tiistai 10. toukokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Brütal Legend (2009)

GENRE(S): Action / Strategy
RELEASED: October 2009
DEVELOPER(S): Double Fine Productions
PUBLISHER(S): Electronic Arts

Born in 1967, Tim Schafer is revered as one of the most unorthodox and imaginative video game designers in the world. It's his talent, imagination and sense of humour that made him a LucasArts employee and part of the development of some of the greatest adventure games of all time, including my personal favourites Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge and Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle. With his directorial debut, the dystopian Full Throttle and his most critically acclaimed work, the film noir-influenced Grim Fandango, he took a turn that was perhaps just too big and marginal for LucasArts. In 2000, Schafer parted ways with LucasArts, very probably because he felt he was being held down by his superiors, and founded Double Fine Productions. He resurrected many ideas that were previously rejected mostly for being taboo, and applied them to a critically acclaimed, yet controversial and commercially disappointing platformer named Psychonauts. Then, he began work on a heavily promoted third-person action title that had heavy metal fans all around the world chanting his name as some sort of an unholy mantra. Being a heavy metal fan himself since high school, Schafer originally came up with the basic concept of Brütal Legend during the development of The Secret of Monkey Island in the late 80's; the story of the greatest roadie in the world, working for the crappiest band in the world, who is suddenly pulled into another dimension where metal reigns supreme. The game was to be all about heavy metal music and lore, and it was to feature the voice talents of Jack Black, Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy and Rob Halford among others. It was to feature a soundtrack of over a hundred, some of the most amazing metal classics of all time. It was to be a thrilling journey across lands ripped straight off covers of metal albums. It was to be epic, it was to be brütal. The game cashed in on all of these promises, but did it cash in on all of the huge expectations of us die-hard metal fans who pre-ordered the game about a year before it was released? No. Let's face it, though: it would've been impossible.

Bow down to the axeman!

Jack Black : Eddie Riggs
Jennifer Hale : Ophelia
Zach Hanks : Lars Halford / Glamhog
Kath Soucie : Lita Halford
Alex Fernandez : Mangus / Air Corpse
Tim Curry : Emperor Doviculus
Rob Halford : General Lionwhyte / The Baron
Lemmy Kilmister : The Kill Master
Ozzy Osbourne : The Guardian of Metal / Dadbat
Lita Ford : Rima

Old-school metalhead Eddie Riggs is the best roadie in the world, and deeply bothered by the fact that he's working for the worst band in the world, a "metal" band that uses artistic freedom as an excuse for their commercially successful crap - Kabbage Boy. However, a roadie shall not complain, a roadie only exists to do his job and remains in the sidelines. One fateful night an accident on stage results in Eddie's apparent death. His blood is spilled on his belt buckle, which turns out to be an enchanted amulet, and the blood is the key to summon an ancient beast of fire by the name of Ormagöden. After killing the members of Kabbage Boy and utterly destroying their venue, Ormagöden takes Eddie to an ancient world of metal and leads him to a disorganized group of freedom fighters which needs his help. With a deadly axe known as the Separator, his magical guitar Clementine and the power of heavy metal at his side, Eddie teaches the resistance to fight the dark overlord Emperor Doviculus and his armies of posers, choosing not to take credit for his efforts since he is "just a roadie".

Faces tell stories in Brütal Legend. Even when
they're covered in DLC corpsepaint.
Man, this is going to take some time. Let's take a trip back to the year 1991. I was very uneducated when it came to music. I didn't just listen to some certain type of music, nor did I listen to music in the first place - I listened to crap. I listen to music from all genres, so I don't go passing judgement according to genre, but all that I had in my personal shelf of tapes was indeed CRAP, regardless of what it was artificially categorized as. I don't want to go into too much details, but I listened to Vanilla Ice, for example - and just because the dude was in that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II flick, and everything related to TMNT was cool in my books. Well, enter Ronnie James Dio and his first solo album, Holy Diver. My brother had taped the album from a vinyl with side 2 first, so the tape started off with "Straight Through the Heart". Straight through the heart it went; that riff got me right away, and once Ronnie James Dio (rest his soul) opened his mouth and screamed "hanging from the cobwebs in your mind!", I knew I was going to listen to heavy metal forever. Iron Maiden came along just a while later, and they were my favourite band for the longest time; Bruce Dickinson made me want to be a singer, and once I started to sing, I grew even more infatuated with metal. Metal music is most definitely an essential part of my life. Knowing that, you can easily imagine I have never anticipated a video game quite like I anticipated Brütal Legend. A third-person action title, with some of my favourite musicians of all time as well as my favourite comedian delivering most of the voiceover work, an amazing soundtrack, shameless cartoon violence... this game had all the potential of becoming one of my favourite games of all time. However, there were a lot of things that we weren't told about Brütal Legend, things that didn't become apparent before the game's release in "Rocktober" 2009. The game is one that every headbanger should own, but only because of its cult value. As much as I'd like to overlook all of its flaws, it's not a great game - but before we get into the whys, we are bound to take a VERY extensive look at the story and audiovisual delivery.

The story of the game is just magnificent, but you won't get it all the way you're meant to get it, or all of the numerous inside jokes, if you are not familiar with the history of heavy metal. Sure, it's still amusing in its own dark way, but only if you have vast knowledge of metal music from the past 40 years, you will enjoy the story to the fullest. Themes such as glam and commercialism taking over the world of metal in the 80's, as well as nu metal bands running rampant in the modern times, are geniously woven into the wholly original storyline. It's like the lyrics of Tenacious D's "The Metal" (yes, it's on the soundtrack) turned into a video game. It's massive fun to pick up all the subtle references to metal-related things the game has in it throughout. The more depth the story gains, the more epic and deliciously stupid it gets, right up until the end, in which it screams for the sequel it never got. The story alone makes Brütal Legend a game that every headbanger MUST see through at least one time. Even if you don't like the gameplay, the story is worth the trip.

The game has a cartoonish look that ignores many of today's standards. Even if it's not rendered to artificial perfection, it looks awesome on my account. The environment is epic, and mostly styled after stereotypical heavy metal art. The facial expressions of the characters are priceless; even if the game is not that detailed, Double Fine sure did work on making the characters use body language efficiently and really look like their voices.

Lemmy kills as the Kill Master...
Let's go over the voiceover work first. It's phenomenal. The biggest batch of actors comes from the scene itself. We have comedian Jack Black as the protagonist Eddie Riggs; as we all know, Jack is a lifelong heavy metal fan, also an avid video game player, and the lead vocalist and guitarist of the self-proclaimed world's most awesome band, Tenacious D. Not only do the D contribute to the soundtrack with two songs, and a special guitar available to those who pre-ordered the game from GameStop, Jack's bandmate Kyle Gass also does a cameo as "himself". Then we have Rob Halford of Judas Priest playing two totally different characters. Ozzy Osbourne himself does an amazing, hilarious job as the Guardian of Metal, who's in charge of providing upgrades for Eddie, his weapons and his car. He also voices another hilarious character in one of the later side missions, modelled after his look in the mid-80's. Lita Ford makes the most subtle and uninteresting performance as the chief of a female warrior tribe - well, when's the last time Lita Ford was remotely interesting in any sense? Last but definitely not least, we have Lemmy of Motörhead, who simply rocks as "The Kill Master", a simple but clever pun. To even the odds a little, we have several experienced voiceover artists enjoying the hell out of themselves, including (but not limited to) Jennifer Hale, Kath Soucie, Alex Fernandez and Courtenay Taylor. Oh, and one does not dare - have you seen the movie It? - to forget Tim Curry, who despite his somewhat sophisticated background, seems to really eat it up as the main cheese, the scourge of the land of metal, and not to mention one of the nastiest video game villains ever conceived, Emperor Doviculus.

You're probably expecting me to give the sound a perfect 10, but I won't do that. Not that the soundtrack wouldn't be awesome as well, of course it is. We've seen many violent third-person action games, but at least I never dreamed of seeing one in which I could sever heads and legs with some of my favourite bands such as Iced Earth, Savatage, Slayer, Judas Priest or Running Wild playing in the background. While an extremely large part of the soundtrack is pure heavy metal bliss, there are some odd song choices and I could also come up with bands, even some specific songs that would've fit the bill perfectly. Before I start complaining, let's just concentrate on the fact that it's definitely the best licensed soundtrack ever, and see what pros it holds within.

First of all, I'd like to issue a backlash to a certain reviewer who quite precisely said "Who the hell is Budgie and where is Metallica?" Budgie has two songs on the soundtrack, and one of them's "Breadfan", which has FAMOUSLY been covered by Metallica. So, how much does this reviewer actually know about Metallica? How believable can this guy be when he says that the soundtrack is "mediocre"? It's probably "mediocre" because it's so anti-commercial. There are many commercially successful bands featured on the soundtrack, but the main emphasis is thankfully on cult and semi-underground metal. Since I formerly worked in the field of rock and metal journalism, I can't really say the soundtrack introduced me to new bands, but forced me to really listen to some for the first time, such as Brocas Helm (BEST! BOSS MUSIC! EVER! ...AND FOREVER!), Slough Feg, Skeletonwitch and Cloven Hoof. The use of the in-game music is simply awesome. When you're in the first fight and Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave" plays in the background, you just know you made the right choice when you bought this game, whether it's going to suck or not. Oh yeah, and to the reviewer's question, I have a few answers. Firstly, does every game that has something heavy on the soundtrack need to have Metallica in it? Personally, I'm more astounished of the fact that there's no Iron Maiden on the soundtrack. Secondly, the reason for Metallica's dismissal is probably Activision's release of Guitar Hero: Metallica. The band is clearly paid some tribute, since there's also another song they have covered to great acclaim in the past, "Am I Evil?" by Diamond Head. Also, one of the protagonists of the game is named Lars.

...And Ozzy goes fucking crazy as the Guardian
of Metal.
The in-game songs are unlocked in the Mouth of Metal after the missions they first play in have been completed. I'm going to tell you more about how to unlock songs later, but the Mouth of Metal is equivalent to the radio in the Grand Theft Auto series, with the difference being that you can actually remove songs that you don't like from the playlist. Oh, believe me, there are songs which you won't like if you're the most versatile metal fan out there. Each faction in the game has its own "soundtrack". Eddie and his Ironheade posse are mostly into classic stuff from traditional heavy metal to power metal to thrash, Lionwhyte is all about glam rock and hair metal, Drowning Doom brings doom, death and black metal into the mix, and finally, the Tainted Coil are fans of alternative and industrial metal. The horrible Kabbage Boy song heard in the intro sequence can also be unlocked in the Mouth of Metal. You don't want to hear that song to the end. Before I forget, composer Peter McConnell who has worked on just about every great LucasArts adventure there ever was, plus a bulk of Star Wars games (had to mention that for some odd reason), contributes with a vast, classical, semi-ambient score influenced by metal, that fills in the gaps where there's no music playing. It's simply awesome work.

One more time: we have lots of Judas Priest, Motörhead, Black Sabbath and Ozzy's solo material here. A total of four out of ten songs from Judas Priest's Painkiller are on the soundtrack, and the album's my second favourite record of all time. Oh, there's a song from Lita Ford too, which totally shows why we haven't heard anything relevant about her in ages. We also have Iced Earth, my favourite band of all time, contributing with two songs. Crimson Glory, Sanctuary, Candlemass, King Diamond, Enslaved, Metal Church, Omen, not to mention Manowar, all of them great bands and artists who I never thought to hear on a freakin' mainstream video game soundtrack. I'm missing bands like Queensrÿche, Bathory, Danzig, Death, Helloween, Pantera and Exodus, which would've fit the bill perfectly and were easily worthy of replacing some of the weaker links on the soundtrack, but we can't have it all in just one game.

Does the soundtrack rock? For those in need of a simple answer: indeed it does. Is it perfect? Almost. However, those in power went a little over the top when they decided to give something to everyone in the later half of the game, and some song choices across the board are just simply weird even if the performers definitely deserve to be here. Out of the whopping 107 licensed songs on the soundtrack, about 70 to even 80 are ace material from their respective bands, so one should definitely not complain; it could be much worse. 33 songs are unlocked from the beginning of the game, the rest are unlocked by engaging in the main missions of the single-player campaign and by doing some extensive sandbox exploration. This might be a good time to move on to what the game is all about.

After the intro sequence, the game begins to promote itself as a very typical, but suspiciously stripped third-person action game of the 21st century. Eddie cannot jump and there are two basic moves in his arsenal in the beginning. Some advanced combos become available to you at a tight pace; I'm actually very annoyed by a tutorial screen coming up every five seconds and disrupting the action, even the dialogue, even after several hours into the game. Although the control might seem simple, even generic in the beginning, you have no idea how complex the game is going to get. It's basically a tutorial after tutorial. Strangely enough, the whole game leaves an aftertaste of a tutorial for "the real thing", which the multiplayer mode was apparently intended to be. Ballsacks. Not only do I avoid multiplayer in most games, the multiplayer mode in Brütal Legend is known to be very glitchy especially when it comes to related Trophies and Achievements. The Platinum can only be achieved by spending a very excessive amount of time on the game during one single session; the most major glitch of the multiplayer magically deletes your stats every time you quit multiplayer, and one of the Gold Trophies requires you to win an accumulative total of 50 multiplayer games. An average game takes about ten to 15 minutes. Do the math. That's enough about multiplayer, I hope you're not seriously expecting me to cover it further, I'm here for the campaign.

During the first ten minutes, you'll gain Eddie's three most important tools. The Separator is a HUGE axe, which you can use to chop enemies to fragments in a heartbeat. Clementine is an electric guitar that gains magical power from the world of rock itself; flashy guitar solos are lethal weapons and methods to manipulate the environment, and every note you play is electric and fiery enough to shock enemies or set them on fire. The most basic guitar solo in the game is Relic Raiser, which you'll need to use to gain the Deuce, a.k.a. the Druid Plow, a.k.a. your car. The first boss fight in the game is fought from inside your car, just so that the game can provide a sensible tutorial on the advanced driving controls. With Motörhead's "Back at the Funny Farm" playing in the background, you still have a short way to go after this boss fight to get to the world map, where you'll be spending the next 10 hours.

I love the driving around part. Delightful
sceneries, killer nitro and quality metal blasting
out of the Mouth of Metal. Life's good.
There are three continents in Brütal Legend, and you can explore only one of them in the beginning of the game. You'll be able to travel to the other two once you've passed certain points in the storyline, just like in GTA. Right now, you are unable to do anything but to advance in the plot, but it's only a five-minute cutscene we're talking about. After that, you're free to come and go as you please - Brütal Legend suddenly turns into an epic, hard and heavy sandbox game. Of course, since your abilities are so limited, you can't do everything just yet, but a lot of stuff before you must advance in the plot. It might be a good idea to explore right away, since after the next mission, there are more enemies around that will make your exploration a lot harder. Next up, all you can do at this point, about 30 minutes into the game.

Well, since the game forces you to it, twice, during those first 30 minutes, let's talk about the Tab Slabs first. These ancient slabs of stone - nobody knows where they came from - have ancient writing on them which only Eddie understands, since it's not really writing, it's guitar tablature. These slabs teach you guitar solos, in addition to the ones you'll learn from the primary and secondary missions. Solos can be used for offense, defense, rallying troops and manipulating the environment. The second solo you are forced to learn enables you to summon your car to any outdoor spot at any time. The solos work in the style of rhythm games, with a button for each string. The most awesome solos, of course, are notably lengthier and harder to execute, and you might not always have time to use them - you need to seize an opportunity when you see it. Facemelter is a definite favourite; it literally melts the faces of enemies within its radius, killing them instantly. Each solo has a cooldown period, and its length depends on the strength of the solo. Missing a note won't necessarily ruin the solo, but missing several notes in succession overheats Clementine, rendering the guitar useless for a short while.

Motor Forge is the next unlockable you will most likely bump into. Whenever you see a large steel construct in the shape of a skull sticking out of the ground with those red vines indicating a Relic surrounding it, you are supposed to use the Relic Raiser and stand in awe as the awkward construct suddenly turns into a very auspicious, magical workshop of metal, run by Ozzy Osb... excuse me, the Guardian of Metal. The Guardian is your best friend in this game, but also a sarcastic bastard that doesn't really believe in your talent to save the world. He does his best to help you, though. He sells some stuff which you really don't need, such as effigies for Mount Rockmore which you can use to manipulate the largest sight of the land (it's an obvious pun at Mount Rushmore), new designs for your car and via DLC, some alternate attires for Eddie. However, he also sells stuff which you can't live without. Axe finishes accommodate the Separator with some extra edge that can even set enemies on fire upon contact. Different guitar strings give Clementine some similar extra spunk. There are a couple of new advanced combos available in the beginning as well. Later on in the game, you will gain access to some more essential stuff such as turbo engines, armour and artillery for your car. Every time the Guardian of Metal adds something new to his variety of products, you are informed of it via a dialogue box you cannot miss, which is very, very cool. In my mind, though, you are given the game's most important upgrade completely free on your very first visit to the Motor Forge - and that is the Mouth of Metal.

One of my favourite boss fights of all time, all
thanks to the music.
I already told you this much: the Mouth of Metal is your car radio - although it's promoted as more like an ancient, enchanted energy that manifests itself as heavy metal every time you start your engine. I also told you that the more you do primary missions, the more songs are unlocked; every single primary mission has its share of new songs - which is why you should perhaps consider doing most of the sandbox action after Lair of the Metal Queen, which produces two absolutely phenomenal new songs for the M.o.M., just a little personal note... anyway, only 83 songs, that's 50 more than what you begin with, are unlocked during the storyline or after the end credits. The 24 remaining songs are scattered all over the world, buried deep underground as namely Buried Metal. Once again, the Relic Raiser solo is needed for the job, but Buried Metal is way harder to spot than a Motor Forge. You'll get songs from different subgenres of metal on each continent, usually inspired by the most major factions at work there. Once again, if you never want to hear Kabbage Boy's "Girlfriend", Static-X's "Love Dump" or Deathstars' "Blitzkrieg", some of the most horrible songs on the soundtrack, you can check them off from the very easy-to-read playlist at any time and keep rocking to your favourites. Of course, you'll get the most out of the Mouth of Metal in the later half of the game, since the variety of songs is so much bigger. As great as Judas Priest's "Leather Rebel" is and as phenomenally as it suits the game and its main theme, it's quite disheartening to hear the song play four times within one hour. Of course you can also skip the songs, except during secondary missions, in which they're not playing from the Mouth of Metal, but as background tunes.

Vistas, landmarks, or viewpoints, whatever you like to call them, offer you dramatic cutscenes that portray the environmental landmarks of the game in all their glory. There's not much more to say about them, so let's move on to the game's namesake, Legends, which indeed tell the brütal history of how this land of magic and metal came to be and insight on why Eddie's help is needed, via epic and dramatic short movies in black and white. Corey Burton who I remember the best as Zeus in the God of War series narrates the Legends, and man, is he phenomenal or what?! He sounds like Don LaFontaine promoting the biggest blockbuster of the summer - on steroids! I love how he pronounces and exclamates the word "metal". The Legends are stupid, ridiculous, and absolutely ultra-awesome and hyper-epic, my favourite unlockables in the whole game. On the world map, the Legends are depicted as large cocoons chained shut; you simply need to break the chains with the Earthshaker combo, as you are advised in the very beginning of the game, and look into the crystal ball within.

Lightning Plugs stand in for unique jumps from the 3D GTA series, they're just much easier to execute. Almost every impressive slope in this game has these little glowing insects flying around, and you simply need to drive up the slopes and jump through the swarms to score. Bound Serpents are the most stand-out collectables in the game; there are 120 of these very kinky statues hidden all around the world, and you need to free them from their S & M type of shackles by unleashing a Pyro combo on them. In addition to using them to reach 100% in the stat screen, you pretty much need to go on an extensive Serpent search to increase your natural talent in maximum health, regeneration, healing your armies and flight speed. ...Did I jump ahead a little here? Well, no matter; the game actually spoils it. You indeed gain wings at one point in the story, to be used under certain circumstances I will get into soon enough. If you are able to free 40 Serpents before that point in the storyline, the game just blurts out that you'll be able to fly at some point. I don't care much for spoilers, in my mind it's a whole different thing to hear about it than to experience it, but my friend almost quit playing because of that - he takes spoilers ultra-personally.

After nearly every primary mission in the game, you can take part in a secondary mission. These side objectives seem cool at first, as long as there's some diversity to them; they become repetitive extremely quickly. The only thing that changes about them is the difficulty level. There are some fun one-off quests, but most of the secondary missions are car races against a speed demon by the name of Fletus, ambushes, sort of tower defense missions, and mortar missions in which you are not really a part of the offense, but you rather guide the combatant to victory by using your car. There are dozens of secondary missions, but this is pretty much all of the different content they have throughout the line. There's also a special secondary mission that begins very early on and continues to the very end of the game, in which you need to hunt down animals of all different species. This mission grants the most rewards, in the form of a new solo, a special axe and of course, a Trophy.

Time for a moshpit!
Every single collectable item and completed mission results in a varying amount of Fire Tributes, which act as the game's currency. If you're a thorough player, you will get each and every Fire Tribute you need to buy up everything from the Motor Forge relatively long before the end of the game. Fire Tributes are also gained from helping your armies out in the field when you're not engaged in a mission. OK, that does it: what fucking armies? Let me tell you, and it is the saddest story I have to tell about Brütal Legend.

After the first couple of primary objectives on the world map, or rather just cutscenes, you are first introduced to soon-to-be a very complex system of commanding your troops. True, Brütal Legend is an open-world action game - as long as you avoid the missions. Most of the missions from a certain point forward are basically epic battles fought in the style of real-time strategy. You are still able to move and fight as always, and later you can fly around the premises, but at the same time, you need to be able to control and maintain your army, and show them the ropes to grant them victory. You won't have any chance against the enemy without a varying pack of headbangers helping you out. The content of the primary missions were Brütal Legend's most well-kept secret right up until the game's release, there were just vague hints of it, and I must say... a few things. On a personal level, real-time strategy has never been my favourite form of video game warfare. I've never played Command & Conquer, for example. However, I know this much on a factual basis: as a strategy game, Brütal Legend is very limited.

As soon as I found out about the RTS part of the game, I thought they stripped down the game as an action title to make it a very fruitful RTS experience - but no, it's just as stripped of standard RTS qualities as it is of some very important qualities of an action game. So, people who are not good with RTS games and did not expect Brütal Legend to have this side to its gameplay will find this huge part of the game extremely hard, disappointing, and unsatisfying, while avid players of strategy games will probably find it easier, but just as disappointing and unsatisfying. Even if the concept of these battles was cool on paper, it hardly pleases anyone. The multiplayer mode which I mentioned is solely based on one-on-one duels of this sort, and sorry, but I can't imagine getting anything out of it. I would've liked Brütal Legend to be the straightforward game which it was from the beginning. It stood out enough for me on a personal level better than fine without the appliance of the RTS elements.

I'll try to break some facts as simply as I can. Your agenda in most RTS battles is to destroy your opponent's tower. In most cases, that tower is a stage. You gain energy from fans in the most awkward plot element there is in the whole game, and you need to protect your fans from getting stolen by the other "band" by building merchandise booths around them. The more good vibes the fans give you and vice versa, the more warriors you are able to enlist, and more different sorts of them. You gain different warriors and vehicles via making progress in the storyline, from healers to melee fighters, to pioneers, to long-range combatants, to armoured tanks and mobile catapults. All the time, you will be harrassed by the leader of the opposing group, who could be called a boss, and if you happen to die in the heat of battle, you immediately respawn, but also lose a fine amount of momentum, as well as fans. Perhaps the most shitty thing from an RTS veteran's standpoint here is that the first time around's the only real strategic battle in every case, on every difficulty level. There is pretty much one single method to complete each mission, there's not much room or time for improvisation. From my personal standpoint as a player instead of a critic, it's a good thing. Let's just quit beating around the bush: I fucking hate real-time strategy. I'm more of a turn-based, or just a straightforward, in-your-face kind of guy. Not much in between.

As I said, you can take part in the battles yourself and even double team with all of your different units, but your main objectives are to run, drive or fly around, keep watch on each and every batch of soldiers you send on the march, think ahead on your army's priorities in battle, buff them up with incentive solos, and take care of your fanbase. You see, whatever Eddie does, he's still just a roadie. He's there to help and organize the army, not lead it. Even if I have very little love for 50% of the primary missions in this game, I love the way Schafer paid attention to maintaining Eddie's characteristics throughout.

The game's true colours.
Even if you nail 100% on the stat screen, and receive a Gold Trophy for doing so, it won't take you more than 10-12 hours if you're quick about it. Once again, they apparently made the multiplayer mode the real thing, too bad they didn't fix up all the glitches before quitting making patches for the game. The final RTS battle in the game is the only one in which you can take full advantage of all of your abilities, it's like one final baptism of fire before the multiplayer mode. Of course, you don't need to take part in a real multiplayer game if you don't want to, you can also use any maps in the game and the downloadable ones to generate a simulated game against the CPU in the main menu, if you're that interested in this side of the game. The straightforward action sequences and sandbox exploration are the elements which make the game stick on my account; this was my third playthrough, and the first one in over a year, and I really enjoyed it up until a certain point. I've also gotten better in the RTS sequences, and some DLC novelties help a bunch, but I still dislike them very, very much - the only really good things to come out of them are some of the best, most fist-pumping songs on the soundtrack. Some of the multiplayer Trophies are pretty much impossible to get because of the huge glitch that probably had a part in bringing the game down to its current budget price only a few months after its release. Most of the single-player Trophies are quite fun and challenging to obtain, since they're mostly related to the straightforward action and fucking around rather than the RTS sequences. Brütal Legend will keep you occupied for some time, assuming you're very much into heavy metal, 'cause that's all the game's about in the end. Also, heavy metal's the reason why I'm very proud to have this game in my shelf, regardless of how disappointing it was - and is.

Brütal Legend is a cult game if there ever was one, but not a cult masterpiece. In my opinion, it should've been drawn out of the market completely when its sales dropped in just a couple of months, instead of being reduced to a budget game, 'cause that would make us owners even more proud than we already are of its cult value. It has simply incredible sound, quirky but extremely functional and contextually grand visual design and a good atmosphere for some open-world action, but it's stripped from some core qualities of a fully functional action game, and the real-time strategy elements simply don't work for the game's favour. Nothing in this game besides the audiovisuals is even close to the standards I was expecting it to exceed.

SOUND : 9.8


GameRankings: 80.80% (PS3), 81.18% (X360)

The name Brütal Legend was the first idea for the game, and it was spawned years before Tim Schafer even came up with some of the most basic plot elements or characters.

An anonymous roadie was one the first characters Tim Schafer created back when Brütal Legend was nothing but a very early, raw concept. This character eventually became Eddie Riggs, but before that, an early draft was used for the character of Hoagie in Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle. Many other concepts Schafer originally designed for Brütal Legend were used in Full Throttle and Psychonauts.

The licensed soundtrack of the game was compiled by Tim Schafer and music director Emily Ridgway. Jack Black and an acquaintance of Ridgway's, who owns a record store, worked as consultants.

Lita Ford's "Betrayal" appears as a lyrically altered version that is exclusive to the game's soundtrack. Harry Cantwell of Slough Feg fame contributes with an exclusive drum solo.

Although Tim Schafer would've loved to make a soundtrack CD of the game, he thought that securing licenses for the songs to play in the game was difficult enough.

Three tracks were released as "Brütal Legend Song Pack 01" for Rock Band: "The Metal" by Tenacious D, a re-recorded version of "(We Are The) Road Crew" by Motörhead, and "More than Meets the Eye" by Testament.

The bands and artists that have more than one song on the soundtrack are 3 Inches of Blood, Anvil, Bishop of Hexen, Black Sabbath, Brocas Helm, Budgie, Enslaved, Iced Earth, Judas Priest, King Diamond, Manowar, Mastodon, Megadeth, Ministry, Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Racer X, Riot, Scorpions, Tenacious D and Testament. The two Testament tracks - "For the Glory Of..." and "More than Meets the Eye" - are merged into one. "For the Glory Of..." is not part of the Rock Band version.

Jack Black was not originally planned to voice the character of Eddie Riggs, but he was chosen for the job because of his talent and his role in School of Rock, and his experience as a video game player. He's a big fan of Tim Schafer's work, especially his previous project Psychonauts.

Richard Horvitz, who played the main protagonist Raz in Psychonauts, does two cameos in the game, as the lead guitarist of Kabbage Boy and Jack the lift operator. Raz's Mount Rockmore effigy is part of the Hammer of Infinite Fate DLC, along with Schafer's.

Eddie Riggs is named after Iron Maiden's mascot Eddie, a.k.a. Edward T. Head, and the man responsible for most of Iron Maiden's cover art, Derek Riggs.

General Lionwhyte is named after one of the most popular glam metal bands of the late 80's, White Lion.

Lars and Lita Halford are named after Lars Ulrich, Lita Ford and Rob Halford. While recording the lines for General Lionwhyte, Rob Halford reportedly needed many takes because he couldn't say the name "Halford" without chuckling, and he also found the character himself hilarious.

The Kill Master, the Guardian of Metal, and the Fire Baron are modelled after Lemmy, Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Halford, respectively. Eddie Riggs was originally modelled after Lemmy, before Lemmy himself joined the project. The final design of Eddie was influenced by Jack Black and Glenn Danzig. Although Rima remotely resembles Lita Ford, the Zaulian tribe was mainly modelled after members of KISS.

In addition to his critically acclaimed voiceover work as the Guardian of Metal, Ozzy also appears as Dadbat, whose face and hair are modelled after Ozzy during the tour for his fourth solo album The Ultimate Sin in 1986. The bat character is a reference to the famous incident on stage in 1982, in which Ozzy accidentally bit the head off a live bat. Although Ozzy has criticized the media for bringing the incident up from time to time, he seems to have no trouble promoting it himself each chance he gets.

Emperor Doviculus was originally played by the late heavy metal legend Ronnie James Dio, who worked with Jack Black and Tenacious D multiple times. When Dio left the project after already having recorded some of his parts, fans speculated it was because of the well-publicized animosity between him and Ozzy Osbourne, but Schafer said he chose Tim Curry because of his devotion for the part and his natural voice being exactly what he wanted Doviculus to sound like.

Eddie, Ophelia and Doviculus' guitar solos are played by none other than Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing of Judas Priest.

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