As a gamer who also happens to be a huge heavy metal fan, there are few games that are as satisfying to me as Double Fine's Brütal Legend. If you haven't heard of Brütal Legend, it's a third-person action-adventure/RTS game inspired by the genre of heavy metal and it is the topic of this week's edition of Metal Monday here on TAY.
Upon it's release, Brütal Legend was met with mediocre reviews which praised the story and characters but harshly criticized the gameplay, mainly the inclusion of RTS elements. Today I'm here to talk about how this game is actually one of the best games I've played. This game has a unique spark to it that I have never encountered before so let's dive in and take a look at what makes Brütal Legend so special.
I don't want to give away too much in case anyone is interested in playing the game, so I'll just give a basic summary. Minor spoilers ahead! Brütal Legend follows the story of Eddie Riggs, a roadie in the modern day who is dissatisfied with the state of modern metal. Riggs is transported to a heavy metal fantasy world where he finds himself spearheading human resistance against enslavement at the hands of the demon emperor Doviculus.
The story has great pacing as it escalates from minor skirmishes to a full on campaign to liberate the world from Doviculus' grasp. There a several twists throughout the course of the game that change the mood of the game and keep the players on the edge of their seats.
A great story would be nothing without a great cast of characters. Brütal Legend delivers a wide range of interesting and well written characters and some superb voice acting from veteran voice actors and heavy metal legends. The game stars Jack Black as Eddie Riggs but also features the talents of Jennifer Hale (KOTOR, Mass Effect, Halo 4), Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead), and Lita Ford (The Runaways).
The game follows the walking embodiment of metal that is Eddie Riggs who is brought to life by Jack Black. He knows how to kick ass but he also knows how to make people laugh. Most importantly he cares for his comrades and he is dedicated to the liberation of humanity. Riggs' merry band of metalheads is rounded out by the righteous Lars Halford and his little sister Lita, the dark and mysterious Ophelia, the healer known as the Kill Master, the bad-ass biker known as The Baron, and the KISS-meets-Amazon Rima.
Along the way they must battle against the glam metal sellout General Lionwhyte and the evil and sadistic Doviculus. While Lionwhyte is just a puppet of Doviculus, he presents an interesting character. He represents those humans that would betray their fellow man in order to save their own skin. Doviculus is a wonderful villain. He's cruel and sadistic, but he is also cunning, swift, and merciless. Tim Curry does a wonderful job of bringing the twistedness of Doviculus to life.
How could I mention great characters without talking about The Guardian of Metal. Let's face it, The Guardian of Metal is just Ozzy cast as himself but that doesn't mean it's not freaking awesome! The Guardian is a hilarious character and couldn't have been played by anyone else.
Brütal Legend features a pretty sweet original soundtrack composed by Peter McConnell, but the real star is the wonderful licensed soundtrack made up of 107 songs from various heavy metal artists. From classic artists like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, to thrash legends like Slayer and Anthrax, to melodic death metal masters like In Flames and Children of Bodom, to alternative metal acts like Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, this soundtrack has it all! Almost every sub-genre is represented.
The various factions within the game are represented by a select group of genres. Riggs' camp known as Ironheade rock out to classic metal, N.W.O.B.H.M, and thrash. The emo/goth faction The Drowning Doom are represented by black metal, death metal, and doom metal. Doviculus' demon spawn known as The Tainted Coil choose industrial metal and alternative metal.
Brütal Legend is a game packed full of references. The world and lore are inspired by metal culture, album artwork, and lyrical themes, but it's the various little nods to metal bands, songs, and personalities that really give them that extra edge. This references come in the form of character names, achievements, mission titles, and locations. Lars and Lita Halford are named by combing the Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and metal legend Lita Ford with Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford. Eddie Riggs' name comes from combining the name of Iron Maiden's mascot with the name of the guy who designed it. Achievements such as Flowerslave (Powerslave, Iron Maiden), Painkiller (Painkiller, Judas Priest) and Euthanasia (Youthanasia, Megadeth) are references to famous metal albums. The location on the map known as the Screaming Wall is a reference to the concept of the wall of amps made famous by bands such as KISS. In the game you can learn various guitar solos that do all kinds of crazy things. One such solo is called Bring It On Home which lets you drop a giant lead zeppelin down on your enemies. It is aptly named after the Led Zeppln song of the same name. All these little details might just seem like fanservice for metalheads but their execution adds a wonderful level of polish to the game.
Major conflicts in the game are fought out in stage battles. In a stage battle, the opposing sides vie for control over fans which are used to pay for various unit types. in order to gain more fans the conflicting factions must construct merch booths. One side wins when they destroy the other side's stage.
While many criticized the inclusion of this RTS system, I found it to be fresh and enjoyable. I also felt like it fit in well with the flow of the game. I have never seen gameplay quite like this before. It was executed very will in my opinion and doesn't deserve the harsh criticism it gets.
Brütal Legend is a game that is definitely worth play whether or not you are actually a fan of metal music. Of course, being a metalhead definitely makes the game that much more enjoyable, but the game stands well on it's own because of the interesting gameplay, great storytelling, and wonderful characters. I highly recommend playing it if you haven't.
As per Metal Monday tradition (yes I said tradition even though this is only the second Metal Monday), I leave you with a playlist to listen to should you desire. Today I leave you with a selection of songs from Brütal Legend.
Children of the Grave by Black Sabbath
Metal Thrashing Mad by Anthrax
Kickstart My Heart by Mötley Crüe
Angels Don't Kill by Children of Bodom
Thus Spake the Nightspirit by Emperor
Through the Fire and Flames by Dragonforce
Beautiful People by Marylin Manson
Love Dump by Static-X
Metal Monday is a weekly column by DisturbedShadow on TAY that discusses all things metal. Every Monday morning, we will discuss something metal related and leave you with a playlist to listen to. If it has to do with gaming you'll find it on TAY and if not you can find it over on TAYClassic.