In Brütal Legend, the world of video games and music collide. Recently released for the PlayStation Entertainment System and XBOX 360, Brütal Legend is the latest game from Tim Schafer, creator of titles as famous as The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. The question is, does the world of rock and video games mix well enough to create anything other than a well-meaning mess? The answer is yes, they combine into a very interesting game – don’t expect a masterpiece.

The Brütal Legend story follows roadie extraordinary Eddie Riggs (voiced by Jack Black) after he suffers an abnormal stage crash and finds himself in a fantasy world, filled not with dwarves and elves, but more like metal-inspired dwellers and a cast of characters straight from your dog-eared vinyl collection. Eddie’s quest is to save the country from a horde of evil demons who enslave mankind, while discovering something about himself. Tim Schafer isn’t the type to skimp on history. If Schafer’s pedigree proves anything, it’s that playing a video game means more than just slicing and dicing, it involves the player’s total immersion and conviction to engage in a world of pixels and polygons.

Brutal legend

Brütal Legend is no exception, Schafer makes players want to navigate the world and play until the end credits. Acting skills and visual style create an interactive world that borders on cinema at times, and producers have gone to great lengths to incorporate cameos from branded rockers. Lemmy Kilmister, Rob Halford and Ozzy Osbourne all lend vocal talents as well as likenesses, imposing an authenticity few games can challenge. Too bad the story was not longer. To count around six hours of playing time for a single player seems insignificant. The end also comes too soon, taking away some of the glory gained from purging the land of demons.

The gameplay consists of three main elements, a third-person action game, open world roaming, and a strategy section. This combination adds to a minor weakness, as the sections do not appear to be compatible. That’s not to say they’re disjointed, but when you look at Legend as an interactive story, you start to feel that there are parts that prevent you from learning more about Eddie Riggs and his team. The third person action works well, you feel like you have full control over Eddie and you feel powerful doing it. But the strategy section is bogged down in complexity. Likewise, the multiplayer component isn’t as convincing as it could have been, making it unable to maintain significant replay value.

A crucial aspect of the game is the open world player experience with the vehicle, The Deuce. For most of the game, this acts as a way to jump from quest to quest, but it’s just as fun to blow up tunes and sightseeing. Missions abound where players can dismantle The Deuce and follow along, as well as places where you can upgrade your weapons and car, but this part again seems like a missed opportunity. It would have been advantageous to link the side missions to the main storyline to create a bigger game rather than including an arbitrary “arcade” mode in the major “story” mode.

Brutal legend

The stellar soundtrack that accompanies Legend is, of course, phenomenal, made up of tracks from rock legends such as Motörhead, Black Sabbath, KMFDM, Whitesnake, Megadeth, Ministry, Slayer and Mötley Crüe – with more satirical music by Tenacious. D and Dethklok. Never have metal and rock tunes been used to aid such a high concept playing. Not a moment goes by that anthemic rock loaded with riffs does not explode. During key events in the game, the emphasis on storytelling and character development is brought out through the music. Using music to propel the story forward makes it both an intriguing game and, dare I say it, a legendary soundtrack – however, that doesn’t quite redeem the gameplay’s breakaways.

So, with the strong story component but the weaker gameplay component, Brütal Legend begs the question: is it worth it? Well, this question is not as simple as you might think. If you are a fan of Tim Schafer then this is a ripe addition to your collection – you don’t need me to tell you that. For people new to Schafer or for those interested in integrating music and games, you should still play this game, but don’t go to the trouble of owning it. The characters and the world they reside in need to be experienced, but once may be enough. Praise it or make friends with those who own it, because the storyline and character arcs are worth it.

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