|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Double Fine||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 13, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (2-8 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Travis Fahs
It's unfortunate that the biggest news regarding Brütal Legend this E3 was the lawsuit between Activision and Double Fine, because the game was shown in playable form for the first time, and it was easily one of the best games of the show. It's not hard to tell why Activision is experiencing some remorse after cancelling the game following the merger with Vivendi; the Brütal Legend kiosks were consistently packed in both the Sony and EA booths.
There's an honesty to the game that makes it stand out from the countless other titles at the show. Where most games these days are shoved through a focus group meat grinder until they perfectly reflect the tastes of 18-34 year olds that have nothing better to do than sit in market research sessions at the mall. Brütal Legend is Tim Schafer's tribute to the 13-year old inside of him; a willfully dated pastiche to everything that is heavy metal. That includes giant demons, battle axes, hot rods, and yes, even teased hair and makeup. Brütal Legend isn't so much trying to be cool as it is a loving homage to everything that we used to think was cool once upon a time.
The demo kicks off when Eddie Riggs (a roadie sent through time to the mythical land of Metal lore) finds The Separator, a legendary double-sided battle axe, perfect for hacking apart the minions of hell. The controls are pretty basic hack-'n'-slash, with some simple combos, and a button to fire elemental powers from Riggs' trusty guitar. At first this seemed fairly mindless, but even within the demo we saw things open up with more complicated enemy patterns, as well as new moves and combos to learn, and new guitar powers.
More than any other game we played at E3, Brütal Legend was loaded with cutscenes to break up the many diverse segments. These really brought the experience together with some really funny dialog and charismatic, likable characters. We're usually a bit wary of celebrity voice casts in video games, as they tend to be rushed, unenthusiastic performances. It's probably a testament to Schafer and the games writers that Jack Black and the other actors deliver top notch performances with a ton of energy. Even Ozzie Osbourne, who makes has a short role later in the demo, delivers his lines clearly and enthusiastically, sounding very far from his usually distant, muttering persona.
After a few battles, we raised relics from the earth and assembled "The Deuce," A top-chopped hot rod, with flames on the side, and chrome exhaust pipes that could belch the real stuff. The first driving sequence was a linear race across a collapsing bridge, followed by a fight with a 100-foot tall worm monster, but after a while we saw how the car and the on-foot sequences were better integrated. You can leave the vehicle at just about any time, and you can use your guitar to summon it whenever you need it.
Ozzy's character introduces the player to the game's RPG elements. Eddie can buy upgrades for himself, his weaponry, his car even cosmetic upgrades like custom paint jobs. We tricked out The Deuce with a pair of Gatling guns and took off on an escort mission where we had to shoot down demons on motorcycles. After this, things opened up a bit and we actually had to explore to find the way ahead, suggesting that this might not be the pure linear action game we thought.
It was a strong showing, for sure. The generous 30 minute demo packed an impressive amount of variety, even if no one particular gameplay element stood out. Brütal Legend is just a charming, charismatic game so packed with personality, it's easy to forgive it if the nuts and bolts aren't entirely original. We might be less forgiving if the game succumbs to endless repetition, but if the demo levels and Double Fine's previous game, Psychonauts are any indication, we aren't worried.
CCC Freelance Writer