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Preview: Brutal Legend (multiplayer)

6:00 PM on 08.13.2009 // Hamza CTZ Aziz

Brütal Legend has a ton going for it. The single-player experience is impressive, the soundtrack is going to rock so hard, and the game is still scheduled to rock October now that Activision backed off Electronic Art’s Kool-Aid.

The only thing that we haven’t seen from Brütal Legend was the multiplayer -- until last week, that is. EA and Double Fine finally unveiled Brütal Legend’s multiplayer for the first time to the press, and I really enjoyed what I got to play, despite the steep learning curve.

Hit the break to find out all there is to Brütal Legend’s multiplayer.

Brütal Legend (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: Electronic Arts
To be released: October 13, 2009

Now, the learning curve was really steep only because I haven’t played the single-player. You have to spend some time playing the single-player mode in order to learn the ins and outs of the game. In a way, you can look at the main game as a giant tutorial for the multiplayer. So don’t go jumping online when you pick it up at launch, unless you like the idea of failing hard.

The multiplayer is best described as a brawler with light real-time strategy elements. You’ll be building up an army to send into battle, but you can also fight right alongside your troops. The one and only multiplayer mode in Brütal Legend has players commanding troops in order to destroy each other’s bases, or in the case of Brütal Legend, each other’s wicked, awesome rock stages.

There are three forces players can select from: Ironheade, The Tainted Coil and The Drowning Doom. Ironheade is controlled by main man Eddie Riggs, The Tainted Coil is controlled by main baddie Lord Doviculus, and The Drowning Doom is made up of a force that I’d rather not describe ... it’s actually a giant spoiler for the game. (I’m still pissed that I figured out what the spoiler was at the EA event.) Anyway, whereas the first two forces are more heavy metal-inspired, The Drowning Doom has a heavy, Gothic look.

You’ll always be in control of one of the three main characters as you give out orders to your troops. The d-pad is used to give out orders such as "follow," "defend," "charge" and "move to the beacon." You’ll also be able to team up with every single unit you summon for a team attack. Just go up to a unit and press Y, and you’ll partner up. In the case of Eddie Riggs, there’s a female rocker that will sit on Eddie’s shoulders and shoot out guitar beams of rocking awesomeness (not the actual name for the attack). Lord Doviculus can ride a giant walking tower that can stomp on enemies. As for the main warrior for The Tainted Coil, she can pick up these giant decapitated heads, throw them at enemies, and permanently take control of an enemy unit.

We only got to play on one of the seven maps the entire night, which was a giant U-shaped valley. At the peak of each side of the valley is the rock stage, where players will summon their troops from. In order to summon troops, you need fan power, which is the multiplayer’s currency system. At both rock stages are two giant Merch Booths that are constructed over Fan Geysers, which spit out fan energy.

At the start of the round, you’ll have some fan power already built up, so you can summon your forces that spawn from your stage. Once you’ve built up a sizable force, it’s best to rush to the center of the valley in order to take over the lone unclaimed Fan Geyser. This Geyser has a giant slug-like creature over it that will prevent you from building a Merch Booth until it’s killed. Your hero can’t directly attack the slug or enemy Merch Booths, so you have to wait for your troops to destroy it before you can work your magic.

In the meantime, you can take to the air and watch over your troops or go scout out what your opponent is planning. You can’t do anything like attack or play your guitar while flying, but you can’t be harmed, either. You can attack other players and their troops while on the ground with either your melee or special guitar attacks, but you need to be smart in the battles you pick. If you die during battle, you will be resurrected back at your stage, but you will lose 50 Fan points.

Once the Fan Geyser is clear, it’s time to set up your own Merch Booth. To do so, you’ll pull up your guitar menu and play the Merch Booth song. If you successfully hit the buttons to match the on-screen prompts in time, your Merch Booth will be built and you’ll have a new source of income.

Each of the three armies has about ten or so special guitar solos that they can perform. The special attacks include rallying your troops to your location, turning your teammates invisible, summoning a car for yourself, and summoning wild animals to aid you. Each side also has one ultimate solo, which is your hero’s most metal attack. In the case of Lord Doviculus, a giant uncontrollable Iron Maiden creature (not Eddie, unfortunately) falls onto the battlefield and rampages on anything that isn’t Tainted Coil. 

More Fan power flow means you’ll have some extra currency to upgrade your stage. You can upgrade the stage up to three levels, allowing you to get newer and better troops with each upgrade. The max unit count is 40, and each minion has a different build cost to them. The bigger and better the unit is, the higher the build cost will be.

Players can also take to the stage and use it to fight back against enemies. You’ll do little performances in order to knock back enemies, unleash a cloud that slows down enemy attacks,  and repair your stage. There are also stage lights at the top of your stage, which you can use to shoot laser beams at enemies.

You can summon new units wherever you are on the map, but most of the units spawn at the stage and will stay nearby unless you’ve set up a rally point. You also have to be pretty close to your units in order for them to hear your commands. The Tainted Coil has a few units that can actually build units anywhere on the map, though. They literally give birth on the map, and you’ll never, ever forget the horrible sounds these creatures make when it happens.

After a couple of matches, I finally got the hang of things, and was kind of surprised at how much fun I ended up having with the multiplayer. I’m not a big fan of games where I have to babysit anything, but unit management is really simple and doesn’t seem get annoying here. Even better is that up to eight players can compete in the multiplayer, in four-on-four matches. The players can delegate what they want to do in the match, and thankfully, you can choose to only have people on your friends list on your team.

The main thing that I feel is hurting the multiplayer is the lack of modes and teams. One mode and three teams is way too small. Something tells me that we can expect some DLC down the line.

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