Last night I returned home from PAX AUS 2014. Long story short, it wasn't perfect, but it was quite possibly the best weekend I've had this year. It was a lot of fun. If you'd like to continue reading, the long story is just below.
Buckle up. This is gonna be...
Ever wondered what a world would look like if it were constructed by the Lords of Metal? After years of development and one hell of a trip to release, Double Fine Productions have conceived the most Metal game in history, and it's one hell of a ride.
Once you pop in the game, you're introduced to one of the most interesting intro menus in recent memory: an entire vinyl record cover made just for Brütal Legend, which is easily the coolest thing I've ever seen done with an intro menu. When your difficulty is selected and you journey into the game, you're then introduced to a very funny intro movie debating on how the genre of Metal is being perceived and a hilarious way of choosing if you would or would not like Gore and/or Language. From then on you are transported into a world of pure Metal: Statues of guitars, Metal references abound, and a colossal wall of amps, the world of Metal does not disappoint. And who is to star in this world of Metal and all of its awesomeness?
Meet Eddie Riggs; a roadie who can fix and build anything, demeaned to helping the nu-metal, tween targeted band across the road. But when the band's guitarist [full of Psychonauts humor] is sure to fall, Eddie comes to save the day, and blend away like all roadies can do. But when he meshes with the background of the concert, he gets smashed by part of the massive stage he built himself; his blood drips upon his belt and unleashes the Fire God, which in turn transports Eddie into a world of Heavy Metal. Here he is thrown into a world unlike his own, and Double Fine has done a fantastic job at creating a world that looks like it lives and bleeds Metal. The characters for Brütal Legend are all well-voiced and portrayed to look the part of different Metal genres ranging from 80's Glam to the Leather Barring. Likewise, Brütal Legend is filled with hilarious dialogue and jokes against other genres of music, and even one shot at Activision & Neversoft if you can find it. Plus, the syncing of the voices is done tremendously with the characters, who are upbeat and react with great facial recognition, it's that going of the extra mile of this detail that makes the cutscenes that much better. While the game makes you roar with laughter at some of the moments, you'll be amazed at what a damn good job Double Fine accomplished by creating one of the largest soundtracks outside of GTA and Guitar Hero.
Brütal Legend's soundtrack tops at 107 songs, ranging from 1960's Metal to 2009's Heavy Metal, from all the different genres you could believe. All of them fit well with the car you're given in the game, the Druid Plow, which can be upgraded with an assortment of items. As much as I love the soundtrack, it's really a downer that you can't play it outside of the car, which has been a terrible problem with many sandbox games and Brütal Legend certainly isn't the first to commit this problem, and it certainly won't be the last; but it hurts the feeling of having a gigantic soundtrack only to be stuck in your car listening to them and that be the only way to listen to them while playing the game.
The gameplay in Brütal Legend is kind of hard to describe; it spans from Action/Adventure, to Real Time Strategy, to Sandbox, to Hack-n-Slash, and fits all of these together quite nicely. Most battles will end up with a combination of simple button presses and combos, but the RTS "band battles" will require more than just slashing your foes. Band battles are done in a form where you must gather troops, which are any allies used in the game, and build your army to take over fan geysers. Fan geysers are the backbone to your stage since the more fans you receive, the more troops you can make. Once the geysers are in your favor, and well-stocked with merchandise via Eddie Riggs solo, you can shut down the opposing force and achieve Brütal Victory. At first, it seemed out of place to include the RTS element in a Sandbox game, but it is implemented well for these battles and makes for some fairly epic sequences.
After venturing through the world of Metal and gathering Fire Tributes, which can be acquired by completing main missions and the like, you can upgrade various items at the Metal Forge. Drive down to this underground lair and be greeted by the Guardian of Metal [played by a very prolific name in Metal], here you can upgrade anything: different axes, new combos, weapons for your Druid Plow, even effigies for Mt. Rockmore. While main missions can get you Fire Tributes, you'll have to play secondary missions in order to grab more Tributes. All of the proclaimed 30 sides missions boil down to ambushing enemies, shooting enemies with your car on top of a rotating lift, or going to kill certain wildlife around the world. The worst thing about it is that if you want the top-tier weaponry for Eddie and his Druid Plow, you'll need to slab through these missions and find the generous amount of collectibles throughout the land.
While gathering Fire Tributes, it's smart to be on the lookout for collectibles, since all of them net Fire Tributes as well. There are 120 Bound Serpents, 13 Legend Statues, Solo slabs [which are done via button presses ala Ocarina of Time], and much more to collect. It is nice to collect these since finding the solo slabs net you solos that can be used for the RTS and combat, and combing the world for Bound Serpents will net you bonuses to your character and your Legend Statues give some backstory on how the world came to be how it is, though it would be nice it they said how to un-bind the Legend Statues: I had to look it up online how to do it since they never really tell how to unlock them.
But while the campaign rocks and rolls throughout its time, the time is fairly short. The main missions, while there are plenty of them, only give around 7-8 hours of gameplay. Slugging through the secondary missions and finding all the collectibles will net you maybe 10-15 more hours of gameplay, but it certainly doesn't help the replay value of the missions when you have to repeat them multiple times in the first place. The multiplayer consists PvP of the RTS band battles, but that's all that is given for multiplayer; so if you didn't like the RTS, the multiplayer won't be for you. Plus having frequent occurrences of slowdown and pop-in really hurts the immersion of driving fast and enjoying the big world they have completed. While there is a Brütal Difficulty you can play, there's no New Game+ and the replay value takes a shot when the only part of the game you'll want to play is the main missions, and the game almost forces you to return to the side missions and collectibles.
All-in-All, Brütal Legend is a hilarious, well made journey into the mind of a Metalhead. An enormous soundtrack, hilarious dialogue, and great graphics make Brütal Legend a great experience; but the short campaign, along with very little replay value will keep you coming back for more.