Driving around in the Deuce, Eddie’s hotrod, never gets old with all the sights to see. It also allows you to bypass almost all of the game’s enemies, meaning that getting around is hassle-free for the most part. There are a few escort missions where you’ll need weaponry attached to the Deuce, and you’ll find stunt jumps to launch over – look for swarms of lightning plugs, which are like lightning bugs, except they’re flying spark plugs. If you fancy a race, there are several scattered around the map as side-missions, and the banter between Eddie and the pathetic demon racing nemesis is always good for a chuckle.
Then we come to the RTS game, and this is where some players may not be happy. RTS on a console never truly “works” – instead, it just struggles, and how “good” a console RTS can ever be is how little it makes you suffer. Unfortunately, a lot of the difficulties we encountered playing the RTS portions could have been solved by a better tutorial. Consider that the game never even tells you that you have certain powers or abilities, and doesn’t convey properly the significance of other options it does tell you about.
These events are called Stage Battles, and you’ve got a concert stage that serves as your base. You summon troops by selecting them from a radial menu. While there isn’t much strategy, you still have to carefully consider what troops to purchase, because the enemy’s counter units will destroy your whole army if you don’t have the right counter yourself. Commanding the troops is the worst part – trying to select specific groups and giving order requires you to be near them, and it’s easy to give out the commands you didn’t mean to, leading to moments of “No, don’t go there! Stay here! Where are you going?”
One particular battle we encountered ended up being a roadblock: it seems we hadn’t built up enough upgrades, as our army was crushed repeatedly for hours. It was a weird difficulty spike, because the game had been a breeze up until that point. Luckily, a couple hours scouring the world and upgrading turned things around (in fact, made them too easy). It’s a good thing that the time spent looking for upgrades is a lot of fun.
The multiplayer component of Brutal Legend consists entirely of these RTS Stage Battles, so if you end up annoyed by them in the single-player game, you won’t have much interest in multiplayer. However, we found that by the end of the main story we were just getting the hang of these battles, so taking it into multiplayer was quite fun, at least for a little while. Taking on human opponents is much more fun, as positioning becomes more important as you fight over fan geysers (controlling the fans means more resources to spend on units and upgrades). Also, you get to try playing the enemy factions, and they are unique enough to play quite differently from the one you control in single-player.
Brutal Legend won us over with its complete package: the aspects that are decidedly outside “gaminess” are its strongest and most lovable. The dialogue made us laugh, and not just a little. We cared about the characters enough to feel sad to say goodbye to them. We never got bored of exploring its world and continued to do so after completing the main story. Sure, the basic combat and finicky RTS commands don’t hugely inspire, but they managed to satisfy enough. Brutal Legend is a love song to heavy metal, but also to gamers – it wants you to laugh, headbang to the rockin’ soundtrack, and scratch your fighting/driving/commanding itch. We wonder if Schafer may not be interested in a sequel, or if it will sell enough to warrant one, but for us, one Brutal Legend won’t be enough.
Oct 13, 2009