by Christopher Park
previewed on PS3
Brutal Legend, the offering from the much-revered Tim Schafer, looks to continue his fine tradition of rendering wacked out, surreal and totally awesome settings. Better yet, it also keeps up the tradition of developing memorable, likable characters through tons of humor and sharp wit. Of all of Tim Schafer’s games, Brutal Legend looks like it will be the most ambitious and best game yet.
Something of a cross between pure Rock Metal and medieval fantasy, Brutal Legend follows Eddie Riggs, a roadie who - under cavalcade of circumstances - finds himself in a world that is enamored by the sheer audacity of metal. Everywhere you look, the Metal ‘universe’ is represented in some shape or another. Towers are built out of the corpses of many unfortunates and head-bangers who know nothing of Metal are incessantly bashing their heads on anything that can withstand such physical abuse… It is a weird place.
There is a lot going on here, which is completely in line with Schafer’s comfort zone. His settings have always been known to be bizarre: Between The Land of the Dead in Grim Fandango and the summer camp for neurotic, physic-attuned kids in Psychonauts, Brutal Legend sits comfortably in Schafer’s body of work.
Schafer’s games are also known to be unbearably funny and much of the humor is derived from the characters. While fantastic and unique settings to us, these characters have no need to acclimate to such a strange world. So, they are aloof, apathetic to the world around them. This is where Brutal Legend shakes things up a bit. Since Eddie Riggs has only known the life of a roadie and is suddenly being subjected to animated and real versions of the glamorous and gratuitous cover art that have adorned all his Metal records, he needs to get in tune.
Both the player and Eddie are introduced to such a foreign world that it will be a surprising experience, even to Eddie. This might perhaps make him a much more empathetic protagonist to play with. Eddie is going to need all the help he can get: Jack Black, the voice actor for Eddie, isn’t exactly the most well-received actor in this day and age. The consensus is certainly divided, but from what has been shown, it sounds like he has scaled back the wackiness he is infamous for, and has given Eddie a much more calm and collected personality.
Brutal Legend is also a game with much more scope than previous Tim Schafer works. Its gameplay is much, much larger in scope and ambition, combining straightforward Hack-and-Slash gameplay with elements of Real-Time Strategy. The hacking part should be easy enough to grasp. A simple combat system with different combinations bringing about different results, it’s not rocket science to anyone who has ever played a video game before.
So, the biggest gameplay surprise lies in the game’s Real-Time Strategy segment, which looks like some demented cross between Overlord and practically any base-building strategy game. Recruit units, build structures and overlook your rock kingdom in its entirety as you strategize and make decisions based on the tactical outlook. Well, granted, it may not be as deep as it seems to imply, but it does look to be heavily ingrained into Brutal Legend’s ambitious design. This is rather new territory for Schafer and his team at Double Fine, but if it pulls through, it will not only show the range Double Fine as a developer has, but will also be, well, pretty sweet.
The game’s ambitions extend to the visuals and its voice cast. Schafer’s made sure that every piece of concept art looks like cover art for a Metal album and that is clearly visible in the finished, polygonal product. In fact, much of the game’s epic backdrops look like twisted, exaggerated and lighter versions of Black Sabbath covers. The last thing anyone wants to see is a one-to-one rendition of something from Black Sabbath’s album artwork anyway. Well, most of us don’t.
The voice talent involved is arguably more ridiculous. This includes Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy Kilmister, Lita Ford and more. The likenesses for many of these personalities will be used in the game. Considering the number of famed musicians involved with this project, this is borderline insane.
The only real bummer is the lack of news on a PC port. To be given the cold shoulder like this, especially from a developer whose roots are in PC releases, is disheartening. Nevertheless, Brutal Legend has the potential to be the best and most successful Schafer title yet. All the markings of a legendary game are in place. We’ll just have to wait until October to see the end result.