Brutal Legend Review

by Gauss

Basic Information:
Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: EA
North American Release Date: 10/13/2009
European Release Date: 10/16/2009
Trophies: Yes

Brutal Legend is the newest game from Tim Schafer (Grim Fandango and Psychonauts) and departs from the traditional formula he follows. The game follows Eddie Riggs, the world's best roadie, in an ancient world of rock. This world is essentially what heavy metal covers would be like if they were real.

The gameplay is fun if not a bit "meh." The problem here is this game is a hybrid action-adventure/RTS, but the final implementation does neither well. The combat system for the action-adventure part is shallow at best, it basically involves pressing a whole lot, and occasionally if you are feeling adventurous. There is little to no strategy at all, and none of the combos offer anything to get excited about.

The RTS aspect is equally shallow. The unit trees for each faction are too erratic. The tainted coil is just broken, building one unit to build another, and god forbid you want to upgrade a unit. You have to build a completely new one. Ironheade suffers from the same problem that alot of simple-RTS's do... the first 3 units are all you really need to do ANYTHING. The drowning doom is the worst constructed of the 3, sure you have powerful units... but good luck keeping them alive. Your healing units are buried too deep in the tech tree to be an effective part of your strategy.

The gameplay is not broken by any stretch of the imagination, the problem is it doesn't offer the level of depth you'd want. Its button mashing on one end, and unit spamming on the other.

I have to be completely honest... The story is not up to what we would expect from Shafer. His typical formula is to take a simple/mundane event and set it in an extraordinary setting. What you end up with is the likes of Grim Fandango and Psychonauts. The reason this formula works is when you have a man with talent like Shafer, who knows how to develop characters and story, this setup gives him a backdrop that is almost not capable of being boring.

To some extent Shafer stuck with this, at least one end. He created an extraordinary setting that is just amazing. The problem is he filled it with a pretty average set of plot events. On its own two feet, this may not seem this way, but the problem here is the lack of comedy in a game that is obviously meant to be comedic. That's not to say its entertaining, but you won't be "lawl"ing it up like you would if this was Psychonauts.

This story suffers from what I like to call "Lucas Syndrome." Shafer is an admitted fan of Metal, and this story feels like his own personal fan-service. It feels like he wasn't able to look at it critically (something important for anyone creating anything) and everybody around him either wasn't going to or couldn't force him to edit it.

You may think I hated the story, but I didn't... Its just average. Something I wouldn't expect out of Shafer.

The MP mode is pretty simple, you take the RTS element from the SP mode and play against a person or the CPU. There is nothing else to do. Whats worse is there is a ranking system which is an absolute joke and good luck inviting anyone to play. The system they use to do that is stupid, particularly when games like CoD do it so easily.

Ultimately the MP is bland and uninspired, although serviceable. Its not fun, but not frustrating either. This is, by definition, pedestrian. I doubt Tim Schafer will ever read this review, but if he does, do me a favor Mr. Schafer. Stick to SP games with well written stories and wit, this game proved to me you aren't really up on MP design.

Whats worse is I can't shake the feeling that the SP mode and gameplay suffered in order to get this forgettable MP mode into the final product. The guys working on this mode should have been working on improving the gameplay mechanics and helping stem the mild case of "Lucas syndrome."

Technically there isn't much to say. There aren't any major gameplay mechanics introduced, the open-world combat is button mashing, and the RTS part of it, while well done, is as simple as RTS's can get.

The environment is just beautifully constructed though, and the immersion is there. The environment is bright, vivid, and engaging. Although far from realistic, and sometimes cartoony, that is the style Shafer is going for... so he gets major points from me for not turning a fantasy romp into a game that uses various shades of gray and brown.

In short... the world rocks in every way that word can be taken.

Gameplay: 7/10
- The two modes are too disconnected. I really wish they would have cut one of them out (preferably the RTS aspect).

Singleplayer: 8/10
- The story is funny, although not as good as other Shafer offerings. I think he may have been so into his own personal "fan service" with all the Metal, he may have suffered from a bit of "Lucas syndrome." While the single player is still fun as hell, it could have been alot better.

Multiplayer: 5/10
- The Multiplayer is passable, but I can't help but shake the feeling the Singleplayer suffered heavily to implement what is ultimately a pedestrian MP mode.

Technical: 8/10
- The game doesn't introduce any new breakthrough mechanics, but what it does do is make you feel like you are in an ancient world of rock... which ROCKS.

Overall: 7.0/10 Good