REVISITING JACK BLACK’S
VIDEO GAME OF HEAVY METAL MAYHEM
The schedule for video game releases is as fast and constant as comic book title releases.
Because of this, it becomes difficult to try each one.
Although free demo downloads or the demo discs that come with gamer mags do help you try before buying, it is still tough to keep up unless you want to devote yourself to gaming 24/7 and have mighty deep pockets.
In October of 2009 Electronic Arts (EA, famous for games such as Madden NFL, Mass Effect, Rock Band, The Sims and Medal Of Honor) released a game called Brütal Legend.
For the most part the game was somewhat highly anticipated in the industry since it was designed by Tim Schafer and his company Double Fine Productions. Tim was already known for his comedic story-telling and comedy-writing, creating past gems such as Grim Fandango, The Secret Of Monkey Island and Full Throttle, to name a few, plus working with actor Jack Black assured much attention and a larger audience than many games would have.
However, Brütal Legend, though it received great reviews and overall critical praise, was sort of buried under other titles which had just come out or were about to be released. For instance, Halo 3: ODST, which was a stopgap game between the franchise's mega successful Halo 3 and Halo Reach had come out previously the month before.
So unfortunately, neither I nor anyone I knew had ever bought a copy of Brütal Legend back then, not willing to plunk down $60 and take a chance on something that was supposed to be very good, yet not an assured blockbuster. This is sad, since the game really deserved a better fate. Thankfully, now you can purchase the game for under $20 new, or used for as little as a few bucks—and I'm here to tell you, Brütal Legend is a classic still worthy of checking out.
This third person action/adventure/real-time strategy game, for both the PS3 and XBox 360 platforms, stars actor Jack Black as Eddie Riggs, the world's greatest rock band roadie (named for a combination of Iron Maiden's mascot Eddie the Head, and the artist that created Eddie and does all the Iron Maiden covers, Derek Riggs) who through a stage accident, wakes up in an unnamed land of Heavy Metal and I do mean HEAVY METAL.
Eddie must fight his way through this world in which humans have been enslaved by Doviculus, Emperor of the Tainted Coil (voiced by actor Tim Curry) who uses his general and an army to keep down the humans. Eddie travels through this land in search of answers, finds and decides to help a small human resistance force and attempts to build an army which includes headbangers called Ironheade (looking much like warped Basil Wolverton characters).
The game uses an open world style of gameplay which allows the player to free-roam the map and choose either the main mission or a multitude of side missions which help to power up Eddie's weapons, vehicle and powers.
So what makes Brütal Legend so great?
First off, the menu is really creative (I'll keep it a secret) and still one of the more original I have encountered in a videogame. The characters and voices used include, among others, Ozzy Osbourne (The Guardian of Metal), Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead (The Killmaster), Judas Priest's Rob Halford (General Lionwhyte and The Baron), Lita Ford (Rima) and comedians Brian Posehn and David Cross, all delivering hilarious dialogue in a world that is a combination of the work of Frank Frazetta, heavy metal album covers and something out of the mind of a twelve year old heavy metal fan (with a little bit of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth thrown in for good measure).
Memorable quotes are plentiful in this game: "Everything in that general direction must die!" "I'll be back...covered in Metal god love..." or how about "This music is so good, I could kill myself, in the good way."
|Lemmy Kilmister as The Killmaster
Ready yourself for what seems like an endless number of verbal and visual heavy metal references inspired by metal bands from the late '60s up to more current bands. For instance, the band Motörhead's fanged face cover mascot, Snaggletooth a.k.a. War-Pig, has a really huge influence over the game, with it's long fangs seeming to appear everywhere and on everything.
After having a wonderful menu, actual iconic legends of heavy metal voicing characters, a fun plot, graphics and visual cues that are sharp and clever, plus overall decent gameplay, what's left for Brütal Legend to put it over the top and have me talk up the game as a classic?
To be honest, I'm merely scratching the surface of Brütal Legend as far as plot and characters go, but I had to get to what stands out as one of the true marvels that this game gives the world of video gaming and thereby enshrines as a stone cold classic...
Brütal Legend contains over 107 songs from 75 different Heavy Metal bands!
With help from a metal expert named Allan who works at Aquarius Records in San Francisco, Schafer and his musical director Emily Ridgway (with input from Jack Black) compiled songs that encompass the history of Heavy Metal and all its genres and sub genres.
No soundalikes or covers on this one, as all the real songs you might know and love are peppered throughout the game with even more unlockable ones as you go further on your missions.
|Black Sabbath circa 1971 and my favorite album by them above
From Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Ozzy, Def Leppard, Motley Cru, KISS, Girlschool, King Diamond, Manowar and Megadeath to Iced Earth, Angel Witch, Cradle Of Filth, KMFDM, Brocus Helm and Dimmu Borgir, etc. I was startled as I was playing the game and hearing song after great song from these and every other metal or metal related band that you could think of. there isn't anything quite like having Black Sabbath's masterpiece "Children of the Grave" (from Master Of Reality, 1971) suddenly come on as you're driving like a bat out of hell out of some treacherous lair.
To say this just had to be a one of the biggest licensing nightmares ever is the understatement of all time.
Oh yeah, did I mention there's also over 70 minutes of a really good original score as well?
This is not to say that Brütal Legend is just for die-hard metal head fans only, because if you ever enjoyed any good action based video game, Jack Black's comedy such as in School Of Rock, an episode of The Osbournes, or even just appreciate the ridiculous absurdity that is metal as seen in Spinal Tap, then by all means please try this game out.
Playing Brütal Legend is fun with a capitol F, and the game really should have sold better than it did at the time, however, it still maintains a tenacious legion of fans some of who declare it to be one of the best games ever.
Playing this game, I am often reminded of a quote from Jack Black's character Dewey Finn when he says in School Of Rock, "God of Rock, thank you for this chance to kick ass. we are your humble servants. Please give us the power to blow people's minds with our high voltage rock. In your name we pray, Amen."
Oh, and don't forget to bring your Umlaut...