don't mind the RTS battles being really easy, you'd probably enjoy it a lot, Jason. But yeah, I really couldn't recommend spending much on the game since its so short.
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zippdementia posted January 18, 2010:

You nailed the problem with Tim Schafer games, Genj. He's a great writer but NOT a great game designer. He was at his best when he was working with a staff of great game designers AKA Lucas Arts (circa 1980-90's).

Psychonauts had the same trouble for me. Schafer continually reused the same bits of very basic (and frustrating) platforming and fetch quests, which just doesn't cut it in today's modern gaming world.

We need a game, like you said, that is made up of awesome action sequences supported by Tim Schafer's dark humour.

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