Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brütal Legend - Review

The demo sold me on this game. The quality of presentation was through the roof and the gameplay seemed like solid brawling and driving fun. When reviews came out it became apparent that most of the core of this game has more to do with a real time strategy title than an open world adventure. A far cry to be sure from the singular focus the demo had on learning a few simple combos and bashing your way through waves of enemies, then careening through destroyed landscapes in a demonic hot rod. The complete shift in expectations was jarring, and the demo could've shed more light on gameplay ahead.

Despite this surprising turn, Brütal Legend managed to be one awesome gaming experience. Tim Schafer and his crew at Double Fine have created a world here that owes itself to many aspects of heavy metal culture, yet always comes across as a faithful homage rather than baseless parody. It makes no apologies for it's influences, and this shines through in the extensive metal soundtrack, and artwork which wouldn't feel out of place on a Hammerfall album cover, or as a setting in a Heavy Metal film. This world would likely work just as well in an animated series or film.

The game world is large, and has to be to fit in all the army building and warring you'll be doing. The scope of the game increases steadily, from playing campaigns that amount to club shows in scale all the way up to full sized jam packed arena venues. This metaphor comes from the game itself, using concert stages and merch booths in place of town halls and gold mines.

All of this would seem like a good bit of utter nonsense, if the characters and world that the developers created here didn't satisfy, underneath it all. The small cast is fairly diverse in character, and leading man Jack Black lends great humour and a touch of humility to the role of Eddie Riggs, the player character. The storyline offers a few twists and turns throughout, and cuts a few deep glimpses into the fairly rich mythology of this expansive setting. Most flaws in the gameplay are balanced out by the simple pleasures the game offers, whether driving around listening to music while searching for hidden items and power-ups throughout the larger than life landscapes, or calling upon increasingly insane power-up guitar solos to help in the larger battles.

I do think you'd need a certain appreciation for the music and artistic influences present here to really get into this game, as well as a willingness to power through some fairly rough gameplay sections, as no single play mechanic would win any awards without the rest of the package to prop it up. Somehow it all comes together into such an inspired and unique work that I couldn't help but love every minute of it, though the strategy focused gameplay in the multiplayer mode didn't have me quite as hooked as the main adventure.

No comments: