|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 Jonathan Marx
Brutal Legend has a lot of heart and soul - unfortunately, the hybrid gameplay and lack of main-line content simply doesn't match the hype. Still, the setting, character design, music, and voice talent are strong enough that most gamers who pick up the title will enjoy their time with it. In other words, don't expect Brutal Legend to rock your socks off, but it's definitely worth a play-through.
I'm the youngest of five, born in 1978. As such, I was weaned on Black Sabbath, AC/DC, and Motorhead - heck, we even listened to a terrible Asian metal band called Loudness (I've still got Thunder in the East). Wanting to emulate the coolness, I spent hours laying in my brother Andrew's bed thumbing through his rather impressive vinyl collection. My favorite album - in terms of cover art - was definitely Dio's Holy Diver. That LP had a satanically delicious image of the Dark Lord himself strangling a priest in a stormy sea with a chain whip. I became even more entranced when my brother let me in on the secret that the font used to write Dio actually spelled out Devil if you looked closely enough.
Beyond the overtly dark nature of the genre, the heavy metal fantasy depicted in the album cover art was a completely outrageous mélange where anything was possible. Listening to the technically superior riffs and brooding melodies whilst reading through the liner notes sent me into wonderful, youthful daydreams - transporting me to a world where shiny, chrome dogs bayed at a blood-soaked moon and where muscled, axe-wielding warriors made the listeners of disco pay for their lame ways with their very souls. This same story is echoed by innumerable others of my generation.
It is from the nostalgia of such daydreams that Tim Schafer and Double Fine forged Brutal Legend. Setting out to create an over-the-top game world fueled by the awesome that is classic metal - before being tainted by hair-bands and synthesizers - the development team succeeded in realizing their vision. The setting in Brutal Legend, without a doubt, is the most satisfying portion of the title. From the amazing character design that liberally slathers on the chains, leather, spikes, and S&M to the shiny, metal-infused vehicles and environments, Brutal Legend looks like it was pulled directly from my childhood meanderings. As such, the imaginative visual presentation resonated with me.
However, while overall the game world looks great, it is mostly due to the wacky creativity - the game could have been a bit sharper as far as technical execution is concerned. You'll often see framerate hiccups and sluggish cutscene transitions. In fact, the entire presentation is held back by a fuzzy filter; I even have a friend who played the game say that Brutal Legend looked like a Wii offering. While I wouldn't go that far, the use of hyperbole is not surprising because the game simply doesn't hold up graphically when compared to other next-gen action titles. Technical issues aside, Brutal Legend still hits a homerun in terms of visual presentation by virtue of its intelligent, creative interpretation.
Moreover, presentation is bolstered by the utterly impressive sound featured in the game. The metal tracks on offer are not only awesome, they are incredibly varied and perfectly introduced to enhance gameplay. If you love metal, are remotely interested in metal, or even if you have no idea about metal, you'll be very satisfied with the tunes on offer. Even if you loathe metal, you won't be able to deny the sheer quality of the soundtrack. From Ozzy and Megadeth to Skeletonwitch and Ostrogoth, there's something for everyone (though I'm not sure how Def Leppard's Rock of Ages made it in). Furthermore, the talent-infested voice work found throughout the game will have you giggling and engaged the whole way through. The only aural downside is that catchphrases become annoying due to lots of repetition.