We've written before about Brutal Legend, the just-released video game starring big-screen funnyman Jack Black. Produced by Tim Schafer, who has several cult classics (from Grim Fandango to Psychonauts) under his belt, the game has built up a lot of positive industry buzz, but is also in danger of being overshadowed by a flood of fall 2009 blockbusters, from Uncharted 2 to The Beatles: Rock Band.
Does Brutal Legend--a wide-ranging action/adventure about a foul-mouthed heavy metal band roadie who gets smacked on the head and wakes up in a D&D-style fantasy land--have what it takes to rock gamers this holiday season?
Dan: Having seen and played a few segments of the game at different times over the past eight months, I was eager to have a chance to spend a weekend playing through a bigger chunk of the main campaign. Several hours in, Brutal Legend has done an overall excellent job of treading the very fine line between comedy and gameplay--but not without some serious stumbles along the way.
I'd be the first to say I'm not a Jack Black "fan," but this is clearly a role he was born to play. He's apparently into it as well, and shows up as himself for a clever live-action intro video. The game's writing is sharp, even if much of it is clearly constructed from contextual one-liners that Black's character, Eddie Rigg, spouts off in a semi-random fashion.
But we ended up having more fun listening to the dialog than playing the game itself. Brutal Legend doesn't seem to know if it wants to be a hack-and-slash action game, an open-world exploration RPG, or a squad strategy game--as Eddie picks up small armies of head-banging locals to order around with basic follow/stay/attack D-pad commands.
Perhaps trying to mash all these genres together caused a few of the rough, unfinished edges we saw. Cut scenes and in-game dialog crashed awkwardly into each other, cutting off characters mid-sentence. Transitions between dialog and action scenes were abrupt and sometimes disorienting.
But despite some muddled ideas, we kept going back for more, drawn in by the Frank Frazetta-style art (think '70s metal album covers) and inside baseball music biz jokes--and as someone who has spent some time in a self-parodying heavy metal band, that's high praise.
Jeff: It's tough to name a game that has as much hype this. It's probably because of the talent involved in the game; Jack Black has sported a Brutal Legend T-shirt everywhere he's gone for the last year and voice work comes from rock legends like Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead) and Ozzy Osbourne.
Brutal Legend is unique, in that you'll experience a variety of gameplay genres mashed up together inside. The game incorporates open-world driving, action/adventure, real-time strategy, and elements of role-playing.
If there's one thing the game does right, it's establishing the metal atmosphere.… Read more