Demo Impressions: Brütal Legend

schafer-black What's in a name? In the case of Brütal Legend, a whole hell of a lot.

  • Jack Black stars as Eddie Riggs, the world's best roadie who's transported to a dimension of awesome metal-inspired brutality.
  • Rob Halford, Lita Ford, Lemmy Kilmister, Ozzy Osbourne and...Tim Curry all have been tapped to lend their voice talents to the game. From what's been shown so far, each looks to be perfectly at home in his or her element.
  • Tim Schafer is the game's creator; his previous credits include Full Throttle, Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and Psychonauts.

Schafer's games all have an expected pedigree of quality when it comes to establishing setting, story and characters -- in that regard, Brütal Legend won't disappoint. But what about the game's design? How well is it implemented?

After romping through the demo four times, there's little doubt that the game itself does an admirable job of wrapping all this larger-than-life, metal-soaked goodness into a tasty little love burrito.

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Double Fine has missed no opportunity to adorn Brütal Legend with all kinds of small details that should make the game all the more enjoyable in the long term. For example, I've played through the demo four times now, and each time I started the demo I heard a new singer belting out a sustained "Double Fiiiiiiiine!" at the developer's logo screen before the title screen. It's one of those little details that will stand out to players as they return to the game over and over. One day it's Lita Ford's forceful yell; next it's Rob Halford's Painkiller-pitched scream; another time, it's Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train-inspired version.

And while it'd be a shame to spoil it for anybody, the title screen deserves recognition as being perhaps the most inspired main menu ever.

Like any Tim Schafer game, Brütal Legend is filled to the brim with witty, inspired dialog. While the game appears to follow Psychonauts' lead in featuring lots of cutscenes -- which are admittedly hilarious -- a great deal of the game's conversations also play out in real-time while the player is actively engaged in hacking, slashing and shredding. It makes for a more seamless transition between active and passive segments, and the humor permeates throughout the game with ease.

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It may not boast all the bells and whistles of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves' pristine, lush visuals, but Brütal Legend more than compensates with its brilliant sense of style. Charming, exaggerated characters spring to life and define themselves with expressive animation and excellent sound and voice work. Though only a couple scenes were visible in the demo, each was appropriately overblown and impressive. Schafer has said that the game's art design is meant to bring fantastical album covers to life; based on initial impressions, it looks as though Double Fine has had no difficulties in living up to its goal.

While the demo left me even more eagerly anticipating the game's October 13 release date, a couple of critical aspects of the game were absent from the preview:

  1. The Open World: Brütal Legend promises a massive, metal album-inspired world to explore with myriad tasks to perform. The demo only includes a portion of the very linear introductory sequence, so it remains to be seen how cohesive and enjoyable the full game's exploration segments will be.
  2. Massive Battles: Later in the game  and while playing online in multiplayer, Eddie will command minions in epic rock show battles in a cross between the game's basic hack-and-slash combat and the strategy elements of Pikmin. Combat feels solid but a little simplistic while just playing as Eddie, so it's likely the game's long-term enjoyment will hinge on how well the game's large-scale battles play out.

They're legitimate concerns, but they shouldn't be enough to dissuade anyone from playing the game. What Double Fine has presented in just a short demonstration is more than enough laugh-out-loud humor, satisfying combat, top-tier writing and -- well, inspirado -- to guarantee an enjoyable time for anyone who's not afraid of a little bit of everything your parents warned you about.