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Brutal Legend Review

Brütal Legend

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
UK Price (as reviewed): £37.99 (inc VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $56.99 (ex Tax)

It’s like if Guitar Hero was made into a proper game, with blood and guts and swearing and Jack Black and big awesome metal spiders; that’s how to most simply and quickly describe Brütal Legend. It’s Spinal Tap crossed with GTA, with an extra side order of fantastic. But even that’s not entirely apt.

It’s what you’d get if you asked someone to make a game especially for our fifteen year old selves, with the specific aim being to bowl us over with glassy eyed satisfaction and the warmest kind of nostalgia – though we doubt we’re going to be the only ones taking that feeling away from Brütal Legend.

The more material way to look at it is that it’s an open-world hack and slash game with unlockable combos and a deep strategy element, all of which is padded out with the usual selection of driving missions and collectible items - but where's the fun in that? It doesn’t quite capture the emotion and passion with which the game has been obviously been crafted.

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"Everything in that general direction must die!"

You see, Brütal Legend is a tribute to something loud, fierce and honest. It’s not a tribute to Heavy Metal music itself, because you don’t need to like the style to like the game; it’s a tribute to the feeling and the frankness of the music and about staying true to the music and not selling out, man.

Of course, since it’s a tribute that’s been assembled by Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Studios, it’s not something that comes across as sentimentally and over-wrought with analysis as all this wordiness. Instead, it’s all wrapped up in humour and exaggeration – exactly what you’d expect of the team behind Psychonauts, in other words.

Thus, instead of starting with some over-long cutscene where our hero, roadie Eddie Riggs, gives some cringe-worthy monologue about how good music no longer exists, Brütal Legend starts with a shame-faced Eddie (voiced by Jack Black) being forced to cut his opinions short so he can lay his life down for some Good Charlotte-alikes. Then, when his enchanted belt buckle gets his blood on it, a metal demon comes out of the ground to kill the band, take Eddie to the birthplace of heavy metal and show the crowd what real rock music is. Like good rock music the opening comes out of nowhere, leaves you dazzled and doesn’t take itself entirely seriously.

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Ladies always look this bewildered when we make our moves

Naturally, it only gets more crazy and over-the-top from there on too. Upon waking up at the top of a mountain in a new medieval world filled with demons, Eddie stumbles across the ultimate sexy rock chick, Ophelia. Ophelia leads him to her friends and Eddie learns that the entire human race has been enslaved by these hair-metal loving demons, so he establishes himself as the roadie of the rebellion and starts assembling an army, inventing modern engineering and introducing humanity to the one thing that can save it; really good music. All in a day's work.

That’s not hyperbole or sentimentality by the way; in the metal-world music literally is magic and by strumming the right riffs Eddie can melt the faces off his foes for real. His guitar, which comes through the portal with him, is more than just the symbol which the human resistance unites under in the war against the Bon Jovi-loving demons - it's also a weapon. Eddie slowly accrues a list of real powerchords throughout his adventure and, by playing a short burst on it in a little Guitar Hero minigame, he can call lightning from the sky, statues from the earth and awesomeness from anywhere in between.

And that's just for starters...