Brutal Legend

Tim Schafer delivers more hilarity, but within a game that lives up to its moniker.
Michael Caleb - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Violence: Death by falling debris, decapitation, amputation, bifurcation, immolation, electrocution, and hearts being ripped out; stray body parts lying around; blood on EA and title logos; and buckets of blood spilled and sprayed throughout.

Spirituality: Price tag shows a price of 6.66; Heavy Metal-based mythology with demons, titans, and gods; multiple pentagrams displayed throughout; demonic relics and powers used for both good and evil; one army centered around occult nuns and priests; songs featuring predominantly negative religious references.

Language: F- and S-bombs dropped within the first five minutes and many times after that; d---, hell, b----, b------, s---, piss, and the finger all used multiple times; "Get the eff out of dodge," is spoken; God is used as an exclamation, but most often with in lowercase.

Adult Content: References to and depictions of french kissing; ogling; General Lionwyhte has a "pleasure tower"; references to "celebrating in the bus"; water erupting from the nipples of a statue; scantily-clad amazon women; one army's outfits based around S&M, with multiple references and jokes about that fact throughout; female characters wearing g-strings.

Miscellaneous: Smoking and drinking throughout; scatological jokes; references to sensitive parts being sunburned and sleeping naked on fur.

Positive: Optional filter for the violence and language; encouragement of allies; redemption of and reconciliation with former enemies.

Story

Eddie Riggs is the world’s best roadie. Unfortunately for him, he works for the world’s worst “heavy metal” band, Kabbage Boy. The members of the band don’t know how lucky they are: one member has no respect for damage he does to Eddie’s constructions, whereas another asks him to reject his own sensibilities in order to build a set that speaks more to the band’s tween demographic. When a member of the band falls from the top of the set, Eddie rescues him effortlessly and without second thought. As he recedes from the limelight, a piece of the same set falls on him, causing blood to drip down onto his beastly belt buckle. The belt buckle begins to glow, eventually transporting Eddie into a world inspired by heavy metal album covers.

The story is fairly straightforward, but it does contain a few twists that make sure that the destination isn’t visible from the outset. Along the way, the player will find interesting characters inspired by heavy metal, some of which are voiced by their inspiration. As one might expect from a game by Tim Schafer, the dialogue is often clever and funny, probably even more so to those steeped in knowledge of heavy metal.

Audiovisual

Brutal Legend opens with a live-action video of Jack Black leading you through a record store to find an obscure title. As he places it on a table, the viewer sees that the game and the record are one and the same. Upon pressing start, the album is flipped open, and each option of the title menu is another part of the case or the record itself, with Black’s hands manipulating the articles for you. This is one element that continues to make me smile. As the rest of the game unfolds, terrific voice acting, music, sound effects, and quirky character designs continue to amuse and amaze.

Unfortunately, some of the lines delivered while en route to destinations can overlap if the audio triggers are tripped too close to each other, which is very easy to do by accident in some cases. There were also a number of times when pop-up, tearing, and stuttering became issues. Although none of these issues were game-breaking, they were low points in an otherwise high-quality game.

brutallegend1

Gameplay

There are three major types of gameplay in Brutal Legend: action-adventure, driving, and real-time strategy. Most of the time, these overlap in pleasing ways, such as driving into the middle of an enemy’s army, hopping out to play a few guitar solos and swing the axe around, then flying out of harm’s way to your waiting ambush party and ordering them to charge. There is a double team attack for every unit in the game, including most of the animals Eddie will stumble across, and learning the proper time to form a mosh pit or hop up onto the stage lights to zap your enemies is part of the fun.

Not everything is well on this front, however. Enemies can seem rather resilient, which I imagine was a way of making players rely more on the RTS elements than their own battling abilities. Unfortunately, the avatars are not as precise or efficient as a mouse can be when playing a more traditional RTS, and making individual commands within a frantic battle is cumbersome at best because of this shortcoming. The lack of a minimap also poses problems within stage battles and free-roaming sections: although having the turn signals of the Deuce indicate which way the player should go was a clever solution to this, I still found myself popping in and out of the full menu while on long journeys across the land.

brutallegend2

Violence

Brutal Legend lives up to its name: in a standard battle, it is not out of the ordinary for enemies to have their heads, arms, or entire torsos severed, with the accompanying fountains of blood. Other than being sliced into bits, characters are shocked, burned, crushed by falling debris, and melted in lava. A certain character rips the heart out of another’s back, and another is impaled, lifted up, and thrown away like trash.

During the opening cinematic, the player is prompted to turn on a violence filter or to leave it off. If turned on, the filter will either remove or obscure much of the blood and gore otherwise included. However, the game will still include a certain level of violence: stray body parts will still occasionally be seen on scenery if enough attention is paid; death will be dealt by weapons, bludgeoning, electrocution, fire, and lava, although no blood will erupt; the EA and title logos will still show blood; and blood will still be visible occasionally, but in much less amounts than without the filter.

Multiplayer brings up a few other issues with violence. Doviculus, one of the playable generals, pulls his guitar from his chest cavity every time he plays it, and some of his solos and double team attacks feature his own heart being mutilated for the benefit of his minions or hurling gore at his enemies. Even with the filter on, these elements remain.

brutallegend3

Spirituality

This is where Brutal Legend earns the right to the second word of its title. An entire mythology has been created to explain the existence of heavy metal, hot rods, motorcycles, and even goths. This same mythology also gives an origin story to demons, gods, and humans. In fact, Eddie must lead a band of humans in rebellion against their demonic masters, led by Emperor Doviculus and his cadre of demonic nuns and priests. The gods are conspicuously absent.

Besides this constructed mythology, the game also makes use of metal images such as the “devil horns” hand gesture, which is featured quite prominently in the form of rock formations and “devil thorns” that mark buried relics. The number of the beast is used on the price tag of a record, which reads “6.66.” Pentagrams are displayed everywhere, from beacons and indicators of new content to pendants and other ornaments.

More troubling is Eddie’s reaction to his new surroundings: after killing a demonic nun, he jumps onto her vehicle, kneels, bows his head, puts his hands together, and begins to say a sort of mock prayer to the “evil, messed-up demon powers” of the strange world he has been transported to, telling them that he is sorry for killing their nun and that he actually likes their world to an extent.

When he meets the human resistance, they relate to him that he is a figure from legends, sent by the fire-beast Ormagoden to either destroy the world or free it. As the game goes on, Eddie will partially transform into a demon during stage battles, allowing him to fly around the battlefield and become a more efficient commander. This is explained by the fact that Eddie was poisoned by demon blood during his escape from the temple of Ormagoden.

SPOILERS (Highlight to view)

It is later revealed that Eddie is the offspring of the former leader of the demons, Emperor Succoria, and the freedom fighter that had traveled to the future to kill her, Riggnarok. His belt buckle, the catalyst for the entire plot, is actually an idol of Ormagoden that Succoria brought with her.

In the game’s mythology, demons were the “first ones,” the first living beings. They killed the fire-beast Ormagoden because his light made them see their horrible forms. Different parts of his body are left behind in the world, which the titans use to create music, among other things, leading to their eventual ascension to the heavens as the metal gods. This abandonment causes the demons to create humanity, whom they come to hate. This alternate creation story places humans in a position of being unwanted creations, hated, hunted, and mercilessly killed by their malevolent progenitors.

END SPOILERS

brutallegend4

Language

It does not take long for the heavy words to come rolling out: within the opening cutscene, both the F- and S-bombs are both used in quick succession. This is not a one time occurrence, nor did the writers shy away from using other colorful language throughout. Multiple characters give the finger to others, with it being used flagrantly during the final battle.

The cursing is so extensive that a language filter was included along with the aforementioned violence filter. Just before the first curse words of the game, the player is prompted to choose between playing with and without the filter, although the option for having it on says that it is because it will make it funnier. With the filter on, much of the language is bleeped within the dialogue, while the finger is obscured with parental advisory stickers. There are a few holes in the filter: any text written out in the tour guide is left unaltered, although a– is the only word I can remember being written there; hell is not bleeped when used as an interjection; various forms of “piss” and “d—” remain intact; lines such as “Get the eff outta dodge,” and “You son of a…” are still spoken; and any language within the lyrics of songs will not be bleeped at all.

God is used as an interjection a number of times, and only capitalized in such use when it begins a sentence. I believe this was meant to reflect that the characters would more likely be referring to the metal gods of the game’s mythology rather than any featured in a real-world religion, but take from that what you wish.

Adult Content

Sex and sexuality is touched on quite a bit in Brutal Legend. There are some crude jokes, some in the form of double entendres and others that are played straight. Within the story itself, the Tainted Coil is an army of demons largely inspired by sado-masochism, complete with blindfolds, gags, whips, and g-strings, and the characters reference this numerous times during the course of the game. While battling Doviculus, the evil emperor will make multiple snide comments about Eddie’s mother, implying that she was a promiscuous transvestite. Another major army within the game is led by General Lionwhyte, who runs his own “pleasure tower,” from which many of the female members of the human resistance are rescued. There are units within the game that come from a tribe of jungle women called the Zaulia; these Kiss-inspired amazons wear barely any clothes at all, with almost nothing but the most scandalous parts of their bodies covered.

There are a few obscure instances of adult content that a player may or may not notice or even come across: one legend has a sketch of a naked, but featureless, woman; another mentions an orgy; and there is a rather provocative poster up on the wall of the record store that Jack Black walks in before the title screen.

brutallegend5

Miscellaneous Content

Smoking and drinking are major pastimes for many of the characters, and one mission will have Eddie delivering kegs to a beach party. Crude, nonsexual humor comes in the form of a certain solo being referred to as “Drop a Deuce,” one character referring to sensitive parts being sunburned, and another speaking of sleeping naked on fur.

Since Brutal Legend is inspired by heavy metal, it only makes sense for it to contain an extensive soundtrack of songs handpicked by Tim Schafer. Certain songs contain content that many reading this would find offensive: e.g. one is called “Rotting Christ.” All songs can be disabled, however, so the player can personalize which songs will and will not be heard during gameplay. If one wants to be very safe, all of the songs can be switched off.

Positive Content

Redemption is a theme that covertly works its way throughout the story: certain members of Eddie’s army are former enemies who worked for General Lionwhyte. Eddie encourages those around him, and ultimately allows others to take the credit for things he has done, perfectly content with being one of the few that know of his contributions to the cause.

Conclusion

Brutal Legend is a hilarious romp through heavy metal lore that lives up to both words in its title. The level of violence, language, and spiritual content will turn many away from its charms. For those people, I would recommend Tim Schafer’s other creations, such as the Monkey Island series and Psychonauts, which are equally hilarious, but lack the more troubling elements found within this game.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

About this game