October 21, 2009

Brutal Legend | First Impressions

Shawn Lebert Says DECAPITASHEEONAH. Jack Black stars – well, he voice stars – in Brutal Legend: the most epic and hardcore game you’ll ever grace your sweaty palms on. Right from the beginning, Jack Black introduces the gamer to his world, where he ventures to a local music shop. As he walks you through the store, he explains with passion about a sacred, yet underground album called Brutal Legend. He begins sifting through the endless rows of albums, as if looking for a holy relic. And that’s exactly what it Brutal Legend is.

Before the game starts, the player is given an interesting style of interactive menus. Instead of usual titles that are typically displayed over a washed out background image, Brutal Legend’s title menu is broken into live-action sequences featuring Jack Black’s thick paws as he leafs through New Game, Continue, Options, and so on.

So it begins.

The gamer is taken into the “Brutal Legend” world. Eddie Riggs, a heavy metal junkie, yet roadie, feels that he’s extremely out of place in a world where the metal seems dead. As he maintains the equipment for an N’Sync-fused Nickelback band of men, he can’t help but think that he should have been born decades ago.

After a freak accident on stage with one of the band members, the massive background set is destroyed and takes Eddie’s life in the process. There, the metal gods strike back and resurrect Eddie from the grave. The impressively sized backdrop to the concert, a four-legged horned beast, which loves breathing fire, erupts from the stage with life, destroying everything in its way to provide home for its new rock and roll haven, and new adventure for Eddie.

At first, it appears to be hell, but turns into a little twist as Eddie appears in front of robed individuals who praise the arrival of their god. The place electrifies as a holy axe and guitar grace the scene, having supernatural abilities of their own. Inevitably, Eddie Riggs is the perfect wielder for them. Right at his surreal arrival to an alternate world, he is attacked for he is not the god they were waiting for; therefore, he must be slain. Eddie doesn’t take it too kindly and the action begins.

At the most basic level, controlling and fighting feels a mix between Fable and God of War. One soon learns the cool, yet brutal combos of the sharp axe along with the electrifying guitar, which sends a bunch of crackling lightning toward an enemy’s direction.
This new world is a fusing of mayhem and Megadeth. Every sequence carries along with it a familiar hard rock tune in the background. Featuring over 100 songs, Brutal Legend will keep you tuned into the realm of metal to the eleventh power. Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Anthrax – just to name a few – are all shredding on the game’s soundtrack, providing hours of pleasure from music’s past.

While Jack Black may have the majority’s opinion as a lesser funny man to most, the game develops some humorous dialog throughout that will sometimes have anyone chuckling from time to time. Perhaps complimentary to the cartoonish graphics, the writing is clever yet never too serious, which is a plus.

So far, the game is non-linear, providing a world map to which the player can choose between main missions or work on side missions. It’s like a miniature Grand Theft Auto world, but without the cityscape. The map is predominantly in a wilderness setting. The landscapes are rather huge, but don’t worry. Managing the entire map isn’t done by just running on foot, however, as Eddie has a trusty muscle car that “poofs” to life from tunes he plays on his guitar. Early on, Eddie learns a few chords from his heavenly instrument, which can call for a vehicle or help locate hidden objects throughout. Once these hidden objects are recovered, the player is given points. These accumulated points will be saved for the store.

A store, huh? Well, this store is like none other. Its entrance is through the mouth of a smoke-infested skeleton face. As Eddie drives down the highway to hell – an even deeper one that actually has lava – Eddie meets Ozzy Osburne as the store manager, who trades points for upgrades. These upgrades include power-ups on the weapons, vehicles, etc, which provides a clear incentive to buy things.

The game’s fun, even if there’s no set objective. Just driving around with the music blasting is interesting in itself. The strong soundtrack makes anyone want to head-bang, whether they like metal or not. Brutal Legend is a top-notch game. However it isn’t perfect. One can tell there are major frame rate stuttering issues. Also, the draw distance isn’t too impressive. Textures of land and enemies appear twenty-something feet away, but that’s when driving at high speeds. This is a problem because if something appears in front of the player while driving at high speeds, one may not be able to steer around it in time, causing frustration. Although, there hasn’t been a particular moment as of yet where the draw distance issue was a cause of a failed mission. Other than that, there isn’t too much else to complain about.

Brutal Legend is great and many levels of audiences will be interested. Whether they like action or adventure, or heavy metal music, or even enjoy Jack Black’s work, there’s enough to move around for anyone. So play it! Be on the look out for the full review in the coming week.