It's a Tim Schafer moment. Nothing else. I am getting a ride by (Lemmy) Kill Master on an absurdly glamorous motor bike whilst herding metal-goats towards the rocker babes Razor Girls, who slaughter them and turn them into firearms. Mötley Crües "Kickstart My Heart" blazes out of the speakers and in the background gigantic landmarks of rock reach for the purple album cover sky. I, or rather the roadie Eddie Riggs, has started a revolution. Our weapon is heavy metal.
Smoking, swearing roadie Eddie Riggs, played by and modelled after Jack Black, has been transported from the regular world where he works as a skillful but bored roadie to wimpy "metal bands". Suddenly everything changes after a stage accident where Eddie spills some blood on his belt buckle, which awakens a rock god to life. Eddie is transported to a medieval heavy metal land where humanity has been enslaved by the demon king Doviculues. This is a country in need. Headbangers toil in deep mines (their necks have turned gigantic!). Rocker girls have been imprisoned in a harem. Here is only one small resistance movement that needs a... well, not a leader. But a fixer. A roadie.
So the adventure gets moving and a huge game world opens up. Eddie builds a car by stuff the rock gods have left behind and starts to flirt with Ophelia, a mysterious rock babe with a weird past (and future, as we will see later in the game). There is a lot to do in this land, and you can either tackle the main storylines action bits or just cruise around in your car The Deuce, running over porcupines, drag race or liberate stone dragons that have been gagged with S&M balls (yup) by the demons. The freedom is really enchanting and just doing some sight-seeing with licensed heavy metal on your car stereo is entertaining like the best of the Grand Theft Auto games. Without all the horrible rap music, of course...
The adventure starts and an enormous gaming world opens up. Eddie puts the pieces of a hot rod, left there by the Gods of Metal, together and starts to flirt with his new object of desire Ophelia. A rock chick with a mysterious past. You can either jump straight into the action missions of the main story line or drive around to find side mission, ranging from races to liberating dragons. The freedom is enchanting and just taking a ride to see some of the heavy metal landscapes while enjoying quality metal on the radio is entertainment in the best Grand Theft Auto spirit. Without that awful rap music, of course.
The visual design is without a doubt the most imaginative on offer this year. No matter how absurd the Age of Metal may seem, everything appears perfectly logical. Heavy metal flows not only the people, but through nature itself. Beer grows on trees, fans pop out of green geysers, there is a giant rock wall of amplifiers and Kill Masters bass strings are woven by nets crafted by giant spiders. Just the effort put into the main menu of the game, a real vinyl album with a well thumbed cover, speaks volumes about the ambitions of the developer. Brütal Legend will send you on a treasure hunt in the attic to find your old metal albums.
On top of the single player campaign there is also a multiplayer component that offers up a combination of real time strategy and Battlefield gameplay. You build an army, train units such as Bouncers or Headbangers, as you defend your fan geysers from attackers. You can either battle it out on the ground with your troops or gain a bird's eye view by making use of your demon wings. These elements (that also appear in the single player campaign) are provide a surprisingly deep addition to what's essentially an action title.
For fans of heavy metal Brütal Legend is like waking up on Christmas morning every day. In part thanks to the previously mentioned soundtrack, but also thanks to the appearances of some of the most legendary names in heavy metal. Ozzy Osbourne makes an appearance as a sales man that you need to seek out in order to pimp you ride, axe or guitar. Lemmy Kilmeister is some kind of shaman, and Rob Halford is also in the game. Add Jack Black to the mix, whose dedication to the Eddie Riggs character must be admired. Every word about staying true to rock n' roll rings true.
Despite all the influences, celebrities, and licensed music, Brütal Legend is good enough to stand on its own. The story with the warring factions, the faith of the human leaders and the drama between Eddie, Ophelia and Lita, has me involved just like previous games from Tim Schafer. The plot twists and turns and stays exciting all the way to the end. Be prepared for one of the most charming kisses in the history of gaming...
I would also like to thank the creative genius Tim Schafer, whose unique charm is embedded into each character and location in Brütal Legend. He makes comedy in games look easy, which is quite a feat. If you enjoyed Psychonauts and Grim Fandango, you are going to enjoy this ride as well. Schafer claims to have had the idea for Brütal Legend in his head for many years and it shows. This fantasy world has been dying to be unleashed upon gamers as it's filled with creative ideas and an adventure that just erupts onto the players. While, Brütal Legend deserves two appreciative thumbs up, we give it the index and the pinky. Rock on!
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