Brutal Legend is truly a shame. Everything about this game is good: the voice-acting, the graphics, the world, the story, the dialogue, and the music. Everything except the gameplay. The peripheral game parts are fine — no great shakes but decent — but the stage battles are simply not good. And unfortunately, that’s enough to sink the game for most players. More details below.
- Story is everything you expect from Schafer. Good original concepts, lots of interesting ideas, solidly funny dialogue, and a really nice story that ties up and is paced well. The story was good enough for me to stick around for despite my other problems.
- Voice-acting is good, and Jack Black delivers on what you hope for. Secondary characters are also good, especially the main demon.
- The game looks quite good. The battle units in particular are well done, and there are a lot of nice environments.
- METAL. If you are an old metalhead, this is coming home. I want to go out and buy new versions of Megadeth, UFO, and Dethklok. If nothing else, I have to thank Brutal Legend for making me love metal again.
- Game mechanics generally are only okay. The combat is a little wonky, and the driving is passable, but none of this is enough to make the game addictive.
- The stage battles are simply not fun. There are two main reasons for this. The stage battle specific one is that you cannot control an RTS from a local avatar in an over-the-shoulder game. It makes it impossible to tell where your units are or which units you are actually commanding when you shout an order. I actually have no idea how this game launched without someone fixing these issues. It’s not like an RTS is a new genre. Give me a radar of my units at least. Sorry, this is just too sloppy.
- Brutal Legend never explains anything. It fails to teach very basic concepts, and you are forced to learn essential game elements through trial and error. I hate tutorials as much as anyone, but there’s a line at which you MUST show players how to do things if you want them to know what’s going on.
- Secrets and hidden elements are buried far too deep on the map. There is no way I’m going to run around looking for goodies on your map without at least a smidgen of an indication of where they are.
I hate to say this, but I just can’t in good conscience recommend this game. If you are an old metalhead or a real lover of Schafer’s work, or decent game narrative, it is worth renting this game to see if you can tolerate the lack of information and the bad core mechanic to see the good bits. Otherwise, stay away. It’s a terrible shame, but all the good details in the world can’t save a game if the play is not fun. I still love you, Double Fine, but this game hurt. The next one has to be fun.