There's a lot to love about Brütal Legend. From its quick-witted script and memorable cast of characters, to its brilliantly realised setting and diverse selection of missions. There's only one problem - the game itself isn't that great. If creator Tim Schafer didn't have such a talent for creating evocative worlds and arresting characters, we probably would have scored it a lot less.
But anything this imaginative and broad in scope should be celebrated, regardless of its technical shortcomings. Because, without games like this, we'd be lost in a sea of warehouses and foul-mouthed space marines. And it's for this reason that Brütal Legend is worthy of your time.
Watch tons of other game videos in HD over on our video channel!
Our hero is Eddie Riggs, a roadie who's whisked away to the Age of Metal - a world of leather, volcanoes and skulls that looks like a heavy metal album cover come to life. Enormous guitar-shaped statues dominate the skyline, fireballs rain from the sky, speakers carved into the side of mountains shriek with feedback and chrome exhausts protrude from the grass like trees. It's an inspired setting and beautifully designed.
And you can explore it at your leisure. The game is totally free-roaming and you drive between objectives in Eddie's flame-licked hot rod, The Deuce. The handling is fun and arcade-like, making skidding around the world taking in the sights one of the game's biggest pleasures. And it gets even better when you find the Guardian of Metal, played brilliantly by the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne.
Locate an entrance to his fiery underground lair - marked by giant skull-adorned statues that must be 'raised' by playing a guitar solo - and you can upgrade The Deuce with new weapons, armour and speed boosts, paint jobs and even an in-car stereo. This makes exploring the world even more awesome, as you can create your own playlists from the game's 100+ brilliant licensed metal tracks.
It's the music that defines Brütal Legend. Every major set-piece is accompanied by a song from the soundtrack, often with a lyrical or thematic connection to what's happening on screen. This is a rare example of a licensed video game soundtrack being used specifically to complement the action, rather than just being played indiscriminately in the background. In one memorable scene, Dragonforce's 'Through the Fire and Flames' roars in the background as you steer The Deuce at breakneck speeds through a castle being torn apart by demons. When it was over, our hearts were literally pounding.
And music is also incorporated into the gameplay. Eddie can play solos on his guitar, Clementine, that have various effects. They're basically musical magical spells, and are controlled via short, easy rhythm action sequences. Holding R2 brings up a wheel of available solos, and you select them with X. You can use them to summon The Deuce, melt enemies' faces (a kind of smart bomb), raise buried monuments (like the entrance to the Guardian of Metal's lair) and increase the strength of NPCs.
Brütal Legend isn't all about Eddie. A large portion of the game sees you controlling armies of NPCs in real-time strategy sections. You build a stage (your base), harvest energy (or 'fans') to spend on units, and control your troops from above (click R3 to fly - Eddie sprouts wings). Units range from bouncers, who serve as pure muscle, to roadies that can turn invisible and attack enemy buildings stealthily. You also have healers and ranged units, and your goal is to wipe out the enemy commander's army (goths and glam rockers), protect your stage and, in some cases, destroy the entrance to their stronghold to unlock the next area of the map.