Brutal Legend

Yes I realise there's meant to be an umlaut in the title. Do I give a shit? I do not. Read on for an overgrown child's opinion about a baby game...

 

 

Games. Games games games games games. Games. They are THE greatest artform. By an absolute mile. They have been for absolutely ages too, but for some reason the zeitgeist haven’t yet grasped quite how artistically significant they are. Games don’t warrant the same critical respect as music, books or cinema, they say. Nothing is taught about consequence, or the ways of the world, they say. Games desensitise the youth, they say.

Bollocks I say.

Games do teach about the ways of the world. For example, I now know never to go on holiday to a rural Spanish village, as they’ll all be fucking mental and peg it at me with pitchforks and chainsaws. Games also teach about consequence, as from playing games I know that firing a handgun into a lake will result in me being unfortunately eaten by a great-big-fuck-off sea beast. And games do not desensitise, as when I tanned the little midget with a rocket launcher, I felt a bit bad.

 

Splat

See, that’s a cornucopia of world experience and emotion isn’t it? And it’s all from the same game too, which happens to be Resident Evil 4 (i.e. mans greatest achievement). If you get all that from just one example of the medium, think what you’d get with at least a dozen! Yes that’s right, you’d turn into a neurotic mess like dear old Count Gorlock. Anyhoo…

Games haven’t ever been featured on metal as fuck before, because… well, they’re games. But Brutal Legend is an exception because it is a game about metal, and therefore gives lovable Count Gorlock a chance to sit on his arse, drink beer and play on a child’s toy for a few hours in the name of ‘work.’

Right. Brutal Legend’s plot. Basically, a roadie called Eddie Riggs - who is the product of a vicious bumming session between Danzig and Jack Black (Black incidentally provides the voice) - mysteriously ends up in a world that resembles a Boris Vallejo painting. Sculptures of guitars and devil horns adorn the world, and there’s a massive cliff-face made up of amps. It’s all very grandiose and varied, with sunny vistas, frostbitten mountains and gothic woodlands. Meanwhile, beasties that bear more than a passing resemblance to those of a prehistoric disposition (like Saxon fans) roam the land, giving it a shallow veneer of life. It turns out not all is well with the world, and an evil dictator (played by Tim Curry, who’s always ace) is causing all sorts of hassle, and Eddie has been prophesised to blah blah fucking blah. To be honest, the plot doesn’t really amount to much, and is nothing more than a vehicle for creator Tim Schafer (responsible for excellent games such as Monkey Island, Psychonauts and Grim Fandango) to make some heavy metal dick jokes. It’s all pretty funny stuff, and Jack Black is even tolerable, as he keeps his stupid gargantuan manchild histrionics to a minimum.

 

DANZIG

‘But what of the game?’ I hear you ask. Well, without wanting to ruin anything, you basically end up having to fight lots of baddies, ranging from evil monks, nuns, cock-rocker enemies and goths. This is where it gets a bit confuddled. At the start of the game, you’re fooled into thinking it’s going to be a God of War-style twat-em-up, as our Danzigoppelganger runs around hacking the shit out of things with an axe, and blowing things up with guitar solos. As it goes on though, it turns into a simplified Real Time Strategy game, as you send your army (modelled after heavy metal stereotypes like groupies, roadies and fans) to beat things up. Think Command and Conquer, but with shit hair. It’s somewhat jarring, as the demo that was released for the game made it seem like a mad, open-world beat-em-up.

Speaking of open world, it even manages to balls that up a bit. It’s open world in the same way my home town is an open world. You can go anywhere, but there’s piss all in it and you don’t want to talk to any fucker. Sure it looks nice, and is pretty varied, but it’s a cheap tactic to prolong the (disgracefully short) campaign. The landscape is liberally laced with power-ups detrimental to completing the game effectively, but when going through the main campaign you won’t bother to explore it (I didn’t anyway, but I am a fucking tool to be honest), and you’ll just want to get to the next stage of the plot.

It’s got lots of varied gameplay, but it all feels shonky and half-arsed when plonked together. It’s bitten off more than it could chew and sprinkled lashings of acrid urine on its chips at the same time.

Basically, it’s a bit plops.

Strangely though, Brutal Legend gets away with being a bit plops. It’s like a child ballsing up at a music competition, but winning anyway by making silly faces and mooning the audience. It has charm in abundance, from the cartoony art style and snappy script to its fantastic use of music (the bit where Black Sabbath’s Children of the Grave kicks in is genius). If you’ve ever harboured any appreciation for metal (and I have an inkling that you do), it’s a big chunk of fan service. As well as the extensive soundtrack, Schafer’s secured the acting services of such notable metal luminaries as Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford, Lemmy and Lita Ford. All do a good job, but special kudos should go to Osbourne. Not only is he astoundingly decipherable, he’s a bloody revelation, with a comedic touch that puts the rest of his brain damaged family to shame. It’s simply the best bit of media he’s been on since Sabbath booted him out in the seventies. The script is filled with absolutely hundreds of tongue-in-cheek references to metal and its frankly embarrassing culture, and the world itself is so heavily steeped in metal lore that one can’t help but grin a big nerdy grin. It’s all these deft touches and sleights of hand that turn a mediocre game into a really entertaining one.

 

DANZIG

As is to be expected in a game primarily about heavy metal, the soundtrack plays a big part. There are over a hundred metal standards to roam around the world to, and, true to form, loads of them are complete shit. You’ve got that Breadfan song (possibly the most annoying song ever conceived), as well as shitey standards by the Scorpions, Motley Crue and FUCKING SAXON (I’m pretty convinced now that God put them on this Earth to get up my arse). Fair enough, it adds to the ‘ye olde worlde’ heavy metal atmosphere, but to a thoroughly modern gentleman such as myself it’s as pleasurable as being reverse cowgirled by Thora Hird. Thankfully though Schafer has realised that we’re not all regressive Hessian wankers, and has seen fit to include more contemporary tunes by Static X, KMFDM, Carcass and Mastodon. Though I hate most of it, I really can’t fault it. There really is something for everyone in this soundtrack, and the amount of love that’s been liberally spunked over the game is pretty telling.

There’s a multiplayer mode too, but I haven’t really tried it because I only ever use eggbox live for artistic purposes (Gears of War 2). And I’d get embarrassingly beaten. Because I’m rubbish.

 

DANZIG

Overall, Brutal Legend does more than enough to warrant a look. It’s infuriatingly shit at times, but it falls just the right side of commendable. Whilst it’s probably not worth forking out for a full price copy, I’m reasonably sure it’ll be a good price in a month or two. It’ll charm the leather studded pants off you, and if the witty one liners or the kaleidoscopic style don’t sway you, the myriad swearing and soundtrack will.

Besides, don’t take my word for it. Let’s leave it to an internet legend to have the final say…

Brutal Legend is out now!