The maniacal genius of Tim Schafer unwraps itself in yet another piece of pop culture art after a 4-year hiatus. However, his newest action-adventure tribute to the awesomeness that is Heavy Metal – Brutal Legend – is only a soul successor of the critically acclaimed Psychonauts in the vaguest of terms. The fresh IP surely generated a lot of pre-release publicity due to the Schafer tag, but does it deliver a full throttle electrifying experience?
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The world of Brutal Legend is experienced through the eyes of Eddie Riggs (voiced by and partially based on Jack Black) a roadie who prefers staying in the shadows while his talentless band makes sure that Heavy Metal dies an aurally painful death. However, a freak stage accident somehow sends him back to the ancient past – a glorious age of Metal – where head bangers seek salvation and the gods of Metal still roam the Earth. But damnation in the form of a demon overlord and his pansy hair-winged emo-freak General Lionwhyte quashing the weak human resistance quickly makes Eddie power slide into the role of this era’s saviour to vanquish the forces of Black Metal.
Co-leading Eddie’s revolution are the brother-sister team of Lars and Lita Halford, and Eddie’s eventual love interest Ophelia – warriors who have been so far unsuccessful in taking on the might of the evil forces. But raising a truly rocking army compels the roadie to comprehend the artefacts of Heavy Metal inscribed across the landscape – from metallic spiders who fabricate guitar strings to mountains made of gigantic amplifiers. The legendary back story of the world of Brutal Legend, inspired by Norse mythology, can also be unlocked in parts while exploring the world itself. The narrative has its fair share of twists and turns and some shocking revelations, and manages to hold off well despite having some cheesy moments.
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The core of Brutal Legend consists of a variety of gameplay elements seen independently in a variety of games but never before strung together in a single package. Surprisingly lacking the ability to jump, Eddie can still hack and slash with his weapons – an actual Axe used for melee and an electric guitar called Clementine used for ranged attacks – and drive his self-built hot-rod, christened Deuce, all over the strange metal world. Not only does Riggs battle various bosses by himself, he also teams up with various army units to fend off the minions of demonic forces. Various button mashing combos as well as simple Guitar Hero-esque timed guitar-playing solos keep adding to the Eddie’s arsenal of moves over time as he explores the open world. Apart from the on-foot combat, other gameplay modes include timed solo racing events and assisting a huge moving Stage Truck defend itself while it reaches its destination.
But perhaps, the most important gameplay bit is the real-time strategy battles, which form a huge chunk of the main story progression levels. Once Eddie raises his army, he can take part in various so called ‘Stage Battles’ in which he manages his units to either defend his own base or destroy the similarly setup enemy boss’s. This is done by harvesting currency in the form of spiritual fans of Heavy Metal music being pelted by the player’s stronghold Stage, by capturing various fissures on the ground from where these fans emerge. This is analogous to mining gold from a captured gold mine.
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The currency can then be used to create battle units ranging from simple melee, ranged attack and healer units to the more complex vehicular pieces, each having its own special attack ability. Each of these units can also be double teamed with in battle, increasing their battle efficiency by being able to perform more powerful attacks. These minions can be controlled by giving them various orders, such as retreating, advancing, moving to a marked area and following Eddie. Eddie himself can also dish out damage on the field using his normal combat moves and electrifying guitar solos. To make managing the units in a vast battlefield easier, Eddie is given the ability of flight through his mysterious demon wings, which make movement much faster than running on the ground from one unit to another and also gives a better overhead view. However, these wings vanish as mysteriously as they appeared once each stage battle is over.
Next page: IVG verdict