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Brütal Legend

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: EA
Developer: Double Fine
Release Date: Oct. 13, 2009 (US), Oct. 16, 2009 (EU)

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PS3/X360 Preview - 'Brutal Legend'

by Thomas Wilde on May 1, 2009 @ 9:00 a.m. PDT

Brütal Legend is a 3rd person Action/Adventure game starring Jack Black in the role of roadie Eddie Riggs, who sets on an epic quest to build an army of rockers with only a broad axe, a big block V8 and his faithful guitar in hand.

The bad news for Eddie Riggs is that his sweet new belt buckle is actually a magical artifact. By accidentally getting some blood on it, as tends to happen now and again, he's brought back to a more brutal age when demons ruled over humanity.

The good news, as Tim Schafer says, is that "it's f—king awesome."

A lot of people are going to think that Brutal Legend is Tenacious D: The Video Game because Jack Black voices Eddie. It's just a case of really apt casting, though; you can tell because Kyle Gass is as yet not present. Instead, Brutal Legend is the work of Schafer, the same madman who brought the world Full Throttle, Grim Fandango and the ill-received but critically adored Psychonauts.

Because Psychonauts went over in the marketplace like a case of the clap (I almost said "like a lead zeppelin" but decided that would be alarmingly tacky), Brutal Legend has spent the last couple of years floating from publisher to publisher before landing at Electronic Arts. EA's been displaying a sudden and admirable willingness to take risks lately, and Brutal Legend is a gamble.

Psychonauts was a sales failure, and Tenacious D's "The Pick of Destiny" bombed at the box office. Anyone who sees Brutal Legend in action and doesn't think it kicks ass and immediately want to buy it is clearly a fun-hating demon child, but I remember saying the same things a few years ago about Psychonauts, and none of you bastards bought that either. If Brutal Legend somehow manages to bomb, it's going to ensure EA never does anything interesting or creative for the next decade, and it's going to result in a lot of angry editorials about how much gamers suck the root. Buy Brutal Legend, and you may in fact improve the world.

When Eddie lands in the Age of Metal, he immediately winds up with a sweet guitar and a cool ax, with an army of demons looking to take a piece out of him. Since Eddie is an accomplished roadie, he's not the leader that the fledgling human resistance is looking for, but he's very good at putting things together from behind the scenes. That includes a number of machines left behind by now-departed gods of rock, encoded in guitar tablature and schematics that only Eddie knows how to read.

Short version: Eddie manages to slap together a bitchin' hot rod pretty soon after the game starts. You're a big guy with an ax, a guitar, and a really fast car with flames on the sides, up against an endless army of expendable demons. Brutal Legend is about living in an album cover from '70s metal, where the only thing that matters about just any facet of the world is that it's as sweet as possible.

Brutal Legend is a free-roaming action game, to break it down to basic genres. The world of Brutal Legend is about 64 square kilometers wide, and it's designed to be driven through quickly and recklessly on your way to the next challenge. Eddie's hot rod can be summoned from anywhere in the game world with his guitar; various riffs take the place of "magic" in Brutal Legend, letting you set enemies on fire, call down lightning, or melt off enemies' faces, complete with its own short-lived pyrotechnics show.

Eddie is also basically Glenn Danzig with a giant battle ax, so he's capable of dishing out some serious pain that way as well. The combat system is combo-based and relatively simple from what I've seen, including the ability to pop up an enemy and send him flying baseball style.

Brutal Legend is a love letter to heavy metal, complete with voice acting by Rob Halford, the vocalist for Judas Priest, and Lemmy of Motörhead fame. Since Lemmy is God, that makes Brutal Legend perilously close to divine writ. I'm having a hard time connotating the virtues of the game at the moment, but I'm glad something like this can be made. It's utterly ridiculous in all the right ways, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. The only thing that could go wrong at this point is if a couple of Psychonauts' flaws reassert themselves, like the ridiculous difficulty of the late game. I'm looking forward to finding that out for myself.

 


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