If you are a fan of heavy metal music, Jack Black, or Tim Schafer, then Brütal Legend may be a good choice for you. If you consider yourself none of the above, then this probably isn’t the game for you, as it is the charm of the people behind the game that make this one worth playing.
From the mind of Tim Schafer (the man responsible for the oft-overlooked but highly regarded Psychonauts) and featuring the talents of such celebrities as Jack Black, Ozzy Osbourne, Lita Ford, Lemmy Kilmister, and Rob Halford, Brütal Legend presents the player a GTA-like gaming experience in a heavy-metal-themed world.
I only played Psychonauts briefly when I had my GameTap membership, so I cannot make many comparisons between the two games. What I remember of Psychnauts are its highly stylized visuals and character design. This carries over to Brütal Legend, but in a more subtle manner. Instead of going for a realistic look, everyone in the game is a characature, sporting exaggerated features. This fits the game well, as a lot of the humor would be lost without the stylized look.
The cast chosen for this game really enhances it . . . as long as you are familiar with music icons like Ozzy and Lemmy. Jack Black does a good job voicing the protagonist, and he even stars in a video clip in the beginning in which he leads the player into a record shop to show him (or her) the Brütal Legend album (available for a low $6.66). Many of the musicians who appear in the game play characters modeled after themselves, at least visually. You’ll recognize Ozzy as the Guardian of Metal before he ever utters a word and Lemmy as the Kill Master. If you’re not a fan of the musicians, then this probably won’t be a draw, but for those of us who grew up with some of this music, it adds to the overall experience.
The gameplay in Brütal Legend is similar to other sandbox games. You are free to roam the world, either on foot or in your hot rod (the Deuce), and you are free to start side missions or story missions whenever you choose. There are also many hidden items to find, so if you are the type of person who likes scouring a world for these (turns out that I am not), you will have plenty to keep you occupied. Side missions involve racing a demon, hunting animals, helping a bombadier, and ambushing enemies. The side missions are a way to earn money (called fire tributes) that you can spend at Motor Forges for enhanced weapons, attacks, and Deuce upgrades. You can also earn fire tributes from main missions, special jumps in your car, and helping wandering allies defeat their enemies. While the missions are fun, for the most part, controlling troops during large-scale battles seemed awkward a lot of the time. Also, it felt at times as if the designers had too much to include and tried to cram it all in. For example, I believe one of my most powerful allies, the Rock Crusher was only available during the last battle or two, which really didn’t give me much of an opportunity to play with it and strategize on how to best deploy it in battle.
In addition to the sometimes disappointing battles, I felt that the story in the game started to falter as it progressed. At first, the game seems light-hearted and fun, but it seems to take itself too seriously later on and becomes concerned with themes of betrayal, etc. Also, it explains how Eddie was transported to the game world and how his history is entwined in the struggle between the humans and the demons. Frankly, I didn’t care how Eddie was transported to the game world. This is a game that is about humor and absurdity, and attempting to explain everything and tie it together seemed to slow the game down for me. It’s like telling me that there are microorganisms that give some people power over the Force. It kills the magic a bit.
My criticisms aside, I did enjoy Brütal Legend, and definitely got my money’s worth from it (I picked it up used from GameFly for $9.99). If you are a fan of heavy metal music, Jack Black, or Tim Schafer, then Brütal Legend may be a good choice for you. If you consider yourself none of the above, then this probably isn’t the game for you, as it is the charm of the people behind the game that make this one worth playing.