Saturday, 18 May 2013

Review: Brutal Legend (PC)

If Brutal Legend is remembered for one thing, I hope it's the intro scene and main menu. Jack Black walks down the street while telling the player about a secret thing. He wanders into a record store and pulls out an album. As if to hint at the metal within, the price tag reads $6.66. Pressing the start button flips open the album and it's off to the races.

Not since the main menu of Psychonauts, has a game been able to tell the player almost everything they needed to know about the game even before one second of the game has been played.

It speaks of metal, of rock, and of a fantasy realm where Heavy Metal illustrations are brought to life (though with much less nudity).

Originally released on consoles back in 2009, Brutal Legend recounts the tale of one Eddie Riggs. Killed at the beginning of the game and transported to a mystical realm of Rock, he becomes a central figure in the overthrow of the glam rock stylings of General Lionwhyte and the confrontation with the true evil, Doviculus.

Brutal Legend has never looked so good but its problems mostly revolve around having a big open world to explore, with neat sights to see and some great rock to listen to, but precious little to actually do. While the game reminded me a few times that there are other things to do besides the main story, I could've slid through the game without ever feeling the need to actually do anything besides experience the story, even though there are redeemable experience points that could be earned during side missions to spend upgrading Eddie's car, his axe and clothes, more powerful moves, etc. Played on the normal difficulty, there's never a feeling that you'll have to spend any time grinding for experience points to access the more powerful items.

That's actually okay with me because the side missions aren't interesting and the main story is a great tale.

While Eddie's combat options feel somewhat limited in comparison to most current action titles, that's off-set by the options that open up during the Stage Battles where Eddie needs to que up and order troops as the battle rages for fans and merch booths.

Hindsight is 20/20 but, man, playing Stage Battles with a 360 controller sucked. The feel of the Stage Battles is a real-time strategy played from the ground. Eddie's demon wings play a central role in zooming from location to location so he can order troops around effectively and with a mouse and keyboard the battles become much more manageable. I recall with the 360 version that I had to play each Stage Battle multiple times before squeaking by to advance the story simply because the controls kept tripping me up.

It was an easy frustration to overlook at the time because of the cool art design and generally humourous bent of the game (even if does take some pretty dark turns). Now, I don't feel frustrated and I appreciate the look and style of the game even more. Sometimes there are some really distracting graphical pops and twitches, especially with Lionwhyte's hair, but otherwise it's a fun game to watch.

I'll readily admit that I think Brutal Legend's style outweighs the substance of the game, but dammit, why should apologize for liking it more than I probably should?

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- So much style and personality
- Great soundtrack
- Stage Battles are so much easier with a mouse and keyboard

The Bad:
- Side missions mean nothing, which is unfortunate because the world is cool

Score: 8.5 / 10