Throwback Thursday: Brutal Legend – One man’s journey through the Metalverse
The Metal Gods cannot save you from spoilers within this article! But fear not, I’ll try to avoid major spoilers because I want you to play this game.
You are Eddie Riggs – the greatest roadie in the business. Able to fix anything, build anything. Unfortunately, Eddie is stuck working for, perhaps, the worst metal band of all time – Kabbage Boy. The roadie is shown an unjustly low amount of appreciation and respect, especially considering all of the work he puts in for these ingrates. Anyway, It’s the night of Kabbage Boy’s latest concert and as usual they suck. Watching from the shadows of backstage, Eddie notices that the biggest dickhead of the group has ignored Eddie’s warning not to climb on the set during the performance due to its instability, yet here he is showing off. Unsurprisingly, the lad takes a tumble off the edge of the set surely doomed to die; Well, that’s what would have happened if Eddie wasn’t there. The roadie does whatever a good roadie can and bursts onto the stage to save him – which, sadly, is at the cost of his own life as the set collapses upon Eddie.
Blood runs down Eddie’s corpse and into the mouth of his belt-buckle. A very metal-esque situation occurs (that I will not spoil here as I genuinely believe you should play this game and see it for yourselves) that results in Eddie being transported to a strange land – a beautiful, mysterious, world of heavy metal known as The Brutal Land. Regaining consciousness, Eddie immediately finds himself in peril as three strange, crimson robed monks advance upon him wielding ceremonial swords poised to strike.
After dispatching these monks and a host of other horrifying demonic beings, Eddie meets up with Ophelia and takes quite the shine to her. Ophelia helps Eddie escape the Temple of Ormagoden where he awoke, and leads him to her basecamp – Bladehenge, the home of a small resistance force lead by Ophelia’s colleagues Lars and Lita Halford. Eddie learns that the resistance are fighting against the tyranny of glam-metal loving General Lionwhyte and the General’s puppet-master, the Emperor of the Tainted Coil – Doviculus.
Friendships will be forged, friendships will fail, and friends will be faced on the battlefield as fate decides that now is the time to reinvigorate an ancient, powerful force. A friend to none but their own, The Drowning Doom. The Drowning Doom does not care for the antics of Ironheade or the Tainted Coil; they simply wish to see the world drown in sorrow, and will present Eddie and his allies with a significant challenge, one he must face and stop at all cost.
Over the course of this game, along with Eddie, players shall uncover the main character’s true identity, battle the forces of evil and hair-metal, and bring glory to the world of metal! Of course, one cannot expect Eddie to do all of this alone, even if he is the fabled ‘chosen one’. Featuring a legendary all star cast from the annals of rock history, the world’s greatest roadie must ally himself with the real world’s greatest rock musicians and restore harmony to the metalverse. To tantalise you good people, let’s see if you can guess who may voice the following characters: The Guardian of Metal, the Kill Master, The Baron, Rima, and last but not least – Kage the Kannonier. We’ll get onto the voice cast shortly.
Brutal Legend is not simply a hack and slash game. Oh no. There are other gameplay elements at hand here. For example, throughout the game, players will find relics. These relics require Eddie to perform a guitar solo in order to raise them and learn their secrets. Players will notice that these solos are very much akin to Guitar Hero’s note-matching gameplay, though they do not require as much effort as a round of Guitar Hero does, and are so much shorter. As the game advances, Eddie will learn more solos that will allow him to perform multiple feats of awe. Some solos will assist Eddie in battle, while others will simply aide in his journey across the land. Other relics may reveal unto Eddie hidden musical tracks that can be played via his car – The Deuce, offer up a number of fire tributes that are used as this game’s form of currency, or simply present him another portal to the realm of the Guardian of Metal.
Scattered among the main story missions are several stage battles which see Eddie defending his stage while attempting to amass fans from “fan geysers” by constructing merch booths, all while attempting to complete certain objectives before a battle can be won (such as destroying the enemy’s stage). The player, still as Eddie, will enter a real-time strategy-esque style of gameplay as they must create units and command them to follow him to a particular location, attack enemy units / their stage, or defend a certain area. As mentioned previously, Eddie has the use of a variation of guitar solos that will massively help him in defending his own stage or destroying the enemy forces. One particular solo I recommend is the Facemelter.
There is a multiplayer element to this game, but only those of you that enjoy the aforementioned stage battles will be likely to play this often. The only real unique aspect to the multiplayer mode is the ability to play as one of the villainous factions from the main game – the Tainted Coil, or the Drowning Doom. Just as when you are playing as Ironheade, players will take control of the leader of chosen team – Doviculus for the Tainted Coil, and… someone else for the Drowning Doom (look, I don’t want to spoil the story for you, okay?) in their attempt to overwhelm their foe(s) and bring glorious glory to their team. The multiplayer mode can be played both online against other players, or offline against computer controlled opponents set at one of the five levels of difficulty available.
As with most open world games, Brutal Legend provides players with a good number of side-missions to take part in and complete. These side-missions can range from competitive racing against a demon called Fletus, assisting Kage the Kannonier with hitting his targets, or just helping out your various headbanger associates. For the collectors out there, you are tasked with scouring the entire landscape in search for special relics that will grant Eddie additional fire tributes, as well as a number of historical monuments that reveal more about the game’s backstory – a fantastic piece of lore. These relics and monuments can be found all across the Brutal Land, so I hope you enjoy driving.
The journey will take Eddie through a myriad of locations that could have easily been pulled straight from the cover of a heavy metal album, such as Bladehenge, the Cleave of the Impaler, the Sea of Black Tears, Thunderhorn, the Temple of the Zaulia, and Death’s Clutch. All of which are breathtakingly beautiful in their own ways. For all the times I have played through this game, I am yet to feel bored with what I see. The scenery is truly spectacular.
As players progress, they unlock a number of combat units that Eddie shall utilise during the game’s Stage Battles. The Headbangers, the Razor Girls, Bouncers, Roadies, and Metal Beasts. What can I say? This game is metal as fuck, it’s amazing! But while Eddie and the forces of Ironheade have their legion of loyal supporters, so too do the Drowning Doom, Tainted Coil, and the Hair Metal Militia. Brutal Legend sees to it that you have an endless supply of monstrous creatures to slaughter in order to cleanse this most holy of unholy, badass lands.
Saying that this game is a metal album cover would actually be sufficient when discussing the artistic aspects, I reckon, but as this is a review I suppose I best expand this section a little.
First off, just look at the images included in this review. How fucking awesome are they? What you are seeing here is but a fraction of the beauty offered in this game. The outstanding nature of this game’s appearance is to be expected as the world of Brutal Legend is heavily inspired by the work of Frank Frazetta (a terrific artist. I highly recommend you check out his art). Sure, there are the occasional issues with clipping through models, or models vanishing when struck rather than exploding, for example; but remember, this game was released in 2009, and considering the fine work done on the rest of the graphical aspects of this game, one could easily forgive these minor indiscretions.
Nobody can fault the character designs presented to us in Brutal Legend, let’s put that out there right now. From the common headbanger, to the Ratguts of the Drowning Doom – the designs are truly inspired and do not feel out of place within this Brutal Land. I mean, some of the enemy units look truly disgusting, which is exactly what they should look like, right? So many subgenres of rock are represented throughout this game and its grand cast of characters – such as General Lionwhyte’s world of glam-metal (also known as hair-metal, which is most definitely evident when you see the his faction), the Drowning Doom’s appearance based heavily upon death metal, and the Tainted Coil, whose style is based on industrial and alternative metal subgenres ( which include more than their fair share of BDSM and gore aspects). Seriously, those of you with a weak stomach may be slightly grossed out by this game.
Finally, let’s talk about the scenery in this game. It is, in my opinion, astoundingly beautiful. It really is enjoyable to drive from one location to another just to explore this wondrous world – from its serene fields of green that are littered with awe inspiring sculptures and remnants of the past; and dark, gloomy dead lands littered with the fallen; to a tropical-esque jungle, with so many more unique locations that are sure to please anybody who absolutely loves album artwork. Props to the world designers, and all of the asset artists that have worked hard on making this game so very stunning.
Okay, I won’t leave you hanging any longer; let’s get onto the cast. Naturally, the first person you’ll recognise will be Jack Black. If you couldn’t tell that was him from the featured image of this article, well, damn; but you will have surely spotted him before you actually play the game as he appears in a rather good pre-main menu intro scene (guys, I’m very fond of the labour of love that went into making Brutal Legend). As mentioned above, this game is stacked full of voice talent from the world of rock music, and joining Jack in this metalverse is the iconic Ozzy Osbourne as The Guardian of Metal; Rob Halford as General Lionwhyte and The Baron; the late, great Lemmy Kilmister as the Kill Master; Lita Ford as Rima; and Kyle Gass as Kage the Kannonier. See, what did I tell you? Epic. It won’t take fans long to notice another well known voice among this list of greats – the wonderful, talented Tim Curry adds his rather distinctive voice to the game in the role of Doviculus (who else would it be?). From the world of voice acting comes Zach Hanks as Lars Halford; Kath Soucie as Lita Halford, Jennifer Hale as Ophelia; and finally Alex Fernandez as the stage manager Magnus, all to provide voices for the integral characters in this story. I mean, c’mon now – if this cast list alone doesn’t make you want to play the game, I don’t know what would.
Brutal Legend allows those of you that find swearing offensive or distasteful to censor out those particular words, a feature that I actually quite like to be honest. I have only played the game with the censor on once, as I don’t really give a toss about hearing swears, but I must say that there is a certain enjoyment that comes from hearing those familiar bleeps. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but it can occasionally add to the fun, don’t you think? Mostly though, I enjoy the game best when it is in its full, uncensored glory.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention one of the greatest parts of this game. The soundtrack is completely on point in Brutal Legend with each song being selected by Tim Schafer and the game’s music director Emily Ridgway. You cannot expect the game to have the list of cast members it has without making use of their music – The game boasts an impressive number of metal tracks that will have fans feeling as though they have gone to metal heaven. So many of the greats have a place within Brutal Legend‘s soundtrack, though some players may notice that a certain few iconic bands are missing – sadly, this is due to various legal, and personal reasons. All in all, however, I don’t believe you will be left disappointed with what you have in this game. It is very almost a masterpiece.
Notice that I say “very nearly a masterpiece“. Not all games are without their faults, and Brutal Legend is no exception. The factor that bums me out about this game is the fact that once you’ve completed the main storyline, there isn’t really a tremendous amount for you to do. Sure, there are a the side-missions, collectables and such, but everything seems to fly by rather quickly. I don’t know, really, I suppose that’s to be expected with every game, but I just wish there were a few more additional hidden storylines, as the side-missions don’t really follow any real narrative. I also need to mention Eddie’s inability to jump. I really dislike the inability to jump, something just feels missing to me. Other than these two nitpicks, nah, I’m all good. It’s a beast of a game.
Anyway, let’s not end on a negative. Brutal Legend will always belong in the list of my favourite games, I am yet to tire of playing it over and over again. If you’re a fan of rock or metal music, you should definitely pick up this game straight away and get on it. Hey, even if you’re not really a fan of this type of music and just enjoy Jack Black’s style of humour – check it out. You can all do a lot worse than Brutal Legend, let me tell you that. If I had to give it a rating out of five, I would give it:
4.2 / 5.
So, there we go. That was my first ever Throwback Thursday review, I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have writing it. Let me know in the comments if you have played this game, and if so – what you thought of it. Oh, and before you go, make sure you check out the original story trailer for the game. Cheers, everyone.
Brutal Legend is currently available on the PS3, XBox 360, PC / Mac / Linux.
Image Credits: Double Fine Productions.