Brutal Legend PS3 Review
If ever there was a demo of a game that wasn’t a true representation of the finished product, Brutal Legend was it. The demo did show off that the game had its action, though what it didn’t showcase was that it was set in an open world and also had RTS elements. Being a hopeful sales attraction, shouldn’t a demo be a better example of what the actual game is all about?
At least the demo was true in showing that we have a buffed up cartoon representation of comedy actor (I beg to differ with the comedy part, Be Kind Rewind and Tropic Thunder were not funny in the slightest) Jack Black, complete with voice and all. The story sees Eddie (Jack Black) sucked into another world: a death metal inspired fantasy world, complete with the screaming vocals of heavy metal music. The story is amusing in parts and plot segments are made all the more wonderful thanks to charismatic cartoon-style character models (with expressive faces and eyes), as well as brilliantly done voice acting and a likeable cast of characters.
So, Brutal Legend may be an action game, though something that the demo didn’t even hint at was that the game is set in an open world and that it has a large amount of RTS sections. No doubt about it, it’s an interesting mix of genres, but it also has a crazy side to it, as well.
Firstly, the ordinary combat has Eddie fighting off enemies with a large axe and, of all things, an electric guitar. The combat itself isn’t as deep as, say, something like the Ninja Gaiden series, and whilst it does have combos it has nowhere near the almost infinite amount to remember of some games. The axe is used for melee attacks (pressing or holding the button for weaker or stronger strikes respectively), whilst the guitar allows for attacks from a distance, firing out an electrifying lightning bolt.
With the guitar, Eddie can also play solos, although this isn’t merely a case of entertaining appreciative ears, as they’re also there to assist you in your fight, as well. With one solo, for example, you’re able to summon your vehicle into the world, another can literally melt faces like candle wax, whilst many of them are also handy in the RTS sections.
Speaking of which, these RTS sections come as quite a surprise, particularly in the manner in which everything is presented. When the time comes for Eddie to lead his Ironheade army into battle, calling on units (as usual, they differ in their strengths and weaknesses) summons them from a stage, resources come in the form of loyal fans, which themselves are sourced from said stage as well as your own merchandise booths (these are built from geysers through a guitar solo), and victory often comes with the destruction of the oppositions stage.
The stage and your units are upgradeable, the former granting you access to stronger units and the latter making specific units more powerful. Upgrades obviously don’t come free, you’ll need a specific amount of fans to do so, meaning you’ll want as many merchandise booths as you can get your hands on.
The controls for the RTS sections are brilliantly intuitive and are a good example of a developer realising that a mouse and keyboard are a no-go, and then making great and sensible use of the limited resources of a console controller. Commanding units, whether as a force or an individual squad, is done through the D-pad, obviously with commands such as charge, follow and defend being at the forefront, whilst individual orders come through holding a button down. In a nice touch, you’re also able to double team with your units and use vehicles and a pair of wings (it’s a fantasy world, remember) to make haste around the battlefields.
Lastly, the game also has a rather dark and moody world to explore. Here, you can journey by vehicle, finding various things along the way, making exploration all the more worthwhile. There’s side missions to partake in, though they’re not as varied as they could have been and will prove too repetitive for some, but completing them will earn you additional Fire Tributes (on top of those from the completion of story missions), though, which can be used to upgrade Eddie, his vehicle and his weapons at the Motor Forges (manned by Ozzy Osbourne, both his voice and his likeness intact).
I’d like to go into great detail about Brutal Legend’s online multiplayer modes, though this PS3 version is pretty close to broken at the moment. I tried to get online but failed: the game seemingly struggles with the matchmaking and then decides that the connection is unstable when it does eventually match you up with someone. I did play the mode in single player, though, as the game allows you to get some practice in against the AI and, if only it worked, I could imagine it being a lot of fun online (not to mention something to add to the lifespan, as the main story happens to be pretty short), with tacticians battling it out to destroy each others stage.
Visually, the game has a gorgeous art style and a varied world to explore, though sadly when the screen gets busy it can be hit by some occasionally nasty slowdown. Aurally, I’ve already mentioned the near perfect voice work, although the game also contains a wealth of heavy metal songs (some hidden away for you to find), which is going to be heaven for you if you happen to like this sort of thing.
Though its relatively short length, its framerate dips and its repetitive side missions do detract from the enjoyment somewhat, Brutal Legend remains a very likeable game, an obvious tribute to the very loud music that is heavy metal, as well as a very successful mixture of the RTS and action genres.