Despite having only developed one game prior, there were a lot of expectations for Double Fine Productions' follow-up, Brütal Legend. With founder Tim Schafer behind the wheel, this heavy metal world translated to videogame has been turning (or would it be banging?) heads since its official announcement in 2007. The folks who made Psychonauts? Sign us up!
It's had a somewhat rocky history, with its publisher, Sierra, being acquired by Activision. Its new mega-publisher overlords made the decision to pass, perhaps thinking the new IP too risky, leaving Brütal Legend in the dust. Electronic Arts, on the other other hand, believed in what Double Fine had to offer, and here we are today... Brütal Legend is finally in stores.
But exactly how brütal is Double Fine's sophomore effort?
Brütal Legend (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
If you're a fan of videogames and heavy metal culture, Double Fine's Brütal Legend should be the greatest game that has ever been made. Hatched from the creative and (sometimes) twisted minds of Tim Schafer and company -- one of the gaming industry's most lauded designers -- Brütal Legend is truly the over-the-top world of heavy metal brought to life. It's an homage that pays respect to the genre -- its music, imagery, and artists -- while at the same time having a laugh at some of its most ludicrous tenets. In that respect, the world as brought to life in Brütal Legend is brilliant, and sometimes awe-inspiring.
The connection to the story and the characters does suffer due to a few of the game's technical hiccups. For instance, in-game dialogue is sometimes delivered with the wrong timing -- an environmental cue will trigger a conversation too early or too late, for example -- which can be a bit jarring and confusing. Even some of the game's odd editing, including sloppy transitions from in-game action to cut-scenes, can interrupt the flow of the narrative. Simply put, the impressive efforts in writing simply don't translate as well as they could have with a bit more polish.
As far as the lock-on is concerned, it's not exactly the most intelligent setup. Combat can sometimes get hectic, with Eddie and his army (more on that in a bit) taking on huge groups of baddies at once. Attempts to lock on to an enemy directly ahead of you, but a bit off in the distance, sometimes will cause you to lock on to a closer enemy to your left or right... one that's already engaged in combat. All the while, of course, that enemy off in the distance is repeatedly pounding you with some kind of ranged attack. It's fortunate that in big battles such as these, there's little reason to target enemies -- simple button mashing generally does the trick. While you can upgrade your abilities as you progress through the game, that button mashing feeling never truly goes away.
While it's great that developers are looking for ways to immerse players in the game experience, doing that at the expense of having to pause the game to see a map every 30 seconds is unacceptable. Yes, you can set a beacon/waypoint on the map, which you can then follow to your destination, the turn signal of Eddie's car helping with general navigation. Regardless, there are times when you simply won't be able to see the beacon (if it's not in your line of sight, for instance), or the turn signals are giving seemingly odd direction advice... so it's back to the map screen, slowing down the action.
Being forced to participate in a number of these battles, including most of the major boss battles, was simply painful. With each RTS battle presented, we would groan, wishing at the most that Double Fine would have been able to refine this console RTS experience to make it more playable, and at the least, enjoyable. (Full disclosure: Towards the end of the game's story, we were forced to switch to the game's easiest mode, "Gentle," just so we could complete a particularly frustrating battle to "get it over with.")
Score: 6 -- Alright (6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.)
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