Picture this. The camera opens on Los Angeles, outside of a store called Record Surplus. National Treasure and Metal Dad Jack Black comes into focus. “Okay… Don’t say a word, just keep walking, we’re going in casual, okay? I’ll show it to you, but this is between us.” He tells you as you both walk into the store, adding, “They keep it way in the back, with the other rare stuff.” Now, we’re in the store. Black looks at the camera, mysteriously, “The kids that work here don’t know where it came from, of course, but neither do the old timers… As far as they know, it’s always been here.” What is it? After a little searching and a freak out, under “Epic Metal,” Black holds the title of the Game itself. And as you are ready to play, Jack Black tells you to open it… if you dare.
Brutal Legend is an action oriented/strategy based third person beat them up game set in a world drenched in all things Heavy Metal. Developed by Double Fine Productions, known for the critically acclaimed Grim Fandango, cult classic Psychonauts, recent masterpiece Broken Age, and crowd favorite Gang Beasts, this high production hidden gem is a love letter to early seventies metal covers with gameplay and a story to match it.
The story follows Eddie Riggs, played by Jack Black, the “greatest roadie in the world.” While he’s working a gig at a less than impressive tween “metal” (using that term lightly here, people) Eddie is forced to save the lead guitarist… at the cost of his own life. As his blood drips onto a prized family heirloom- a belt buckle shaped like the Metal Beast Ormagoden, Eddie’s spirit is teleported to an alternate dimension where Heavy Metal is law and ruled under the demonic fist of Doviculus, played by Tim Curry. Now, Eddie must help the human race return to its glory and make alliances as it faces the hordes of Glam, Goth, and Demonic Metal in an epic saga leading to the promised land of rock.
Gameplay wise, Brutal Legend has a wide variety of functions to play from. The Hack and Slash sections has you on the ground destroying waves of enemies with your axe and guitar, now infused with the power of the metal. In combat, you can use your guitar to buff allies or create field attributes that damages your enemies with button prompts similar to Guitar Hero. On the opposite side, there are strategy sections in which you lead hordes of allies to destroy and build structures to take down the big boss. Fly through the air or charge headfirst into the environment while you give commands. Lastly, there are driving sections in which you race through the land to gain notoriety in your car. You can customize the weapons and more. That, plus all of the collectibles and landmarks to discover makes it worth all the pain for Completionists.
Now, I will admit, with all these elements, it also has its downfalls. For one, let’s talk the “Strategy Battles.” The AI for the allies will stumble in receiving commands if you spam them. The flying ability you gain later helps in seeing the battlefield, but the first time you do lead the charge, it turns to be one frame rate lagging mess. Even then, later in the main story, tough enemies will try to completely annihilate your allies if you are not careful. The side quests in the later game will boil down to either fighting or racing, and then repeat. It gets bland very easily.
With that out of the way, what makes Brutal Legend memorable? Well, it all comes to its aesthetic. If you are a metal fan, this game screams metal. You can blast Motorhead while slamming into enemies on the Deuce, grab fellow allies in combat collaborations as you take on evil cultists while Black Sabbath burns in the distance, or even lay down some Riot while road racing. You even get to talk to the Guardian of Metal himself, Ozzy Osborne! Dude! Ozzy, man!
Brutal Legend feels like a 6-hour metal love letter crammed with as much technicality as a Swedish guitarist unleashing a devastating guitar solo onto the masses. When you witness it for the first time, you enjoy what it gives; the atmosphere, the heart, and the collaboration of its voice cast makes it, truly, legendary.
Brutal Legend is on Steam for $14.99