I’m a filthy hypocrite. As much as I rally against store-exclusive preorder bonuses (yet I support a free market...go figure), I find it harder and harder to resist their sweet siren songs. GameStop is easily the biggest producer of unnecessary crap handed over when you pre-buy from them, as my excessively nerdy t-shirt drawer can attest to. However, sometimes they give you something pretty damn sweet, like early access to a demo for EA/Doublefine’s upcoming Brütal Legend. Does it live up to its humongous, heavy metal hype? Find out after the break!
After downloading the mammoth 1.57 GB file from Xbox Live, you’re greeted by the first act of immersion on the game’s part: the menu is presented in the form of an LP sleeve, complete with moody painted artwork and '6.66' price tag. Starting up the game you’re introduced to Eddie Riggs, roadie extraordinaire for tween sensation Kabbage Boy, a group representative of everything wrong with 'metal,' from emo hair to their ironic hip hop breakdowns. Events transpire that end with Eddie’s demonic belt buckle feeding on his blood, summoning a beast straight from a Motörhead album cover and sending him to another dimension steeped in the metal he holds so dear.
The game itself plays like a fairly straightforward action-adventure that should feel familiar to fans of Doubefine’s previous game Psychonauts, although with a bent more towards close-quarters combat with the Separator (a giant, two-headed battleaxe) and Clementine (Eddie’s prized guitar whose power chords can shake the very earth). There are some additional features to add a few much-needed wrinkles to the gameplay, including the ability to double team with a female sidekick that you can hurl into enemies and automotive mayhem behind the wheel of Eddie's hot rod, The Deuce. The video at the end of the demo hints at much more though, including multiplayer and what looks to be some squad-based combat of sorts.
As far as the things that will really set Brütal Legend apart from its genre brethren are its humor and music. As indifferent as I am towards Jack Black, his turn as bitter-roadie-turned-hero Eddie Riggs is both obnoxious and oddly likable, and Tim Schafer’s always-fantastic humor works just as well for metal as it does for pirates, dead Mexicans, and psychic children. The integration of popular music into the soundtrack is just as brilliantly executed, even with only two of the game's 107 tracks (Children of the Grave by Black Sabbath and Back to the Funny Farm by Motörhead) making an appearance in the demo.
However, I can’t help but wonder if all of these metal in-jokes won't leave the mass market a little cold. I loved every nasty wink and nudge the demo offered up (including an appearance from Danzig's goat-skull logo and a boss that was literally a pierced, toothy vulva on a spine), but is that too much for an audience who only know Dragonforce from that boss track in Guitar Hero? You can find out for yourself when the demo is released later this week.
Brütal Legend will be released Rocktober 13th for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.