November 5, 2009

Brutal Legend Review

Shawn Lebert Says The review for Brutal Legend is here and with that comes a Tim Schaffer production that naturally instills the term quality into the hearts of many. With previous creations like Grim Fandango and Psychonauts underneath his belt, Brutal Legend is expected to follow in its predecessors’ footsteps of value and development. Psychonauts, in recent time, has been remembered for its distinct characters and story elements, as well as its successful caliber as a video game. Contrastingly, while it was an underground phenomenon, its sales were poorly received and only considered a disappointment in that aspect; otherwise, the memorable game was praised in many other respects.

Brutal Legend, on the other hand, never steers from its creative, last generation counterparts, like Psychonauts, to birth an open yet inviting, heavy metal world for this generation. It’ll definitely appeal to many and become an engrossing title for the well-developed single and multiplayer modes.

Jack Black is actually humorous in Brutal Legend as he voices Eddie Riggs, the roadie for the world’s most horrid heavy metal band called Kabbage Boy. After a freak accident at one of the recent shows for the band, Eddie meets his fate by being squished under the huge set piece. Little does he know, that he holds a mysterious power that not only brings him back to life, but he is sent back hundreds and hundreds of years to the age of heavy metal and rock gods – a fictional “land before time” world that could only be read in history books, if it were true. Eddie Riggs inevitably must become the world’s savior and show its inhabitants the beauty of classic metal.

The game is never linear once the gamer travels to the open world after the initial quest. On the most basic level of sandbox titles, and just like others, Brutal Legend is a world of exploration and travel. There is a precise location where to travel to visit the next quest, but it’s generally up to the gamer when they wish to visit it to advance the story. Otherwise, there is complete freedom. The world is filled with mini-quests from hunting specific animals to defending and/or attacking the enemy in your territory. Of course, there are numerous collectibles to find and things to learn to progress.

From the beginning, you’re given an axe and guitar, which both wield godly powers, only for those that are meant to save or destroy the world. Throughout the game, these weapons can be upgraded in various ways that’ll become a major advantage over foes. A few exceptional upgrades include electricity and fire. The combat is easy, as assigned buttons are lighter or heavier hits. The axe does it melee duties as the guitar performs more of a ranged attack when used. Of course, the combo lists become extensive. The deeper Eddie delves into his hard rock soul, the more moves he can learn and when mixed with other actions, can execute deadly combinations.

Don’t think for a second that you’ll only be traveling by foot. The world is too big for that, and you will definitely need transportation. Luckily, Eddie Riggs is a car mechanic (or creator), dusting off his rusty skills, and constructing the “Deuce,” a beast of a muscle car. This baby can traverse the landscape through thick and thin, or rain and snow.

The guitar is a unique item as Eddie can perform little guitar solos, which are specific commands for the environment, whether it’s an advanced attack, boosting defenses, or just raising a pesky, hidden relic from the ground. Exploration is key if you want to find an upgrade store for the items you’re carrying. Ozzy Osbourne, and in voice, makes a quirky appearance in a “devilish” way from the upgrade store, as he is the Guardian of Metal. Here, you can upgrade moves and the Deuce, providing some heavy-duty firepower.

The graphics for Brutal Legend are comical. No, not in the sense of the technical, but it’s visual style. Instead of appearing realistic or photographic to the player, it changes its focus for a more cartoonish-intended audience. While this impression might make some gamers resort back to Killzone 2, it’s definitely not a negative thing for its context. It fits with the material, presenting a sense of seriousness but oriented with humor. The facial expressions are priceless at moments when Eddie hears that he has to venture into a cave of spiders or meets a questionable foe. It will make anyone laugh, and you will have to applaud the developers behind it, making just the right eyebrow raisers or wide-eyed responses that these characters do.

While the graphics are quite favorable, it doesn’t come without issues from time to time. While riding the great hills of the open world, frame rate problems seem to arise almost all the time. Even during cut-scenes, and they are rather noticeable. Characters and animations will slow down just for that split second where one wishes they just spent a little more time on getting that just right. Also, the draw distance seems to be a little short as you’ll see things pop on screen just thirty yards away. Textures will be slow to show up in time as you pass by. Thankfully, there wasn’t an issue during the cut-scenes.

The creation behind the landscapes is fabulous to look at, though. Its visual development is unique. With its rockish universe, the hills and plant life are blended with physical, music equipment. Ramps will be literally made with speaker systems or monuments of rock-gods are set in stone with their favorite instruments. It’s a nice touch, a real nice one.

Since you are traveling in a vehicle most of the time, the game comes with a wonderful soundtrack of metal music favorites. Over 100 songs including Def Leppard, Ozzy Osbourne, and Megadeth are unlocked throughout the game, making it an unbelievable addition to the already rock-fabulous story.

The characters are smart, funny, witty, emotional and well developed. It’s a Tim Schaffer trademark. It’ll make you laugh for sure. There are quite a few memorable moments that won’t be explained here for obvious reasons but you’ll find yourself enjoying every hour into the game.

The multiplayer mode of Brutal Legend isn’t just tacked on. It’s developed within the main story but gives you the option to just battle against opponents online or with friends. It may seem overwhelming at first; however, if you are familiar with Age of Empires or any kind of similar strategy title, this is exactly what Brutal Legend multiplayer is.

As the leader, you are given a stage where you must gain fans. When you gain fans, you use the fans to build your army who is trained in either hand combat, ranged combat, or vehicles that’ll aid your battle. On the other side of the map, your opponent is doing the same thing. You’ll soon begin fighting against one another for more fans just to upgrade your army to a higher level. The goal of the game is to build a big enough army to take down the other person’s stage. You also have the option to fight with the army on the battlefield or fight by bird’s eye view. Just depends on your move of attack.

All in all, Brutal Legend is well worth the play-through. It has incredible voice work and comedic performances that will make you chuckle at the least. You won’t be disappointed if you picked it up at its full price, as there are numerous things to do throughout. Jack Black fits just right for this role. You may even recognize other hot voice work along the way. As the name says, it is a legendary title. Although it may not have the same action flare like other titles that are lurking around, including Uncharted 2, but you’ll find that there’s a lot of heart in this title. You won’t find just a love for these characters, but for classic metal as well.