Brütal Legend

Developer: Double Fine Productions | Released: 2013 | Genre: 3PS, RTS

This is another one I should have played ages ago but kept postponing – mostly because I was worried about the real time strategy elements that pops up later in the game. Now, that I have finally visited it, I can only slap myself silly for not having tried this truly original heavy metal game some time earlier. So many things to like – Jack Black, the humor, well directed cutscenes, lovingly weird ideas…

  …and then they just had to put those dreadful RTS elements in it. More about that later.

I was playing as the roadie Eddie, voiced by the marvelous Jack Black. He got sent to sort of a heavy metal heaven, an open world landscape with dark themes everywhere, as inspired by the best heavy metal vinyl covers you can imagine. It was third person hack-and-slash to begin with, using a big axe and a guitar for attacks, later teamed up with a hot girl, and assembled an equally hot car for racing the roads.

I got a map of the world with primary and secondary objectives. Tab slabs – sort of shrines – could learn me new solos to be activated with a hot key, after which I had to hit the right notes for a few seconds to fire it off. It could be to e.g. summon the car, awaken supports, etc.

After having met up with Lars in a camp, I was sent on my way to gather men for an army. These were headbangers with enormous neck muscles liberated from a mine. I could then use hotkey commands for making a group of these supports follow, stay or charge. This was used in a mine arena against baddies, and it quickly turned into a chaotic myriad of humanoid models all over the place.

It started to feel like a not-so-distant cousin of Giants: Citizen Kabuto.

I took a breather from the main quest to check out the open world. It was not enormous, but wonderfully bizarre. More shrines and avatars could be found to be liberated with a solo, and the vistas revealed big temples, ruins of epic structures – even a nice beach with a giant wall of sound.

I must confess I didn’t easily warm up to navigating the open world at first. The turn signals thing of the car didn’t help much there. I often had to resort to the map, only then to discover that I had driven in the opposite direction for a while. Wait, the destination has a godly light beam from above? Oh. Right.

They should have added a minimap in the corner. And while there were at it – a health bar too.

There were also secondary missions strewn about. I tried a couple but quickly left them behind as most of them were typically repeating the same tasks. Especially racing another car, or an ambush with a few headbangers. I also found a beer run on a countdown.

Returning to the main quest, I completed a few more missions until I reached the first true RTS session. I was hoping the game switched to an isometric view here, but it was kept in 3PS mode controlling Eddie directly. After building a big stage and two fan towers, solos had to be performed to summon fans or rebuild fallen fan towers, and I also had to direct my followers to attack the incoming troops.

I was afraid I wouldn’t like it, and I was right.

It was way too clunky and chaotic for my taste. I died many times (luckily the game just respawned me close to the stage) and was often confused. I wasn’t sure I knew enough of what was going on. It felt stressful and I decided that it was time to leave the game. I did complete the mission, though.

Spoiler: Observations

I was pleasantly surprised that the game started with a real video clip of Jack Black visiting a music shop to show me a vinyl of the game, then flipping through its physical contents as part of the game menu.

Both profanity (the f-word) and gore (a few beheadings) had each of their own confirmation dialog box the first time they were about to be used. I really liked this idea.

Lots of rides in the car through hordes of horror minions. One such road sequence was on a bridge that crumbled here and there. This was the first time I died several times in a row – it was one of those where I sometimes needed to know in advance how the path in front of me broke down. The girl in the passenger seat did try to warn me, but never early enough for my old ass reflexes.

Driving a buggy with a hot girl by my side – felt like a goth version of Out Run.

Of course bosses popped up from time to time. The first one was a giant monster serpent that I had to race around in a car. Next up came a muscle guy with two exceptionally large knuckles. And the third was a giant metal spider in a lair. No doubt there would have been way more bosses to come.

The ambushes with headbangers were easily closed by using the solo for melting the faces of the enemies. An ambush took mere seconds that way. It almost felt like cheating – I loved it!

The car should have been a hotkey, not a solo. It was also too easy to get stuck. Once in the car, another on foot. I had no other choice than to save and quit, then continue the game from the vinyl menu.

Abandoned after 3.1 hours.

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