Brutal Legend Hands-On Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3
Brutal Legend box art
System: X360, PS3 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Double Fine 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Electronic Arts 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 13, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 (2-8 Online) 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Heavy Metal Is Back
by Travis Fahs

It's unfortunate that the biggest news regarding Brütal Legend this E3 was the lawsuit between Activision and Double Fine, because the game was shown in playable form for the first time, and it was easily one of the best games of the show. It's not hard to tell why Activision is experiencing some remorse after cancelling the game following the merger with Vivendi; the Brütal Legend kiosks were consistently packed in both the Sony and EA booths.

Brutal Legend screenshot

There's an honesty to the game that makes it stand out from the countless other titles at the show. Where most games these days are shoved through a focus group meat grinder until they perfectly reflect the tastes of 18-34 year olds that have nothing better to do than sit in market research sessions at the mall. Brütal Legend is Tim Schafer's tribute to the 13-year old inside of him; a willfully dated pastiche to everything that is heavy metal. That includes giant demons, battle axes, hot rods, and yes, even teased hair and makeup. Brütal Legend isn't so much trying to be cool as it is a loving homage to everything that we used to think was cool once upon a time.

The demo kicks off when Eddie Riggs (a roadie sent through time to the mythical land of Metal lore) finds The Separator, a legendary double-sided battle axe, perfect for hacking apart the minions of hell. The controls are pretty basic hack-'n'-slash, with some simple combos, and a button to fire elemental powers from Riggs' trusty guitar. At first this seemed fairly mindless, but even within the demo we saw things open up with more complicated enemy patterns, as well as new moves and combos to learn, and new guitar powers.

Brutal Legend screenshot

More than any other game we played at E3, Brütal Legend was loaded with cutscenes to break up the many diverse segments. These really brought the experience together with some really funny dialog and charismatic, likable characters. We're usually a bit wary of celebrity voice casts in video games, as they tend to be rushed, unenthusiastic performances. It's probably a testament to Schafer and the game’s writers that Jack Black and the other actors deliver top notch performances with a ton of energy. Even Ozzie Osbourne, who makes has a short role later in the demo, delivers his lines clearly and enthusiastically, sounding very far from his usually distant, muttering persona.

After a few battles, we raised relics from the earth and assembled "The Deuce," A top-chopped hot rod, with flames on the side, and chrome exhaust pipes that could belch the real stuff. The first driving sequence was a linear race across a collapsing bridge, followed by a fight with a 100-foot tall worm monster, but after a while we saw how the car and the on-foot sequences were better integrated. You can leave the vehicle at just about any time, and you can use your guitar to summon it whenever you need it.

Brutal Legend screenshot

Ozzy's character introduces the player to the game's RPG elements. Eddie can buy upgrades for himself, his weaponry, his car – even cosmetic upgrades like custom paint jobs. We tricked out The Deuce with a pair of Gatling guns and took off on an escort mission where we had to shoot down demons on motorcycles. After this, things opened up a bit and we actually had to explore to find the way ahead, suggesting that this might not be the pure linear action game we thought.

It was a strong showing, for sure. The generous 30 minute demo packed an impressive amount of variety, even if no one particular gameplay element stood out. Brütal Legend is just a charming, charismatic game so packed with personality, it's easy to forgive it if the nuts and bolts aren't entirely original. We might be less forgiving if the game succumbs to endless repetition, but if the demo levels – and Double Fine's previous game, Psychonauts – are any indication, we aren't worried.

By Travis Fahs
CCC Freelance Writer

Game Features:

  • Action combat! Brütal Legend’s core gameplay is classic action slasher, but with a twist: ranged combat comes from your demon-slaying, electricity-creating guitar. Add that 1-2 punch to a guitar solo mechanic that can summon objects, buff your teammates, or cripple your opponents, and you have a deep, gratifying core gameplay combat loop that is fun for the hardcore and accessible for the casual.
  • Streaming open world! Brütal Legend gives you the freedom to walk, drive, or fly anywhere in a fully streaming open world whose art style is inspired by some of the most iconic and hilariously rad metal album covers ever created. Every vista in the beautiful universe of Brütal Legend looks like it was pulled from a Frank Frazetta painting.
  • Heavy metal will never die! Brütal Legend is full of cameos from Gods of Metal like Lemmy Kilmister, Rob Halford, Lita Ford, and many, many others. It has a MASSIVE metal soundtrack from every era of metal music: 1970’s classic metal to 1980’s hair metal to the scarier cousins of 1990’s metal. And of course, Jack Black pays the ultimate homage to metal as Eddie the Roadie, continuing the theme from the work of his band, Tenacious D and his previous films like School of Rock and High Fidelity.
  • Kill ‘em All! 4v4 “skirmish” multiplayer marries action combat with a strategic unit-control mechanic. As the leader of one of the factions in the game, the player will direct his armies in a Battle of the Bands where the trophy is survival. Brütal Legend’s multiplayer is online-enabled, so you can conquer your friends online via Xbox Live or Playstation Network*.

  • Screenshots / Images
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