Games for Lunch: Brütal Legend
Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360
Release Date: Oct. 13, 2009
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web Site
0:00 I'm a big fan of Jack Black and Tim Schafer, but not a big fan of heavy metal music. Not even in an ironic, detached way. I just really don't like it. Also, I could barely hear the demo I saw with Gus Mastrapa on the crowded E3 show floor this year. So, I really don't know what to expect from this.
0:01 Before the game even starts, I'm treated to this hilarious sequence of Jack Black one-liners on the PS3 preview screen: "Let's mosh it up! Whaddaya say? ... Time for a mosh pit! ... Come on, dude, how come we're not moshing? ... Yep, moshing time! ... If only we had a mosh pit going on ... Yep, a mosh pit would really hit the spot right about now. ... One of these days, I'm gonna try that mosh-pit thing I've been hearing about. ... Pffft, yeah, mosh pits are probably stupid." I'm already laughing and the game hasn't even started!
0:02 "Version 1.01 of the software is already available." And it's ... a 256 MB download?! Say what you will about the PS3, it is predictable. Oh well. The system estimates I'll be seeing you in 13 minutes...
0:16 I love how the counter says "108 seconds" rather than rounding to two minutes. As if that makes the 15-minute wait so far less interminable.
0:18 Download finally done ... another minute to install, and...
0:19 "There is not enough free space on the hard disk. The game was forced to quit. At least 170 MB more free space is needed." Kill me now.
0:20 So long, SOCOM: Confrontation game data. My hard drive appreciates getting your 2.7 GB of space back. That said, I really do need to upgrade the 60 GB hard drive in this thing.
0:21 Man, even deleting the data takes a whole minute. I'm getting a bit touchy about all this waiting...
0:22 Finally, the game is loading and logo-ing. I like the cute heavy-metal bandanas on the Double Fine logo.
0:23 "Installing Brütal Legend." OH DEAR GOD NO! At least it's quick ... as I type this it's already up to 63 percent. Aaaaaand ... done!
0:24 Quick cut to an HD video of ... the real-life Jack Black? Walking down a sunny urban street? Wha? "OK, don't say a word, just keep walking, real casual. OK, let's do this." He leads me into a hole-in-the-wall record store. "They keep it way in the back with all the really cool stuff." He's having trouble finding it in its usual spot. "No, did somebody buy it? Oh man! I would have bought it myself, but I just felt it was too big, too valuable, like the kind of thing no one man should possess ... YES! Here it is!" It's ... a record? "What I hold in my hand isn't just going to blow your mind, it's going to blow your soul. Go ahead ... open it ... if you dare." With that, he puts the album down on the table: an all-black record sleeve with the Brütal Legend logo and a "Press Start" sticker. What a way to start a game!
0:25 As I type my notes, Jack Black's hands appear on the sides of the record. They point at the press start sticker and make a gun firing motion. Then they tap the fingers impatiently and drum along to background music. Cute! Also, I just noticed the price tag on the album: "$6.66." OF COURSE!
0:26 OK, let's do this. Heh, the menu options are hidden on the album packaging. "New game" and "Continue" are on the inside of the foldout record sleeve. "Chapters" on the back. "Multiplayer" on the thin paper record protector, "Options" on one side of the actual record, "Extras" on the other. Nice touch.
0:27 Selectable difficulties are Gentle, Normal and Brütal. With the umlaut! Let's try Normal.
0:28 Zoom in on the gothic skull castle on the album art, which fades into a 3-D model of the same. Eddie Riggs tunes up a guitar backstage as a thin guy in a red leather jacket walks up. "Riggs ... sorry I smashed your guitar last night." Riggs hands him a shiny guitar. "Whoa, it's like new! How'd you do that?" Riggs lights a cig. "I'll try not to smash it so much, this time," the thin punk says as he walks to the stage. A guy with a Phantom of the Opera half-mask is next, asking when they're gonna build a new set that's not just funny in an "ironic/retro way." They need a new set that speaks to the "tween demographic. ... Sooner or later you're gonna have to join the modern world, y'know."
0:29 "OK, do you people want to hear some heavy metal?" says red jacket guy. It starts out real hard, but then becomes some sort of lame hip-hop mash up. Riggs cringes. "I can fix anything, except that. ... Ever feel like you were born in the wrong time? Like you should have been born earlier. When the music was real?" "Like the '70s," asks another roadie. "Earlier. Like ... the early '70s!" EL OH EL!
0:30 Red jacket climbs the huge skeleton model behind the stage. "I told you not to climb on that, you stupid mother..." With that, the game pauses and brings up a menu box: "From time to time, Brütal Legend may need to utilize strong language in order to accurately portray the authentic roadie experience to the player." I can choose "I want to hear every nasty syllable" or "It's funnier if you bleep it out." Bleeping is funny, but I'm gonna go for the nastiness. "...f***in' piece of shit!" Riggs finishes.
0:31 Eddie runs towards red jacket in dramatic slow-mo. "A good roadie knows his whole job is to make someone else look good," he says in voiceover. "A good roadie stays out of the spotlight. .... Before you even know he's there, he's gone." With that line, he's crushed by a huge piece of falling stagecraft. Blood drips onto his skull belt buckle from his ripped arm. The corresponding skull set piece on the stage glows and becomes the head of a huge, metal skull beast with FLAMING EYES. RAWK! Pause for another menu: "Brütal Legend contains some blood and gore, including dismemberment and occasional beheading, whenever it is necessary for the plot, historical accuracy, or to look awesome." My choices are "Okay, but only when it really would look very awesome." or "No gore, please!" Clever. Let's go with the gore.
0:34 The skull beast roars so loudly the tweenie-boppers' heads are literally BLOWN OFF! That did indeed look very awesome. Then he punches the drummer and lays Eddie down gently. He jumps into the audience and roars. The crowd LOVES it.
0:35 Cut to some sort of temple, where druids are gathered around an axe. "The day has finally come for us to serve our master." Eddie is humble. "Hey, I'm not your master." "No, you are not," replies one red-robed druid as he draws a sword. Eep!
0:36 They're coming up the stairs toward me. "Oh, uh ... but uh ... yeah, I totally KNOW the master." Eddie looks worried. In control now, I run away. "I gotta find a weapon." Oh yeah, the axe! I tap triangle and pick up "The Separator: Touch not this awesome axe or suffer the wrath of the tainted coil!" Uh, what?
0:38 Jamming X cuts through the druids real good, with some nice fluid movements. I can even chop through the candles lighting this dark tomb. I pick up a guitar that's lying around. As I plunk out a few notes, electricity crackles through the approaching druids. Eddie grins. It's "Clementine: A humble guitar back home, but here, the power of her rock seems to be amplified by the world itself." ROCK!
0:39 Tapping square uses the guitar to send electrical crackles through enemies, even if they're far away. Holding it down blows them sky high. Can't use it too much, though, or it gets red hot and I have to go back to the Axe. I also have an "Earthshaker power chord [that] will blow everybody away and bring the house down."
0:41 Fade to black, and back up suddenly outside, on a huge plateau made of giant skulls and bones and rib cages, sitting in a green sea. Whoa. A mechanical walker comes up with a womanly shape in a long red dress. "OK, I'm supposed to think you're a nun, but you're really some big ugly demon, so let's have it," says a skeptical Riggs. She turns to reveal a faceless mouth made entirely of metal shards. "Ah ha, I knew it. A big ugly demon! Kind of sexy, though, in a weird way."
0:44 She has some wicked black breath attacks and takes a few more hits than the druids, but still nothing too tough. Into the walker I go, praying to make it move. "Dear evil, messed up demon powers of darkness and, uh, unimaginable ... power ... majestic ... evil. Please transport me off this awesome corpse pile. I am but a visitor in your strange world, which some would call hellish, but I have to admit, it's kind of bad-assed." Jack Black really sells it.
0:45 At the bottom of the bone ramp, I fall off the walker and some druids trap me in a red field. "Nice cheater move, guys!" An Earthshaker breaks me out, and I slash at a nearby druid, who stops my attack. The hood falls away to reveal a pretty female face. "Oh man, don't tell me I've been slaying hot girls this whole time." Nope ... she's just another searching for the legendary axe, which she says I'm good at wielding. As we talk, we casually kill enemies sneaking up behind us. Then, as we fight, she tells me about Emperor Vinculus, whose personal guard I'm slaying. Man, this game has a lot of talking so far.
0:46 My mysterious ally has an annoying habit of looking exactly like the enemies in that red robe. In her defense, she also has an awesome "team up" attack where I pick her up and launch her at the enemies.
0:47 A new combo attack lets me knock enemies into "the bleachers of infinite pain." What a great turn of phrase! The writing is by far the best part of the game so far. Much better than the basic hack-'em-up gameplay, for sure.
0:49 Through a crack in a huge wooden door, we see a vast phalanx of enemy druids. "Yeah, that's a lot of dudes." And the understatement of the year award goes to...
0:51 Before I know it I'm tapping through a REALLY simple rhythm mini-game to raise a bunch of car parts from the ground and build them into a bad-ass hot rod, mostly off-screen. "I call it the druid plow. Let me show you how it works," Eddie says. The mystery girl has taken off her robes, revealing a slender figure in a tight black T-shirt. "Looks like it's working already!" "You have awakened the spirit of the beast itself," she says. "I hope so," he replies, deadpan. INNUENDO! She looks bewildered as she hops in the passenger seat, eyes wide with ... horror? Confusion?
0:55 We plow through the door, driving through a winding path, tearing down druids and huge piles of bones while avoiding large skeletal walkers that try to crush our car. Eddie says the place is messed up. "Yes, these are dark times for our world." But some humans are fighting the darkness. "Is that why you've come? To join us and help fight for the liberation of humanity?" she asks. "Y'know, I don't really know ... hadn't really thought about it. But so far that's the best explanation I've heard." Me too.
0:56 With that, I run right into a big walker and get crushed. "BRüTAL DEFEAT." Bummer.
0:57 Winding path over, we reach a circular campfire area. "OK, while I'm slaying these dudes you get the gate open, OK?" But she's already off, climbing the wall in an attempt to open the gate. "God, she's awesome." Indeed.
1:00 OK, I jumped out of the car to defeat a few more druids, but now I have no idea where to go or what to do. The gate is still closed, and there's nothing else around to help open it. Frustrating!
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? The wry writing, primarily. Everything else so far, I could take it or leave it.
This column is based on a retail copy of the PS3 game provided by the publisher.
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