Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brutal Legend Review

The story is as old as time itself; a roadie gets blood on his cursed belt buckle, which is actually a demon, sending him back in time to an age when the gods of rock ruled the world. Okay, maybe it’s not The Iliad, but under its half parody of/half love letter to heavy metal coating, it’s a timeless retelling of a hero’s journey - a man finding his place in the world. There have been plenty of fantasies about lowly bumpkins with surnames like Skywalker and Potter who discover their destiny to save the world, but these blokes were always unremarkable and just got lucky in discovering their destinies. They didn’t have much in the way of character traits beyond whining and being unlucky as children. Eddie Riggs, Brutal Legend’s plump protagonist, is far richer a character, with genuine enthusiasm for what he does. i.e. being a roadie and living the rock ’n roll lifestyle from the sidelines. When he’s summoned into this world, all the skills that have made him an invaluable albeit invisible part of the industry manifest themselves in ways vital to saving the world. It sounds formulaic, but there are twists along the way, and the story is told with such enthusiasm that one can’t help but get wrapped up in Eddie’s struggles, "which some would call hellish. But I have to admit, is kind of badass."

Brutal Legend’s presentation is astounding - one of the best portrayals of a virtual world in a videogame. As Tim Schafer said, "if it looks like it would belong on a metal album cover, we can put it in the game." This is well presented in the environment, littered with runes of the ancient titans of rock. A giant wall of speakers, a skull for a moon, and a hive full of metal spiders that spin metal webs (of course) are just sample of the landscape available. Brutal Legend has the best art direction of any game since Okami. I wanted to take a screencap every 10 seconds and frame it on my wall. All this is aided by phenomenal voice-work by a star-studded cast, and one of the best uses of licensed music in a game with an epic soundtrack consisting of over 100 songs. All metal. All the time.

The game is also hilarious. The opening cutscene alone had me laughing more than any game since GLaDOS met her fate at the end of Portal. A good example ofBrutal Legend’s unique brand of humor is its mockery of the videogame convention where players must choose to accept a mission or deny it, knowing full well that the game will only progress with "accept". After being briefed on a mission, the game pauses at the most inopportune moment only to ask whether to attempt the mission now or later. I recommend choosing "later" just to hear the great dialogue as Eddie has a last minute change of heart and tries to weasel out of his world saving duties.

Read the rest of the review here, at TGR.

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