Sunday, October 11, 2009

Legend in the making

The Beatles: Rock Band marked an important step in musical history: the first time the legendary band’s songs were released digitally.

But forget Rock Band.  The rockingest video game ever is yet to come.

Electronic Arts’ Brütal Legend, starring Jack Black, is set to be released on “Rocktober” 13th.  The game also features the voices of Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy Kilmister, Rob Halford, Lita Ford and Tim Curry.

Beyond the fact that legendary game designer Tim Schafer created it, Brütal Legend is significant for its inclusion of over 100 real heavy metal songs in its soundtrack.  The list reads like a history of heavy metal, from Black Sabbath and Megadeth to Dragonforce and Iced Earth.  Of course, Jack Black’s Tenacious D makes several appearances, including “Master Exploder” and “The Metal.”

Music has had an important role in video games from the very start.  It seems odd, then, that more games haven’t included authentic pop music.  That is, real songs you might hear on the radio rather than musical scores composed specifically for the game. 

There have been a few recent examples of games with pop music soundtracks: the Madden series and other sports games have featured a hit-and-miss (more miss) collection of rock songs for a while.  Grand Theft Auto 3 and subsequent sequels featured robust soundtracks with multiple genres of music acting as in-game radio stations.  Guitar Hero and Rock Band, of course, changed the face of music in the video game industry. Brütal Legend’s heavy metal playlist may be the most ambitious use of licensed music yet.

Just getting the licenses to include these songs must have been hell for Brütal Legend’s developers.  Schafer alluded to this fact when asked about the possibility of a companion soundtrack album to the game.  That album probably won’t be released for the same reason.  All the more reason to play the game.

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