Brütal Legend

by Kevin on

Yes, I know that this is not a Wii game. I also know that there’s been a lot *of non-Nintendo content here on the site, but tough. I didn’t just sit around on the edges of the Nintendo booth at E3, lonely and wishing I could venture out into the wild. No, I did wander into the Sony booth, which was a bizarre color-inversion of the Nintendo one, with booth staff wearing black shirts and the games sporting blood, guns, and semi-nude digital women. I did this. And there, there is where I had one of my (sinful, yes) favorite playthroughs of the show.*So, from what I hear, Tim Schafer is tired to being everyone’s “favorite developer ohmigod I have everything you have ever made you are my inspiration and I wake up and thank God for your very existence let us ride away on this white horse, let us leave this place and we will exist only in dreams and the occasional missing persons report”. I can bet that E3 is pretty tough for a guy who’s pedigree of games includes The Secret of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, and Psychonauts. I bet that a lot of nerds probably drooled all over him if he stood near the PS3s that were demoing his latest creation, Brütal Legend, a big budget affair coming out this October from Double Fine Productions. Luckily for him, though, the instant that E3 ends, he goes back to being a slight more anonymous nerd, so, at least that’s fun. At E3 I managed to find a frozen PS3 demo kiosk that was supposed to be playing this latest game, and, because it was non-functioning, it was empty. Instead of wandering off, like so many other nerds, I stood there, hands at the controls, knowing that a frozen kiosk is a wasted kiosk, so someone from Double Fine would eventually come around and fix things for me, and at that point I could keep them around to answer any and all questions I might have. I was in luck when an animator on the title spied me and reset the PS3, and then stood around to walk me through the demo. Everything played into my hands exactly as planned.

Brütal Legend, of course, is an action-adventure game in a kind of metal-heads ultimate dream universe, starring Jack Black. Which, for a lot of people, is enough to scratch their heads and turn away. I am not a fan of metal. No, I am one of those hipsters who is a fan of whatever the hell is the opposite of metal – bearded men in the forest with a broken guitar singing about how love is very similar to the sound of falling water. But Brütal Legend was an anomaly, because for all intents and purposes, it looked like it could just be a heavy metal version of The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. As I started to play the demo, I remarked on this point.

“Yeah, Tim is a really big fan of Ocarina of Time. It’s one of his favorites.” My guide, who had animated the very characters I was now using to battle “druids” across a plane of bone and blood, was glad I had immediately drawn this conclusion. I suppose it’s a good thing to be compared to one of the Greatest Games of All Time, so, bonus. The game certainly wore it’s ripoff references on its sleeve – from the outset, your Jack Black voiced character, a metal-roadie-who-dreams-of-better-things named Eddie Riggs finds himself in a kind of bizarre (and very hardcore) world where he must use a magical axe and guitar (also, in some circles, an axe, so I guess he could be said to be dual wielding, if you enjoy the parlance of us video game dorks) to battle demons and druids and all kinds of nasty things. The axe allows for melee attacks, but the guitar is essentially your ocarina, providing you with the ability to cast magic spells and totally rock the fuck out. These two weapons work well together, as you can use spells from the guitar followed by melee attacks for wycked sweet attacks. I was particularly fond of the ability to do a ground pound as an area effect to blow enemies away from you if they gathered.

As I fought my way through scores of enemies, I came across a tall nurse-looking mini-boss that inspired a Jack Black-ian joke that was actually quite funny. In fact, this game was very funny in spite of the fact that it’s Jack Black playing himself. Do you really expect anything less from the pen of Mr. Schafer? He is a funny man, and it shows. Once I beat the mini-boss, Eddie climbed on top of her creepy altar, knelt in prayer to the metal Gods, and the entire thing rose on spindly metal legs and made its way down a trail of demonic skulls. This is as over-the-top as it gets, ladies and gentleman. There are red flowers that bloom in important places, and those flowers are in the shape of the Hail Satan metalhead hand salute. So, this game knows where it is coming from. Once I landed, I met a female goth/metal-head dream crush character, and when I asked her name my guide responded that he was not allowed to tell me her name. A quick google search reveals that it is “Ophelia,” which means that someone at Double Fine is leaky, but it wasn’t my dude. Ophelia and Eddie battled more enemies as I slowly learned the Zelda-ian controls. Spells were done with the guitar in a very, very similar way to songs on the ocarina: a little music staff appeared and I had to press the correct buttons when cued to cast the spell.

The game really picked up when I put together my sweet ride, the Epona of Brütal Legend. In the game, this hot rod is called The Deuce, but my guide, the animator, kept referring to her as “The Jeep,” which I find much, much funnier. Apparently, everyone at Double Fine is annoyed by the repeated references he makes to “The Jeep,” especially since she’s supposed to be a raw, mean, upgradeable metal machine. She handles well, and once I was driving, I was put onto a linear portion of the demo where I could run over enemies and escape from a crumbling bridge, while fireballs crashed in the background. It was very pretty, and very fun. I died a few times, but the guide told me to watch out for the large spindly enemies that tried to step on my car as I drove past, since they were positioned to fall into chasms as the bridge crumbled. If I stayed away from them, I’d be fine. Turns out – he was right. If the E3 floor had been quieter, I think I would have better heard Ophelia as she warned Eddie of where the next break in the bridge would happen, but it was very unnervingly loud, especially in the PS3 booth where mouth-breathing sweathogs jockeyed for position in an hour-long line to play God of War III: We Can Keep Making Sequels And You Will Keep Playing Them, Fattie.

The demo then allowed for a boss fight, which was nicely enough played while driving The Jeep. A big monster burst from the center of a circular arena, and you were forced to dodge his attacks, which lodged his tongues into the ground, at which point you pulled a 180 and snipped them while driving. It was fun, and Jack Blacks little remarks as he played were humorous, and as an intro to the moves possible in The Jeep, it was very nice. Once this was finished, and I had, in a very badass way, made some jokes about French kissing AND decapitated the wormbeast, I was allowed to mess around in the open world, Brütal Legend’s version of Hyrule field. It was quite vast, filled with twisty terrain and an abundance of villages and people and, from what I hear, quests and the like. I was guided to the next objective, because the animator and my spirit guide told me that my demo time was running out.

After driving a bit to a large pillar of light, and playing my guitar in front of some of those hard-rock red flowers, I was allowed entrance to a deep cave where I was greeted by noneother than the Rock God himself, Ozzy Osbourne. The character looked and moved just like a cartoon version of Ozzy, and was voiced by him. He was essentially the character that upgraded The Jeep, adding weapons and sweet paint jobs and the like. In the background you could see fiery giants as they forged the land that Eddie found himself. It was sweet.

Here is where my demo ended and I crawled back into the white carpeted, saccharine Nintendo booth, but I was made better by my brief time with such a cool playing game. Brütal Legend rocks. It is fun, hilarious, and the animations are awesome (yo yo yo guide-man). If you have a PS3 or XBox 360, please support this project, even if you have very little understanding of the world, nay, universe that is Heavy Metal. It’s still a blast.