Brütal Legend -- First Impressions

There are two basic ways to interpret and judge, if such is your inclination, Brütal Legend. The first is as a flawed game with moments of inspired gameplay that borrows mechanics from a dozen other games in ways that are fun in a transitory sort of sense, but rarely feels elevated.

The second is as a virtual representation of the demented head-trip that is Heavy Metal.

The cultural lens through which you absorb the story of Eddie Riggs will make a significant difference as to where you fall on the grand spectrum between love and hate. Should you choose to play the game as you would any other—and really who could blame you?—your enjoyment will inevitably wane with a sense that Brütal Legend never really takes off the Floatees to swim deep in the ocean of complex mechanics.

But, if you throw up the horns and baptize yourself in the unholy miasma that seeps from every corner of the game, calling you to the realm of the Well and Truly Rocked, then those mundane issues all wash away.

I am a disciple of Rock, and when the Earth is torn asunder by the Chrome Beast Who Belches the Cleansing Power Chords, I’ll be standing on the broken pinnacle of a molten crag wearing a Judas Priest t-shirt. I think Tim Schafer’s gonna be there too.

I wanted to like Brütal Legend, and so I do.

Unbiased objectivism may be a lot of things, but Metal it is not. No one stands around listening to Ozzy saying things like, “you know, it’s bad enough that they’ve fallen back on the hoary standards of 4/4 time, but that chord progression is just too tired for words.” So too, you will find in this brief, but earnest, First Impression little talk of how basic the RTS controls actually are or how redundant the actual combat can be.

This is not a game for video game purists. This is a video game for people with fond memories of sitting on their bed as a baleful teen, earphones pressed deep into hard flesh listening to Zeppelin or Sabbath under the dead-eyed glare of evil manifest in an Iron Maiden or Megadeth poster. This is a safari into the unbridled world of a heavy album cover. With jokes.

For all the complaints that may eventually be aimed at Brütal Legend, one that would be truly indefensible is any impeachment on Double Fine for making a game that doesn’t understand its audience. This is a game for old people, people who were forced to endure the death of Metal to bands like Whitesnake, Poison and post-1990 Metallica. Like every Tim Schafer effort, there is only a fragment of the gaming population prepared to truly appreciate the multi-layered depths of what is going on here.

But, if you are in that niche, the iconography, the themes, the music, the cameos, the writing and the sensibility that Brütal Legend unfailingly delivers will be not unlike a drug. Put simply, true Metal fans will have beer goggles for this game. Brütal Legend is a biker chick—inked goddess to the few and shallow, leathery harpie to the rest.

The flaws of the game don’t detract. They give it character. Just as a fan of vinyl looks at your studio-quality 320kbps .mp3 Electronica collection and says you just don’t get it, I am inclined to say the same of those who may complain about the game as an exploration of rehashed and not particularly exciting standards. This is a game made for a historically marginalized population, and with Metal-cred established from the moment the menu screen loads, there’s simply no chance that we’re turning on Brütal Legend for the minor crime of being a relatively mediocre game.

If I were wearing my reviewer hat instead of this biker’s skull cap, I would point out that the depth and breadth of world-building at play here mitigates a lot of what goes astray. The deeper you dig into Brütal Legend, the more callbacks and references you find to a lifestyle that has rarely been truly appreciated. It goes beyond the glaring obviousness of a world built on demons and chrome torn from the imaginations of bikers and headbangers. It is layered deep, and brought to life through sharp dialogue and flawless delivery.

I can’t sit here and tell you that this is a game built for every gamer. Probably not even most. I can tell you that if you want to crank the volume on your stereo system, scream a demon hotrod into the air as fire belches from its exhaust and land onto the bloodied corpses of your foes while “Rock of Ages” echoes under the shadow of a giant stone skull, then you shall find joy here.

Comments

*Legion* wrote:
Malor wrote:
*Legion* wrote:
Malor wrote:

I've never been into metal

We can fix you.

Dude, that is HARSH. Removing my testicles for not liking music?

You don't like metal. They're already gone.

I love it! Ya I must be one of the only people on this forum that loves his Metal. The soundtrack in this game is amazing. Even though I could use a bit more from newer bands like Lamb of God, Arch Enemy, and some Children of Bodom. And yes the game has some flaws but if you just go with it and try not to pick everything about it apart it's a damn good time. My advice is just play it in small chunks...do a mission or two and then take a break and play something else. The story is so awesome too. The fight of true metal vs hair metal.....amazing! Just go listen to While You Were Shouting At The Devil by Zimmer's Hole and it all makes sense.

I think I'm the only person in the world who is actually playing this game for 4 or 5 hour stretches at a time and still loving every minute of it. I keep seeing people say to play it in small chunks, but I have a hard time making myself stop once I've started.

As for Tycho, I have a feeling he just doesn't get it. Sure, it's an RTS. The RTS elements are pretty rudimentary, though, and it's also an action game. Makes perfect sense to me to play it as a hybrid of the two. It's what I've been doing the whole time. I don't understand how anyone could go through the story and not understand that you don't just sit back and play it like a straight RTS. Is it because they're used to regular RTS games and are stuck in their ways? Oh well.

MechaSlinky wrote:

I think I'm the only person in the world who is actually playing this game for 4 or 5 hour stretches at a time and still loving every minute of it. I keep seeing people say to play it in small chunks, but I have a hard time making myself stop once I've started.

On the day I got the game, I played it for 5 hours straight. A lot of that time was spent just taking in the environment and cruising around in my hotrod while listening to the awesome music and running over animals. Since then, I've had a couple 2-hour "small chunks" sessions, but for the most part, I play for at least 3 hours at a time. Of course, I'm a metalhead, so I'm loving it depsite its flaws.

MechaSlinky wrote:

I think I'm the only person in the world who is actually playing this game for 4 or 5 hour stretches at a time and still loving every minute of it. I keep seeing people say to play it in small chunks, but I have a hard time making myself stop once I've started.

I got started playing it last night and before I realized what time it was, it was 4 AM and I had beat the game. Totally worth the loss of sleep.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

There's a disturbance in the force.

Tim Schaffer has written an open letter to players saying, l2p noob.

As Tycho sums up

If you try to play the stage battles in Brütal Legend as an RTS game then you will lose.

This is a statement I honestly don't understand. Much of the game (and the entirety of the multiplayer) is self-evidently an RTS, and one must engage in real-time strategy battles in order to progress though the body of the campaign. The fact that the game is also many other things, perhaps too many things simultaneously, doesn't alter the fact. And you can't really blame people for playing the game as an RTS when that's explicitly how you taught them to play it.

Elsewhere in his manifesto, he ponders a number of rhetorical RTS scenarios and then in the next sentence denigrates their importance, which makes me wonder why the game's tutorial takes such great pains to stress real-time strategy fundamentals. One might question the wisdom of constructing a game mode almost entirely out of concepts from a universally understood genre and then telling people they're wrong when they play according to those recognized structures. I'm all about recontextualizing genre tropes, but that's not what happened here. They put one genre on top of another genre and then stood back, marveling at their ingenuity.

Tell ya what, then. If you trust the opinion of a guy who has publicly stated he didn't like Brutal Legend, as gospel, then yeah have fun believing whatever you will.

However, if you want to see that Tim Schafer might actually know how to play his own game betterb than a game reviewer who didn't like it, come play myself and/or my friends online sometime. You'll be building up units and worrying about capping points, and suddenly boom, you'll be dead and not even know what hit you.

This is because double-teams and combat heroes are the most effective way to play the game. You don't need to capture merchandise points, you don't need to knock out your enemy's economy. You need to hop onto a razor girl's back, use your L-Trigger lockon "IWIN" button, and kill anything that comes within range.

While I'm sure being a lauded comic book celebrity gives him a lot of cred, I'm pretty confident that I could kick the heck out of Tycho and anyone else who thinks that the Stage Battles are "totally an RTS", and I'm confident enough after playing a couple dozen games online, that you could pick the map and factions, I don't care. Schafer tells the truth, the multiplayer is Herzog Zwei, it's Sacrifice. It's "get your hero to the closest thing you can that gives him an attack boost, and then keep everybody together and beeline for the enemy stage. Remember to play lots of solos, because they're fun and kill dozens of units at a time."

Yea Tycho is arguing the semantics of Schafers statements instead of, you know, trying them in the goddamn game.

coyo7e wrote:

However, if you want to see that Tim Schafer might actually know how to play his own game betterb than a game reviewer who didn't like it, come play myself and/or my friends online sometime. You'll be building up units and worrying about capping points, and suddenly boom, you'll be dead and not even know what hit you.

You have to admit, though, that when you need to explain to people how to play in order to have fun, that's a failure of design.

I loved the game, personally, though I had to figure out a lot of the mechanics that weren't exactly taught very well before I could start loving it.

Switchbreak wrote:
coyo7e wrote:

However, if you want to see that Tim Schafer might actually know how to play his own game betterb than a game reviewer who didn't like it, come play myself and/or my friends online sometime. You'll be building up units and worrying about capping points, and suddenly boom, you'll be dead and not even know what hit you.

You have to admit, though, that when you need to explain to people how to play in order to have fun, that's a failure of design.

I loved the game, personally, though I had to figure out a lot of the mechanics that weren't exactly taught very well before I could start loving it.

No, I don't have to "admit" anything.

I personally prefer to play a game and discover stuff myself. I LIKE when I accidentally find out online, that I can change the songs by standing on my stage. I enjoy staring at a chained Lore statue and trying every ability and song I have on it, until I figure out what works. I dig finding out a cool mechanic before anybody else I know, and then sharing it with my friends. I even like hitting a dead-end in a game, because I'm not smart enough to figure out a puzzle for an hour. I like hidden game mechanics which people may win a game without ever knowing about.

I don't like long tutorial sections pointing out obvious stuff. I don't like unlimited lives and persistent enemies which I can whittle away with a pipe wrench and enough death-runs. I can't stand when someone doesn't understand how to play a game, then goes out onto a public stage and talks smack at it.

Brutal Legend doesn't hide anything from the player. It doesn't obscure how to win. It doesn't mislead you with how to fight the RTS battles, that's left to your own interpretation. Superimposing your preexisting expectations from prior game experiences onto a new game is not the fault of the game or its creators, and I don't see it as a negative that a person can play through a game without ever being personally curious enough to find out some game mechanics.. Many people went through Mass Effect and never knew they could zoom in the Mako turret, they didn't ding the game for it, though, and if the makers of mass effect went online and posted, "Hey, you know if you zoom in with the Mako, the driving portions are a joke," there's still no good reason to hate on them for it.

So if the game is better if you don't know how to play it, then he still shouldn't have come out and told people how to play it, therefore ruining the game! Check and mate!

coyo7e wrote:

Brutal Legend doesn't hide anything from the player. It doesn't obscure how to win. It doesn't mislead you with how to fight the RTS battles, that's left to your own interpretation. Superimposing your preexisting expectations from prior game experiences onto a new game is not the fault of the game or its creators, and I don't see it as a negative that a person can play through a game without ever being personally curious enough to find out some game mechanics..

A few reviewers have bashed the game because it's a terrible RTS game. That alone proves to me that the concept went right over their heads. It's not an RTS; it's an action game with RTS elements. You don't need a mini-map when the enemies come in waves, the maps are so small that it's impossible to miss anything and no one should be in the sky for more than a few seconds anyway. It's really a matter of building the units, pointing them in the right direction and fighting alongside them.

I don't play RTS games and figuring out that Brutal Legend wasn't meant to be one was a relief for me. Now I see why it was never marketed as one either. If it had been, I probably wouldn't have picked it up and RTS gamers would've labeled it the worst RTS of all time.

I've read the thread on the forum and most of the comments here and just wanted to say this:

I am not a metal head, I don't love listening to Ozzie, although I don't hate the music, I don't love it.

I like Brutal Legend. It is not the greatest game of all time, but I am really having a lot of fun playing it and I like the story. I actually look forward to watching the cutscenes is how much I like the story and that is quite uncommon for me.

Game is fun and story is good and I can resell it on eBay when I am done. What is not to like about this game? I'm getting my money's worth for sure.

I'm not entirely sure if it is a failure of design, though. I figured out exactly how to play it and didn't realize there were people out there having trouble with it. The game taught me about everything I needed to know (except that pressing the stick in causes Eddie to dash, which is a small failure) and I just naturally played it exactly as Tim Schafer said people should. This is possibly a side-effect of not being an RTS player. Sitting back and trying to micromanage quickly became boring because I was simply sitting there doing nothing for big stretches of time. Plus, without me, enemy faces were going unmelted! Therefore, the game must want me to jump into the thick of things.

It's an expertly crafted game, save for a few minor issues (why can't I go back and watch the cutscenes whenever I want, you frigging jerks!? Why does my death outside of missions cause me to spawn all the way back at the last place the game saved even though I don't lose any of the things I've found since then?) but, unfortunately, the pre-conceived notions of many people, mainly those who play RTS games, is holding the game back. I hate to say it, but while this is a failing of the players, it's also a failing of the game. But it's mostly a failure of the players, which is something I very rarely even like to think, let alone say or type out loud. The game does almost everything in its power to explain how to play the game. The story mode is essentially a long-ass stage-battle tutorial. Plus, as was already said, it was marketed as an action game, which I initially thought was a bad idea but now realize it was actually a great idea.

Luckily for me, this game totally and completely clicked 100%. I'm loving every square inch of it, inside and out. I love it so much that I'm willing to plop down the cash for an XBox Live gold account once again. You know, once I have that cash in hand. I feel like I've said all this same exact stuff over and over for the past week. I love the game so much I don't even care if I'm repeating myself.

I respect Tycho, but his argument is retarded. Besides, how can you be mad at a game with Brian Posehn in it!? Brian f*cking Posehn!

I just finished playing the campaign and I had a blast while doing it. The world is beautiful to look at and I am now having fun driving around listening to the music. I will eventually try the multiplayer but I am having to much fun fooling around in the world that they created.

Interesting.

I made my earlier post to see how people would react. When the Lair developers sent a communication out instructing reviewers on the right way to play the game it was met with universal derision. Tim Schaffer does and he gets defended because he 'knows the game best.'

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Interesting.

I made my earlier post to see how people would react. When the Lair developers sent a communication out instructing reviewers on the right way to play the game it was met with universal derision. Tim Schaffer does and he gets defended because he 'knows the game best.'

Lair was a steaming pile of garbage, Brutal Legend isn't. Apples and Turdsteaks.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Interesting.

I made my earlier post to see how people would react. When the Lair developers sent a communication out instructing reviewers on the right way to play the game it was met with universal derision. Tim Schaffer does and he gets defended because he 'knows the game best.'

Lair had terrible controls among other problems. Brutal Legend combines two different genres and some players are having trouble adjusting to the hybrid gameplay. There is no comparison.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Interesting.

I made my earlier post to see how people would react. When the Lair developers sent a communication out instructing reviewers on the right way to play the game it was met with universal derision. Tim Schaffer does and he gets defended because he 'knows the game best.'

He didn't send those "instructions" to the reviewers, he put that out for the players. Slight difference.

Also, if someone would care to see how to really, really do well online in this game, look me up and I can show you some pretty rad stuff that can be done with a group of players online.

I really liked Brutal Legend, it's a fantastic game that's not perfect but I definitely am glad I played it and I would recommend anyone to.

I am glad I played it but I probably won't play it again.

IMAGE(http://i1023.photobucket.com/albums/af356/klentonw/14034_frontviewL.jpg)

The Lover Giver. Made by Alembic. Nice... for a guitar.

I really enjoyed Brutal Legend's story and music (gotta love Angel Witch!), but wish it would have stuck with the racing/brawler gameplay. The RTS-action portions just weren't for me, they just reminded me of how I would rather be playing Red Alert 3 instead.

Even though I didn't beat the game and traded it back in, I liked how characters were developed and the voice-acting.

That guitar is brilliant.

Some of my friends in h.s. were metal heads, I'm not a metal head. I'm not much of a Jack Black fan (although I did enjoy Nacho Libre). That said...

This is a good game. I'm really enjoying it. Its easy to see from the load up screen to the option menus to the story / plot, this is a labour of love and homage to metal and its fans.

I got it on this recent T-giving steam sale...and have to say... its worth much more than the 4 dollars I paid.