Have you ever wondered how traveling through a visual representation of Metal iconography and “over the top” charisma would feel like? Well, Brutal legend should satisfy your curiosity.
Developed by Double Fine, this open world third-person action game presents one of the weirdest themes you could ever find in the media, because really: who would have ever thought to transpose “fantasy” rock lyrics and the cover art of several among the most famous Metal albums into a video game setting where black leather jackets and headbanging are the apex of etiquette and music holds real power?
Starring Jack Black as the protagonist (a roadie named Eddie Riggs, suddenly and mysteriously transported to the “Brutal Land” during the concert of a terrible band), the game twists all the tropes and clihès usually associated to Metal similarly to what the most delirious moments of “Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny” movie already did. If you like that kind of humor -based on exaggerations, extremely passionate tastes in music, music terms and idioms taken literally, and epic, unconventional quests built on caricatures and parodies- and you appreciate Tim Schafer's excellent writing, Brutal legend may very well be the comical game to bind them all.
On the gameplay side, I must say that Brutal Legend tries to be everything but excels in nothing. Don't get me wrong, though: despite throwing a wide amount of genres into the mix, all of them are solid and work perfectly fine, simply lacking the level of depth and refinement that a “specialized” game would have instead.
The core of the game is based on classic third person action combining axe chops, electric, fiery and “earthshaking” guitar riffs and powerful “solos” with peculiar effects to use either in battle or on the environment (my favorite is the “facemelter” one, killing every small enemy out of envy of your prodigious guitar skills).
Then there are “stage battles”, small RTS sections where two armies clash guided by your direct orders, inspired by your music and empowered by -literally- geysers of fans, attracted by the performance and the merchandise boots. Unlike what I heard around the Web, the tutorial explains adequately how to play during those events and they all provide a relatively easy challenge.
There are also several minor puzzle (à la Overlord), shooting and racing sections to gather “tributes” to the Metal Gods needed to upgrade your gear and you car, accompanied by a consistent but totally optional amount of collectibles - I'm sure there is no need to explain what they are about.
My only real complaint is that, despite the apparent variety, the many side missions are basically all identical and divided only by genre, adding a certain amount of repetitiveness.
In any case, the game never overstays its welcome by always balancing them with the main plot and by avoiding to last too long for its own good, making the whole a relatively brief (let's say... around 15 hours with almost all the side quests but without too many collectibles?) but satisfying experience.
This game would be meaningless without a powerful soundtrack, wouldn't it?
While there is almost no original track, know that Brutal Legend will satiate your rockin' appetites with plenty of top quality music, presenting lots of pieces coming from many renowned artists – among them, just to cite a few, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Manowar, Motley Crue, Megadeth and many more.
Rob Halford, Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne and Lenny Kilmister are even appearing as voice actors (sometimes, of their own selves)! If your appreciation of Rock does not shy away form its heavier edges and you are in need of a funny and not too challenging game, I can definitely recommend you Brutal Legend.