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Review: Brutal Legend

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 by

Rarely do we see a big-budget title hit the bargain bin as fast and hard as Brutal Legend. To say this game deserved better is an understatement. At its debut, Tim Schafer’s epic was swept up fast in the holiday tide and then ultimately ignored. Not even the marketing might of Jack Black could wrestle enough attention to produce respectable sales. There is no other word for it than “crazy bewildering”.

Whatever the case, whatever the forces conspiring against it, Brutal Legend simply failed to spark the kind of interest it needed to shine. Which is a double-damned shame; because beneath that veneer of retail lousiness is a fantastic game whose triumphs greatly outweigh its shortcomings.

HEAD BANGER’S LORE
Brutal Legend’s world is deeply steeped in a thick stew of heavy metal theatrics. From the endearing characters to the hellish imagery and distinctive music, Brutal Legend succeeds in creating a rich realm unlike any other in video game history. Jack Black does a snap-worthy job of portraying Eddie Riggs as a really likable guy, and the rest of the cast are no slouches, either.

The dialog is ace and oftentimes funny as hell, never really taking a break from trying, even long after it has earned your attention. One might describe it as the video game equivalent of the Pixar experience… with the added frills of foul language and decapitation. Herein the presentation lies Brutal Legend’s greatest strength: A wit that’s hardened as it is adorable.

The soundtrack is a sweeping catalogue of heavy metal anthems, performed by a huge list of artists the likes of Manowar and Judas Priest. Even if metal isn’t your cup of tea, Brutal Legend incorporates these songs so well that you’ll surely find some appreciation for its wild brand of badassery. You may even eventually find yourself surrendering to the metal, a slave to the gods of rock. You may then, perhaps, become eager to belt out a facemelting solo and watch the faces of your enemies melt into puddles of, uh… liquid face.

It’s also possible that you may not.

IT WILL BOGGLE YOU WITH HYBRIDITY
Brutal Legend is, at face value, an action adventure game that centers around slaying stuff with your axe and bolt-spitting guitar. But soon enough it also introduces Real Time Strategy elements that attempt to coalesce with said action and adventure. The end result is that, despite being pretty solid, neither element feels completely fleshed out… most notably the RTS segments, which feel strange and clunky at first flight.

The RTS aspect can best be described as “streamlined” and simplified for console. It’s a bit odd, but also a valiant union of mechanics that should be lauded for its atypical approach. Whether it’s to be appreciated or not depends on your own personal sense of adventure.

To further muddle the mixture, much of the game is spent driving through a lumpy open-world landscape that will frequently throw your careless ass off course. Sure, the land is amply paved but it is also madness given form. While the car controls are admittedly pretty strong, they won’t stop you from getting frustrated if you don’t respect the road. Not even your seatbelt will save you from the supreme goofiness of Brutal Legend’s off-road mayhem.

SHORT AND SWEET
Brutal Legend, while made of all the things that make a game good, just doesn’t deliver the kind of mileage you’d be right to expect. The game provides a vast and vivid world to play in but does little to encourage exploration. The rewards for straying from the beaten path are not often worth the effort, and in that ethereal sense you are always urged forward. When the end arrives, it feels noticeably premature.

Expect to dump roughly ten hours into playing Brutal Legend’s single player campaign. Expect to spend even less time if you opt out of the elective (and oftentimes repetitious) side missions.

HOWEVER!
You can almost forgive Brutal Legend for being so short once you begin to flirt with its multiplayer component. The RTS elements that seem half baked in the single player campaign are zestfully brought to life online, giving those simplified mechanics some much appreciated depth.

Matches are reasonably quick and pack a good dose of intensity. For those willing to invest the time here, Brutal Legend can take on a whole new face altogether and in doing so be immensely gratifying.

JUST BUY IT AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS TO DO THE SAME
With the price for a fresh copy of Brutal Legend now firmly fixed at twenty bucks or less, there’s even less reason to pass up on this stellar title. It deserves to be experienced and the tragedy of its overlooked inception cries to be redeemed.

While it certainly has a modest share of irritations, they are all easy to forgive in light of Brutal Legend’s ultra-cool and slick-as-hell presentation. It’s also surprisingly touching; an impressive and refreshingly original experience you’ll be glad you didn’t miss.

Image Source: IGN

About the Author

Mark A. Brooks uses the A. initial in his name so as to seperate himself from the teeming legions of other Mark Brookses (there are at least 65,000 in the state of Michigan alone). Keep up with him on twitter, because why not. @unoriginalG

Mark A. Brooks has written 642 posts on Delta Attack
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  • Markham Asylum

    Nice review, Mullet. This game hadn’t been on my radar but now I’ve added it to my list.

    Heh, I liked the part about “liquid face” and the “Gillette” joke.

    • mulletsaurus

      For twenty bucks it’s not only righteous but thrifty.