Friday, October 16, 2009

A Legend Is Born

Brütal Legend is finally out, and musically, it delivers on everything it promised. Heavy metal fans: rejoice.

The game makes you work for its 108 songs: the player has to unlock many of the tracks by completing in-game tasks.  Available songs range from world famous musicians to significantly more obscure groups.  One fictional cartoon death metal band (Dethklok) even makes an appearance.

The game's use of songs in certain situations is almost cinematic: the music builds on the overall effect to create something even more dramatic.  Def Leppard's "Rock of Ages" sounds positively epic as Jack Black's Eddie Riggs character frees enslaved headbangers from their hard lives working in the mines.  It's Riggs' shred-tastic guitar solo that wakes them from their brainwashed state, of course.  "Road Racin" by Riot accompanies a spin in Riggs' "Druid Plow" hot rod, its lyrics almost describing the events taking place on the screen.

The game's good guys and bad guys even have their own identifying musical themes. For example: early antagonists in the game are musclebound caricatures of hair metal dudes.

The music goes beyond the massive soundtrack of licensed heavy metal songs. Composer Peter McConnell's score ties the game's music together perfectly with classical acoustic guitar passages drifting through lulls in the action and screaming metal freakouts during boss battles. The official Brütal Legend blog has a nice interview with McConnell.

Since the game is set in the world of heavy metal, the references to metal bands and songs are unending. The main protagonists in Brütal Legend are called the Halford family (after Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford).  Rob Halford himself is the voice of the evil glam metal General Lionwhyte, whose name is almost certainly based on White Lion.  Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead voices a bass guitar-playing healer named the Kill Master.  Metal fans will have a blast trying to spot all of the references in the game.

Brütal Legend even takes time to pay tribute to vinyl albums.  The game's live-action intro, featuring Jack Black, takes place in a record store.  The title screen is actually the cover of an album named "Brütal Legend."

In short, no other video game has ever incorporated music so seemlessly and thoroughly.  Even when completely ignoring the actual gameplay elements, Brütal Legend is a must-have for fans of heavy metal or music in general.

Apollo's Cred rating: 9 out of 10

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