There’s no Coldplay in Brutal Legend, because it is built from an obsession with the heavy metal of the 80s, not tired chord progressions with lyrics that go from elation to depression and back again, constantly. You’ll hear bands like Judas Priest – so metal they once went to court accused of lacing their records with satanic messages that could only be heard if you played the record backwards – and Dio, who consider ‘Ride the tiger, you can see his stripes, but you know he’s clean!’ something that needs to be sung to the backing of chugging guitars.
The actual tracklist has yet to be finalized, but we’re hoping for some Saxon too: ‘You’ve got to hit hard, I’ve seen those demons fall. I’m savin’ my soul for the final goal!’ And any game that features the Manowar lyric: ‘May your sword stay wet like a young girl in her prime!’ has got to be constructed, mostly, of unreconstructed, testosterone-soaked winners.
The soundtrack will rattle your neighbour’s teeth, but what of the actual game? Eddie rides a V8 that can race up the body of demons and is armed with a broadaxe that’s used with God of War precision in a Golden Axe kind of way. It’s a fighter, a racer, a joker – and it’s probably a midnight toker too.
You can expect Double Fine productions to create tasty combo combat, and Shafer to make sure that no matter what you’re doing, you’re only a few moments from seeing something inspired, but like Psychonauts, it’s impossible to pre-judge the game based purely on the gameplay offered, especially since the game is yet to be in playable form.
We could use phrases like ‘it’s got bits of driving in it’, and ‘there are lots of bits where you try and rewire a demon's colon with a giant axe’, but without explaining further how Shafer has crafted such a basic premise into something that you’ll find yourself quoting to strangers at bus stops the next day, it’s all for zip.
Jack Black is a sweet touch, even if you find him infuriating, loud, fat and occasionally plain unfunny, and the Age of Metal is no doubt a setting that few have tackled well and one that could do with proper exploration, but without Shafer’s stellar involvement Brutal Legend’s premise would just seem as comfortable as a dad dancing, shirtless, to Coldplay.
In the final analysis, Brutal Legend can only succeed in Shafer’s hands, and in those talented talons we expect something truly great to emerge – so start chewing gum now and loosen up those facial muscles because when this one hits you’ll be in danger of getting cramp of the head when your jaw fixes in a painful smile of adoration. For those about to rock - we salute you.
Feb 4, 2009