Brutal Legend Hands-on (Xbox360)

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Tim Schafer and Double Fine’s next game, Brütal Legend, was on hand to have a look at during rAge 2009, and for those wondering (i.e. me) if the core gameplay matches up with the excellent story segments and traditional Tim Schafer humour we’ve seen so far, you (I) can breathe a sigh of relief, as the gameplay sections on display felt very solid and smooth, and, might I add, the combat and movement feels excellently visceral and responsive – a bit of a hackneyed description, but true.

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Brütal Legend is primarily a third-person combat-based game, as you attack and slice to bits various denizens of the ancient world of Heavy Metal, from evil chanting monks and hideous nuns, to larger, muscle-bound enemies and giant bosses, and everything in-between.

After Brütal Legend’s protagonist Eddie Riggs, a heavy metal roadie by trade (and voiced very well by actor Jack Black) is cast back in time to the world of Heavy Metal, he immediately finds himself at home with an enormous axe with which to cleave opponents in two, as well as pull off a range of attack combos, while his guitar (brought back with him to this ancient age) is mysteriously imbued with awesome powers of pyrotechnics, shocking enemies with a quick lick on the instrument, or sending foes into the air with a burst of flame.

Brütal Legend Screenshot 1

The axe and guitar can also be used in concert with one another, as different button combinations result in different kinds of attacks, allowing players to cause a mini-earthquake to bring debris down onto the skulls of enemies, or solve puzzles by shaking items loose. Another example of an axe/guitar-based attack is the ability to shoot an enemy up into the air to set it up for a hefty swing of the axe.

In order to best direct your attacks and help players out in the thick of battle, Brütal Legend allows you to target specific enemies, and then flick through the currently available foes to choose who will receive the next bout of flame, electricity and axe-based attacks. Allies will also help you out during a fight, and you can even team up with them for character-specific attacks, such as launching a friend off of your shoulders for a powerful assault.

Certain sections of the game will require you to input a series of face-button presses in a mini-game reminiscent of Guitar Hero or Rock Band, only with notes scrolling left to right instead of out of the screen. These sections, if completed successfully, give you further access to new combo attacks, vehicles and, later in the game, the ability to summon specific objects.

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As mentioned, vehicles are also present in Brütal Legend, the first of which is “The Deuce” (also known as the “Druid Plow”), which looks like the most ‘metal’ hot rod you could imagine. Fortunately, the vehicle handling isn’t just an afterthought, and The Deuce controls the way you would expect from a suped-up monster of a sports car. The vehicles will also come in handy when the game opens up later in the story, with the traversal and size of an open-world game.

And what a world! True to the vision of the developers, every scene looks as though it could have been ripped from the cover of a heavy metal album, only these environments are interactive – you can go there! To live up to this goal, the environments have been permeated with extreme detail, resulting in a truly stunning world – there’s always something going on on-screen to stare at, if it’s the lightning bolts, rolling clouds or twinkling (and shooting) stars in the dynamic sky, or the multitude of landmarks scattered around the enormous landscapes; the world of Brütal Legend is a real, existing place, with rich history carved into the very rock.

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As expected of a game from Tim Schafer, the story telling sequences, dialogue and humour is spot-on – hopefully this quality will keep up for the entirety of the game because, as it stands, even if the gameplay was loose and uninteresting (which it’s not), it would still be worth playing through the game just to hear the next line delivered by Jack Black, or to discover more about this wondrous, new universe.

If Brütal Legend has caught your eye in the slightest over the last few months, you’ll do well to check out the demo (on both Xbox LIVE Marketplace and the PlayStation Store), because after playing the section on display at rAge 2009, all fears about gameplay quality have now been allayed (for me).

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Brütal Legend releases this month, on (R)October 13th in North America and (R)October 16th in Europe. Until then, check out El33tonline’s previous coverage of Brütal Legend, including tons of screenshots and videos.