No, Shut Up, Brutal Legend is Great
This column is reprinted from Unwinnable Monthly #109. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.
Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.
Brutal Legend was the sort of game that had my attention from the first reveal. I loved the concept, I loved the setup, I loved the visual style and once the playable demo was available, I loved that, too. And then it came out and everybody hated it. Mostly due to the latter half and its shift in focus towards large-scale battles. Hoo-boy folks were not happy about that. Here’s the thing, though: Brutal Legend was (and still is) great.
First I feel like I’ve got to talk about what it did right. Or at least right by me. The introduction, which I’ve played through several times thanks to that demo, still holds up pretty well. The jokes continue to make me chuckle; Eddie’s mishap and subsequent relocation to a giant mountain of bones (and the first steps down from said mountain) are a solid setup for the story; the visual design is, as I’ve said, great – with cartoonishly exaggerated features for both the human and not-so-human creatures that all err on the side of “IT’S FUCKING HEAVY METAL!” and a particularly fond shout out to the all-chrome hellbeast/creator of existence that is Ormagoden having “hands” that are fused into the devil horns gesture. Hell, even Jack Black as Eddie Riggs does a great job of selling it.
It’s also a fun world to explore, thanks to all the extremely weird (in a good way) visuals. Just about every single creature has at least some chrome on it, tons of heavy metal-esque landmarks are sprinkled throughout the landscapes, a giant spotlight rig in the sky points to current objectives, fucking laser panthers made of black chrome shoot lasers out of their eyes. God, I love this game’s style. And right up to the first major conflict against General Lionwhyte and his hair metal forces (and also his actual hair) it has the makings of a really cohesively themed and lovingly crafted open world adventure. Then it turns into a pseudo-real-time strategy game.
Brutal Legend presents itself as one thing, then sort of turns into something entirely different.
This was what kicked up such a fuss back in the day (and maybe it still does, I don’t know). Brutal Legend presents itself as one thing, then sort of turns into something entirely different. I do get why this would be off-putting to some but my thoughts on the issue are thus: 1) the awesome style is still there, 2) you can still explore and enjoy the really cool open world up to and after the final battle, 3) the RTS elements are actually pretty decent for what they are and what they set out to accomplish, and 4) shut up and stop being a goddamn baby about it. Honestly, being able to almost instantaneously switch between an aerial view to survey the battlefield or issue large sweeping commands, and being on ground level where you can both fight alongside the troops or even team up with them for special attack options, works.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed when I initially realized that there weren’t going to be any other more traditional boss fights like the Metal Queen – a giant, completely chrome spider – but the more I thought about it the more I started to realize that the battling armies approach made sense. Sure Eddie is a prophesied savior, etc, etc, but this is a world that’s been oppressed by a monstrous regime. Of course the rabble should organize and fuck shit up on a grand scale.
As with literally every videogame that exists that isn’t Metroid: Zero Mission, Brutal Legend is not perfect.
As with literally every videogame that exists that isn’t Metroid: Zero Mission, Brutal Legend is not perfect. But it definitely makes good on its heavy metal motif (they set out to make every still shot of the game look like an album cover and I gotta say I think they nailed it as well as anybody possibly could) and is still a fun time even almost a decade later. It’s just that the stuff that makes it fun sort of switches gears in the second half. Yeah, that’s kind of a shame but it’s hardly a deal breaker, and I’d recommend that anybody who bowed out partway through or never started in the first place due to this revelation give it another chance.
Rob Rich is a guy who’s loved video games since the 80s, and has had the good fortune of being able to write about them. The same goes for other nerdy stuff from Anime to Godzilla, and from Power Rangers toys to Transformers. You can catch his occasional rants on Twitter at @RobsteinOne.