I remember back when I was a wee lass, er, sorry, wrong reality, when I was a wee boy and bought lots of big titles on the regular because I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Brutal Legend was one of them, and I promptly forgot nearly all of what entailed in it. So I got it again through a Humble Bundle. Not because I wanted to review every Doublefine title before they began making Kinect Titles, that just sorta happened.
Brutal Legend Review
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC(Reviewed)
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Following Eddie Riggs, a heavy metal roadie who is transferred from the boring world where tween is a word that can be used without faces being punched, into what looks like a mix of an album cover and whatever stock environments that could be found. With the goal of liberating a group of humans from a big bad demon king because Eddie is the chosen one who is destined to free the humans and make the land theirs again. A bit standard to say the least, but that is before getting into the nitty gritty details, which were surprisingly included despite how the aforementioned storyline is about all that would be required.
While perfectly comprehensible during it’s first few missions, the overarching storyline of Brutal Legend feels a bit overly detailed from a production standpoint, while under explained from a narrative one. With the best example being how the element of time travel is introduced very haphazardly about seventy percent through the story, despite how the world Eddie finds himself in is filled with panthers that shoot laser beams out of their eyes and giant stone statues of a big hand holding a bigger sword. Therefore making any connection to a world that is portrayed as being basically our reality something that warrants more than a few questions.
Or perhaps the very unnecessary and hard to understand jump to three months near the fifty percent mark. where the resistance decides to make camp for reasons unexplained, effectively letting their homeland fall. Something that could resonate, except you never have any reason to return to that particular region, and it is never brought up again. In fact, that is rather common throughout the story, possibly a result of a lengthy development time, or perhaps to make the game reflect it’s gameplay in terms of consistency.
Assigning Brutal Legend a genre is something that should be rather easy, but sounds like a very ambitious hybrid project for a studio twice the size of the one behind it. The game opens up as a fairly basic hack and slasher, then introduces a vehicle that is quite good for traversal, despite feeling like it is made of plastic, before sending you off into an open world that is sadly mostly barren given its size. With the mechanic that was deemed important enough to obtain a multiplayer mode, which I did not touch, being a controller centric Real Time Strategy title. One made unique by how you can have Eddie come on in and help out your gradually introduced units in capturing bases to build and upgrade more unites before bashing down the enemy’s stage, or rather base, because of the overlaying heavy metal theme.
It may sound as if I am dismissing this mode, but I was left very underwhelmed by it as a whole, in part due to how it never felt overly utilized or necessarily fair for the computer. Also in part due to how the only element of strategy I found was how you have a series of optionally unlockable buffs that can sway the tide of battle in case I suddenly found myself up a poop filled creek. But I believe that the best way I can sum this system up is how I was surprised when the matches ended, because I was unaware that I had actually won. That, and controlling and maintaining units feels rather inefficient due to the lack of menus to interact with.
All of which feels rather thrown haphazardly over a very large world that, while fairly linear in the traversal of some of the later regions, goes unused. Sure, you can find oodles of collectables, I personally got all 120 of one particularly annoying group, but it still feels rather uninvolving to explore. With the sides quests feeling particularly redundant, excluding the races, which falter mostly due to how they are almost too easy if you don’t bump into any scenery. Though I’m not really sure why that was viewed as the best use of a car that can shoot out explosive demon souls and a river of blood.
Instead, such as mighty sight is more there for balancing out the RTS combat by being the best unit there is despite how the act of summoning it is a rather tedious pressing of A-X-Y-Y-X-A, and just plain old looking cool. While not being as detailed as other open world titles, Brutal Legend does have a rather impressive series of scenery. With keen monuments and a sizable area to drive through, there is something inherently enjoyable to driving through this land at high speed and listening to what had to be an expensive as all hell soundtrack of whatever heavy metal Doublefine could convince EA to give to them, while still making each song distinct.Something that extended to rather high quality voice work from some faces that would warrant a raised eyebrow considering the company’s position after this title.
However, the budget apparently stopped for the majority of the animations, which are rather stiff and unnatural in most instances the game positioned them outside of gameplay, at least for humanoid characters. Though everything that decided to have long flowing hair that was not static to some degree was a victim of wonky hair physics, with the point where some hair texture got stuck in the environment in a cutscene being the key moment for me. Even then, the game is not too graphically impressive, yet the fact that the game ran fluently regardless of character quantity might be the reason why they are at the level they are.
Brutal Legend is rather conflicting to me. While enjoyable for the most part, it’s lack of focus on both the narrative and gameplay fronts make the game feel like a Jack of all trades, or perhaps a lower card, like an eight. Though nothing is inherently broken by any means, it’s just that there is not much of extraordinary note other than a few keen moments where the game shines as a gratuitously stupid action game that I couldn’t help but smile at. Leaving the title as a pretty comparable fourteen hour romp, though I probably screwed around more than most.
By no means something that must be played, but not entirely worth pushing aside forever. The title is ultimately above average and keeps the good balanced with the bad by a noticeable enough margin to still be worth picking up… for a discount.