I Heart… Brutal Legend

Dear Tim Schafer,
Please have my babies… hold on, let me explain.  As it stands, I’m a big fan of your work. The Monkey Island series is not only tops, but it’s one of my favourite series of all time, which is a big thanks to yours and everyone else’s work on it. I loved Grim Fandango; it was a brilliant game which was slightly let down by the awkward controls and the fact that my laptop refused to let me have any sound without the game crashing every two minutes. Full Throttle was okay too, I guess, I just found it a bit too short with far fewer laughs, but I guess I’m missing the point.  Psychonauts.  Well, if I went into why I loved Psychonauts, I’d have to write a whole other letter just for that;  I could, but I’m here to basically lavish praise upon you for Brutal Legend.  Despite it not selling the millions of copies that it should have, and it not being as well reviewed as your other efforts, I need to tell you that I love Brutal Legend.  A Lot.

Fresh, innovative ideas in this day and age are rare. Even rarer is the chance that those ideas will grow into something truly amazing and fantastic, but that’s exactly what to expect from an idea pitched by Tim Schafer. There’s an incredible amount of love that goes into each title Schafer is involved with, and it pours through in everything, from the style to the characters to the incredibly top-notch and hilarious writing. Every Schafer game takes a simple, yet fresh, idea and makes something wildly imaginative from it. Brutal Legend’s idea is simple: “What if Metal ruled the land?”  From that one idea, many others spawned and from those, a game formed.  That game is Brutal Legend.

The story can be summarised thusly: Jack Black is Eddie Riggs, the world’s greatest roadie. He can build anything, tune anything and fix anything – except the state of current music. After an accident caused by one of the members of the inexplicably popular ‘Kabbage Boy’, Eddie Riggs is transported to a mysterious world where the guitars can fire lightning bolts and flames, and the animals and landscapes take their inspiration from covers of Metal albums.

Hearing about the game and following it closely as it developed, I couldn’t help but fall in love with it beforehand. Then, one day, the dream looked as if it was going to disappear and, like everything else I’ve ever thought I could love, Brutal Legend was going to leave me and break my heart. That day was when Activision dropped Brutal Legend and it looked like Tim Schafer was going to be shafted once again. I thought I’d never be able to get my hands on the game and all would be lost.

Then as suddenly as it left, Brutal Legend came back.  EA had picked up the game and they were going to give it the love and attention Activision wouldn’t; EA were going to support it and make sure it was the hit that it deserved to be.  Then yet again, as suddenly as it came back, everything looked grim.  Activision saw how much attention Brutal Legend was getting and, realising they were going to lose out, tried to sue to prevent the game from ever being released. Like a jealous lover, if Activision couldn’t have Brutal Legend, no one could. The lawsuit was quite a high-profile one in the world of games; Tim Schafer was famously quoted as saying “If Activision liked it then they should have put a ring on it… oh shit! Now Beyonce’s going to sue me too!”  However, true sense prevailed and EA won the right to publish the game which was it was to be released in October 2009, with EA creating a massive advertising campaign – they even went so far as to rename the month of release ‘Rocktober’.

The first time I’d get to properly see it in action, however, was during Download Festival 2009. You see, during EA’s advertising campaign they decided that one way to promote the game further would be to set a World Record.  So the Saturday of the Download Festival, gaming rockers and metal-heads gathered to set the World Record for the most people Air-Guitaring in a single place. Giving out Brutal Legend shirts to everyone who participated, our reward for setting the record would be the opportunity to play it in the facility EA had set up during the weekend.  After air-guitaring to Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, we cheered when an official declared that we were now World Record holders! I still think it was an amazing part of the marketing campaign.  If you look carefully at some of the pictures, you might be able to find me if you’re lucky!

I eventually got my hands on the game a few months ago, after a long time waiting for it.  And do you know what? That wait was incredibly justified.  Everything about the game entices the heck out of me, from the cut-scene with Jack Black leading into the Start Screen, where he finds the “LP” in the “Epic Metal” section of the record store, to that LP which acts as the Start screen and opening menu with the epic artwork; the game even starts off awesomely for me.  The opening cut-scene perfectly sets up Jack Black’s character, Eddie Riggs and introduces us to Kabbage Boy, an amazing parody with a song that, once unlocked, I had to listen to over and over and over.  The introduction into the mysterious world he is then launched into (which I shall henceforth refer to as ‘The Land Of METAL’) is also amazing. Just, everything about the opening is amazing.  From the opening cut-scenes to your first murders to building the Druid Plow to driving away, running over tons of enemies, and then meeting the human resistance and joining forces with them. It’s one of the most epic openers in a game that I’ve played for a long while, and it acts as an amazing introduction into ‘The Land Of METAL’.

It’s a game that starts off awesomely, and continues as it means to go on. The open world system is fantastic, and one of the few worlds that I have found myself obsessed with, wanting to see everything and trying to unlock all the hidden treasures. The Land of METAL is fantastically designed and certainly comes across as it means to – like the groin-splitting, legend-creating offspring of amazing metal album covers. There’s so much to see, with a ton of variety and so many different influences that it looks and feels like an art gallery for metal artists; one you can explore and in which you can explode people with the power of music.

Oh yeah, I haven’t mentioned how amazing it is to electrocute and set things on fire with your guitar and your axe, the powers of which are amplified in game. A lot of the game is simply the greatest tribute to Metal there could ever be. Collecting fire tributes becomes an incredibly fun diversion to the main game and helps you to gain new updates and combos for your  weapons and Druid Plow. Driving is made even more fun with the incredibly dedicated soundtrack, with every track hand-picked for the game. It’s a complete labour of love, and though I wasn’t a big fan of some of the tracks, I still appreciated listening to them; they helped make the Land of METAL just that bit more special – even if I did end up looping the Kabbage Boy song with the Tenacious D tracks over and over.

And then there’s the fantastically written Campaign mode, wherein Jack Black as Eddie Riggs helps defeat the forces of evil by use of his Roadie skills. Granted, if you were a particularly, incredibly cynical man, you could claim a lot of it is just training you to play the multiplayer, but if that’s even remotely true, then I’ve never played a more fun tutorial. The twist that got to many a gamer was the fact that the important battles are, in fact, real-time strategy, though you could get in up close and personal (like the random skirmishes dotted around the map, as a lot of the promotional material suggested).

Coming into the game a lot later than everyone else, meant I was a lot more aware of this and thus enjoyed it a lot more, as the battles are fast paced, well balanced and require a lot of quick thinking and strategy if you want to succeed. They’re also massively fun, and with the ability to get in on the action to level the playing fields with your axe and magical solos (one of which literally summons a giant lead Zeppelin to come crashing into the ground), they become a fun, fast paced and, if anything, more streamlined RTS.

Going back to how fantastically written written the story is, many of the characters and the background are brilliant and engrossing, and a lot of extra back-story is hidden around the world, though it is optional for those who don’t want it forced upon them.  Different characters may be various archetypes of metal, but they all mesh together really well and provide a bigger concern into the state of music today if you really want to dig into what the story means – it’s a lot deeper than you’d originally give it credit for.  Brutal Legend is one of the more hilarious games I have played in a while. Jack Black was a brilliant casting choice, as were many of the other voices provided in the game, and the writing had me in frequent stitches of laughter. You can tell how much hard work was put into the writing, and it really, fantastically shines through, even with the random lines that characters spout mid-battle, you’ll be bound to find something to set you rolling on the floor in laughter.

Brutal Legend is just such a brilliant combination of humour and metal that I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. Everything seemed to speak to me and come across as such a fun experience that I literally lost myself in it more times than I could count, and regretted nothing. A point of sadness is that, despite all the controversy surrounding Activision trying to block its release and EA’s massive marketing campaign, the game didn’t sell anywhere near as much as it should have done.  It’s around pretty cheap now though, so there’s little reason for people to deny themselves the chance to pick it up and hopefully see what I saw: a beautiful labour of laughter and love.  And fucking METAL.

-Love Edward
P.S: Play a drinking game. Every time you see the word “Metal” in this, drink. You may die.  How much more metal can you get than that?

Last five articles by Edward



  1. Richie rich says:

    Aw man, I hated this game’s face! :(

    Although oddly, Jack Black was at his least annoying in it.

  2. Leon says:

    I loved Brutal Legend’s style and its world (racing through a collapsing area to Dragonforce being one of the more memorable moments). I loved the characters and the exploration, and the various Metal characters that appeared throughout the game (I often visited the upgrade station just because Ozzy is awesome)

    The RTS was a little bit of a turn off, though. I liked the various units, but I just thought it felt as though it didn’t mesh well with the rest of the game, and I didn’t really enjoy it. I would have preferred it if they’d gone a different route (otherwise the game reminded me in many ways of Jak & Daxter), yet my love for everything else in the game did mean that I greatly enjoyed the game regardlessly. It probably didn’t help that the box and marketing managed to completely gloss over the battles, which were easily the most challenging parts.

    But yeah, I want Brutal Legend 2. I’d love to see it done with Guitar Hero style battles included (they were originally intending to add guitar hardware connectivity but couldn’t find a smooth way to switch between control styles). That would be heaven for me.

  3. Michael Author says:

    I loved the game, until I completed it. It just ended, and all that was left to do, were the same mission types over and over. I’d love a sequel to it though.
    Best thing I loved about the game was KGs cameo though!

  4. Lorna Lorna says:

    Never played this, but if it came from the brain of Tim Schafer, it is bound to be interesting and quirky – it certainly sounds it. I remember all the fuss with Activision and am glad that they came through it, although it is a shame about the poor sales – hopefully this won’t kill a sequel. Fingers crossed for you ;)

  5. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    As a lifelong rocker, I was really looking forward to this game and so I downloaded the demo as soon as it became available on XBL… then was too busy drooling over the gorgeous brunette gothy chick to really notice that much gameplay. I was sad when the demo was over, and I got the full game for Christmas last year… but I’ve been too busy playing LOOONG games to even get started on Brutal Legend and so I reckon it’ll be classed as a retro title by the time I get around to playing it, which is no bad thing really.

    Jack Black’s a great actor, it’s a shame he keeps getting shoehorned in to such dreadful barely-comedic movies… but I loved his presence in the Brutal Legend demo. Witty, sarcastic, clearly adlibbed in places and really added a different dimension to what I’d played of it.

    METAL…. and death to false metal too!

  6. Stu says:

    I loved this game up until the stage battles, in fact I never played it further after the first one. The initial exploration and quests were great but the rest of it didn’t work for me. Having the campaign as some psuedo-tutorial for the multiplayer RTS aspect just left me bitter and feeling short-changed.

  7. Rook says:

    I loved this game too, I had never listened to alot of metal growing up so driving round te lands lisening to the soundtrack was awesome, and I rarely acknowledge soundtracks in a game other than background sound. After learning of Dragonforce during the end credits of Guitar Hero III with their song Through The Flames And Fire I learned to appreciate it more in Brutal Legend and would often search for it on the radio in game.

    I also thought the Sea Of Black Tears was brilliantly named, especially after I learned the significance. Would love a sequel.

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