Brutal Legend Hands-On Impressions

We go Hands-On with Double Fine's open-world tribute to metal for the very first time.

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Back in March, we took a trip to Double Fine Productions to have a look at the opening sequence from Brutal Legend. This hands-off demo gave us an introduction to the basics of combat (kill demons with weapons) and open-world vehicular exploration (kill demons with an awesome hot rod), but it mainly served as an introduction to the story of a rock-obsessed roadie transported to an alternate realm of heavy metal lore. This past week, we returned to Double Fine to get another look at Brutal Legend, but this time, we had an Xbox 360 controller in hand (though you can also expect a PlayStation 3 version). We got to play through this same intro sequence, plus a few brand new missions from later in the game.

Brutal Legend wastes very little time introducing you to the fundamentals of on-foot combat. In the first few moments of the game, you acquire both an axe named The Separator and a guitar named Clementine. Axe attacks are short-ranged melee strikes triggered with the A button, while guitar attacks offer long-distance electrical bursts, which are released by hitting X. As in most brawlers, there's a certain level of timing required with the 1-2-3 rhythm of melee strikes if you want to maximize effectiveness. That's especially true for such combos as the Grand Slam, which is the A, X, A string of button presses that sees you lopping off enemy heads like a baseball player blasting a home run.

In addition to unlocking more combos as time goes on, a few more abilities are available to you for when you're confronted with enemies that are more challenging than the druid grunts you meet early on in the game. One of the most useful abilities we encountered was the earthshaker, which lets you jump into the air by hitting A and X simultaneously, then drop back down with a devastating thud. This will create a ring of destruction in your immediate vicinity that knocks down nearby enemies. For far-off enemies, you can pull the left trigger to lock on to them and hold the X button to fire off a power chord guitar blast in their direction. This is a pretty handy ability, but you need to pay attention to your guitar strings because they'll glow orange and overheat if you overuse this technique. Overall, we liked that balance between the straightforward process of eviscerating nearby enemies and having to still keep an eye out for pesky distant ones who use ranged weapons. On-foot movement could stand to benefit a lot from feeling a bit less rigid, but there's certainly still time to improve that aspect of the game.

The Deuce is a force to be reckoned with when you've got it all upgraded.

The other big part of Brutal Legend is your hot rod, The Deuce. Early on, your basic abilities with the car amount to little more than clicking the left stick for a nitro boost and hitting B to pull a quick 180. It's trial by fire at the outset because you won't have been in it for much more than a couple of minutes before you need to prove your driving skills in a boss battle. You take on a towering wormlike monster that chases you around a large circular field, and the trick is to dodge its devouring attacks so that its tongues get stuck on the ground. If you nitro boost into them a few times while it's trying to break away, you've got one dead boss on your hands. Though it's a fairly simple boss fight, its placement so early in the game makes it a nice little tutorial to your basic move set in The Deuce.

As the game wears on, you'll be able to upgrade your hot rod to make it a much more devastating killing machine. We got to try a later vehicle mission in the game where the goal was to escort a tour bus filled with your buddies from one battle to another, making sure to protect the bus from the various baddies intent to attack it on the road. At this point in the game, The Deuce had been equipped with a Gatling gun, side pipes capable of blasting fire, and a grille designed to slice through enemies caught in its path. The Gatling gun will auto-aim for you, so there's no need to worry about steering and targeting at the same time. But the side pipes are a little trickier, requiring you to drive up next to an enemy and letting out a burst of flames from each side of your car. It's fun and extremely rewarding when you pull it off.

Though it's not a boss-focused game, the ones in Brutal Legend are still pretty scary.

Another new mission we had the opportunity to play was a two-part quest to find the Killmaster (an ironically named medicine man voiced by Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmeister) in order to heal our badly wounded partner. You start by journeying up a treacherous mountain path marked by hair-metal headbangers and stampeding demon bulls, eventually arriving at the Killmaster's hideout. He informs you that the mystical bass guitar he normally uses to heal the wounded doesn't have strings thick enough for these particular injuries, so you need to venture to the lair of the metal spider queen to find the strings he needs. This involves a dungeon crawl into her lair, a boss battle to defeat her, and a race against the clock to make it back to the Killmaster with the new strings--the latter task taking place on a particularly sweet three-wheeled motorcycle.

From what we played, Brutal Legend looks like it should offer a good mix of gameplay variety. Rending enemies limb from limb is a good bit of fun, as are the later driving missions when The Deuce is upgraded to high heaven. The controls and combat are both fairly basic, but that's almost preferable in a game driven so much by its humor and clever storytelling. Expect to see more leading up to Brutal Legend's October release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. And as a final parting gift, metal fans will be happy to hear that four songs from the soundtrack have been confirmed with us by EA: Anthrax's "Metal Thrashing Mad," Black Sabbath's "Symptom of the Universe," Dimmu Borgir's "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse," and Motley Crue's "Kickstart My Heart."

Discussion

119 comments
XxAsXIXAmxX
XxAsXIXAmxX

This game just keeps getting better and better, from the set list of songs ( the best part I'm most psyched for ) to now multiplayer! I can't wait.

Beaver_Slayer
Beaver_Slayer

it would be awesome if you could melt the demon's faces with guitar solos as one of the attack combos!

Smash696
Smash696

Seems the developers realize you can't make a rock game without Jack Black and Lemmy (motorheadftw)

silentkiller11
silentkiller11

I can't wait to kill demons with the power of rock. this is goin to be a great game. THE POWER OF ROCK COMPELLS YOU!!!!!!!!

Ezio-da-firenze
Ezio-da-firenze

OZZY is going to be in it WOO he rocks man and so does JACK BLACK!!!

guerillaKZ2
guerillaKZ2

they should have some sort of online racing thing

SQUALL20XX
SQUALL20XX

The first rock game that I liked

SSBFan12
SSBFan12

I think the game looks amazing I can't wait to get it. Too bad that activision is sueing them for really no reason what so ever.

buzznut
buzznut

I was bummed when I heard this title might not come out, guess it had to do with a company acquisition or something..But I am glad to see its still in progress. I think its going to kick ass, and with a heavy metal soundtrack it should be awesome! I'd like to see something along the lines of a interactive Heavy Metal movie someday, maybe a final fantasy meets Motorhead kind of game. An RPG with secret unlockable areas that would show an Iron Maiden music video, maybe you could plug in your GH controller and jam along!

famguyfan2685
famguyfan2685

Hmm. I dunno about this one. It looks like it might be fun. I'll probably just rent this and check it out. I hope that they'll just put out a demo so I can give it a little test-drive ..

TheMork
TheMork

I LOVE that Dimmu Borgir song :)

Harv3y
Harv3y

BOO YA! finally my two fave things come together... games and metal music. schwing ;)

mailbox2112
mailbox2112

hell yeah heavy metal and video games = EPIC WIN

Scianix-Black
Scianix-Black

I only clicked on this article because of the screen shot of the half naked jungle chick.

gmax
gmax

It will be interesting to see how this actually comes out.

robcox1980
robcox1980

Wow. I have to admit I was aprehensive when I first read about this months ago in game informer. But after seeing e3 today this is right up there with halo odst and forza 3 on my waiting list!

snooker8th
snooker8th

wow.. not a bad tracklist although you children should know Progenies isnt really a BM song.

Diernes
Diernes

WOW, I never expected a black metal band to feature in this game let alone one of my favorite's. Progenies of the Great Apocalypse is purely epic... Looking interesting this one.

blklizrd
blklizrd

Man I can not wait to play this. Tim Schafer is the Miyamoto of puzzle adventure games. I'm gonna go back and play Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango and Psychonauts to get ready for this beast.

Gamer4Iife
Gamer4Iife

This game looks dope. Jack Black is da man! :P

shinian
shinian

Guitar used as a wepon and voice acting done by Mr. Black? This can turn out quire well. As for the gameplay it looks IMO like a spiritual succesor of Serious Sam.

ognen
ognen

Looks great... Totally getting this...

Kippie88
Kippie88

Looks pretty cool, i am thinking of buying it at its release. My friends dont like it for some reason though :/

ALLoY1717
ALLoY1717

I am really looking forward to this one. I think that people not into rock and metal won't quite get this game as there has always been an underline of comedy in the Rock world that sort of makes fun of itself, and this game looks to be completely based on that. You can keep you rap music, your not cool or tough, you know if I'm talking to you or not.

EmkayXx
EmkayXx

Seems Worthy of Consideration.

Wicked_Spades
Wicked_Spades

Definitely an interesting title. Quite the way to expand on the music concepts in games.

Foustus
Foustus

This game looks really fun, the first to be upgraded is the guitar. Really looking forward to playing this game.

lexluis
lexluis

Hope this game plays as good as the soundtrack

LunarCrys
LunarCrys

Dude's rockin' a Kochamara shirt. Sweet.

Shadow_th
Shadow_th

Tim Schafer is sure the king of original ideas for games. With Psychonauts, and now this.

mne635
mne635

lol rocktober that gut is such a nerd

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

I could see Anthrax's "Metal Thrashing Mad" as good driving music when you're fighting those demons and what have you in the Deuce.

This may sound ironic but to me Black Sabbath's "Symptom of the Universe," by itself is kind of boring to me but I think coupled with you lopping off heads it could be good beatem up music well the early part at least before it slows down.

I imagine it will be fun in the game especially in the midst of all the action. I hope you can run faster than they say you can walk though cause that would

The drum solo near the end might work with the beatem up as well especially if there are lots of enemies coming at you at a time and you have to pull of combo after combo to defeat them.

Depending on how its used? Dimmu Borgir's "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse could be either great opening music or great end credit music and who knows maybe even hint at a sequel? I know its premature to speculate about that I'm just saying.

Motley Crue's "Kickstart My Heart" would make for some good Deuce driving/fighting music but mostly for some good pure driving sections of the gameplay especially with some eclectic cornering on long stretches of road.

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

RaiKageRyu Posted May 31, 2009 3:07 am CT Pretty badass if I say so myself.

How much do you want to bet one of the band members of one of the mentioned bands providing the soundtrack made this comment?

Think I'll look up the music videos to try to get a feel for said music

darklord_dragon Posted May 30, 2009 4:59 pm CT this game is going to be a joke i think idk it might end up being really funny but guitar and killing stuff nvr are in the same game

Well of course its a joke its Tim Schaefer.

You're not supposed to take it seriously but it will most likely be seriously fun. I hope there's a demo like Psychonauts how well did that do anyway?

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

Pretty badass if I say so myself.

Simulator_Shock
Simulator_Shock

The more I see of this game, the better and more fun it looks. I think I'll pre order it :)

ThugNMe
ThugNMe

Looks like Fable gameplay, not a bad thing because this game looks pretty good.

thefencemarv
thefencemarv

Can't wait for this one. I have been a metal head for years, I love Tim Schafer games, and I am a Jack Black fan. What's not to love?

thebestgamereve
thebestgamereve

this game is going to be very very very radical!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!