Eddie Riggs is a roadie who bears more than a passing resemblance to a hugely muscled Jack Black. While setting up for an unnamed band, Eddie has an accident which causes his blood to flow into the mouth of his skull shaped belt buckle. Unfortunately for Eddie this belt buckle is actually an ancient magical amulet and the addition of his blood gives it enough power to transfer him to another world. The fibre-glass stage set suddenly becomes swapped for a stone temple atop a mountain of skull and Eddie is forced use a nearby double bladed axe to defend himself from several robed demons.
So begins Brutal Legend, my pick for the most original videogame of 2009. Why is it so original? Well, rather than a traditional fantasy world, Eddie (actually voiced by Jack Black) has fallen into a world wholly inspired by old heavy metal album covers. Towers of bone, pits of fire and gigantic swords sticking out of the ground litter the landscape. In the mythology of the game, the Metal Gods have left behind plans and parts for all sorts of technology, vehicles and weapons. Until now no-one has been able to understand these sacred writings, but Eddie is a technologically minded guy and can use these plans and parts to help him in his quest. Of course, to raise these ancient relics Eddie must play mystic songs on his “axe” which will double as a guitar in the game.
As someone who understands the world of Brutal Legend he’s well suited to acting in it. He’s also a hardcore videogame player so he knows his stuff. When people about what situation the character is in he’ll be able to relate that to previous games and give a decent performance based on that. Excellent choice.
All of the rock and metal cliches are present and correct, warped in some way by the world or added behind the scenes to give a heavy metal feel to the game. The local currency is lighters. The young men of the world have been kidnapped and forced to work in a mine (they’ve been given no tools so they mine by banging their heads against the wall giving them hugely thick necks and devastating headbutt attacks). Teenaged runaway rock chicks can ride on your shoulders and shoot crossbows at enemies. The world has been taken over the demonic Tainted Coil led by a glamtastic human called Lionwhite (actually voiced by Rob Halford). This is a heavy metal world that’s fun to be in and feels authentic too. The soundtrack is a mixture of old and new songs from Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and a few lesser known but equally important bands, as well as extended guitar work from K.K. Dowling and. Other announced voice actors include Ronnie James Dio and Lemmy. All of which makes it even more ridiculous that game publishers asked for it to have a country music or hip hop feeling to it when it was originally pitched to them. Luckily the developers stuck to their guns.
The metal will live on”
~ The Metal – Tenacious D ~
Gameplay revolves around traversing the open world, unearthing new technology, rescuing/defeating people so they’ll join your army, getting in races, defeating demons, upgrading your technology (using lighters rewarded in missions), and the now obligatory dialog trees leading to moral choices. For gamers (probably the only people still reading) the gameplay sounds very reminiscent of a little game you may have heard of called Beyond Good & Evil. If this game manages to be even half as well presented as that game was, and keeps it’s metal attitude up then it’ll be one of the greatest games this year. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go shopping for a leather covered studded controller.