Video game released for Xbox 360 in 2009 and for PC in 2013. No good explanation has been given for this delay, but that's beside the point. You probably know it as the heavy metal game with Jack Black in it.
Well, it's more than that. It's a third-person real time strategy cum action adventure cum hack and slash. If this makes no sense, then you are not the only one but all will become apparent if you read on.
The game opens with an FMV (yes, really!) of Jack Black going into the last real record store in LA and taking the player with him. On the shelves there's various sections. Power Metal. Thrash Metal. Epic Metal. And, of course, Forbidden Metal. In this last segment, he finds a record called Brutal Legend and offers it to the player, noting that "it won't just blow your mind... it'll blow your soul."
This is, of course, some sort of main menu.
Anyhow. The Brutal Legend of the title is the story of one Eddie Riggs, the greatest roadie of all time. However, he was born in the wrong era; he reckons he should have been born in "the seventies... actually, earlier, like... the early seventies" because at present he's roadie for the worst band of all time, Kabbage Boy (they're clearly a hybrid of Korn and Limp Bizkit). Anyhow. One of the band members has an accident on stage which results in blood getting into Eddie's belt buckle, which is actually a demonic artifact, the stage coming to life and slaying everyone present. Eddie, however, is transported across time and space to the Age of Metal, a magical and brutal land with swirling red and blue skies that looks like heavy metal album covers come to life. There, he finds himself about to be sacrificed by druids but escapes and fights his way out with a gigantic axe and his guitar called Clementine. (It should be noted that in the Age of Metal, music is actually magic and as such the guitar can do things like summon lightning bolts, cause explosions and - literally - melt someone's face, but more on that later.)
Thing is, though, it is not a good time for the Age of Metal, at least not if you're a human. Most humans are enslaved by the demons and their lackeys and the metal that is their birthright is lost to them. And... basically, the whole purpose of all this is simply to set up a situation where you have to lead the burgeoning armies of true metal against the goths, glams, and fetishists that oppose them. This is achieved both in action-adventure type missions involving Eddie Riggs hacking and riffing his way through bad guys either himself or with a few allies, and in first-person RTS-o-vision, known as "stage battles," where you have to set up a stage, collect ghostly fans from where they break through the surface of the earth, build your army, and lay siege to, and destroy, the enemy stage. And in multiplayer, you can, of course, be the enemy factions as well if you want, although, annoyingly, you can only have one-on-one stage battles; no three-cornered rounds here. In between missions you can take on side-quests such as ambushes, hunting, and turret-shooting if you see fit, or just tool around the Brutal Land looking for secrets and collectibles.
And what is tumbling out your speakers whilst all this is going on? Lots and lots of licenced heavy metal tracks, that's what. In single player, each mission has a number of tracks as its theme, while in multiplayer the factions have a playlist of songs that fit them. This only adds to the utter awesomeness of it. Battling giant spiders that spin bass strings is way cooler when it's to Brocas Helm, and defending a mountain pass against an army of emo zombies is done to Enslaved. Meanwhile, the final battle against the demonic overlord has a soundtrack of KMFDM and Rammstein to it.
As a game, Brutal Legend is flawed in every way imaginable. The stage battles are on annoyingly small maps and commanding your warriors is, at least on PC, cumbersome. There is no way to easily grab a single unit or squad. There's also very limited configurable behaviour. Use of the four main commands (mapped to the 1-4 keys) simply orders whoever is within earshot to attack, defend, go to a waypoint, or follow you. This is a rather large radius and combined with the small maps makes setting up ambushes and other tactical moves a bit difficult. Building units and selecting solos (yano that thing about how music is magic in the Brutal Land? Well, with solos you can do things such as summon the wild creatures of the Brutal Land to your assistance, inspire your troops, conjure a swamp of despair that slows enemies, or invoke a lead zeppelin (drum fill) that crashes onto the battlefield and causes mass carnage) is also cumbersome because it is done by way of a radial menu which doesn't always behave in the same way that you're moving the mouse. However, the controls for hacking and slashing enemies are excellent and you can earn or buy special combo moves as you progress. There's also a special slow-motion camera when you kill off an enemy unit or avatar in a particularly excellent fashion.
The game is also a little on the short side, and quite frankly it could have done with a few more missions towards the end because the last half of it feels really quite rushed. Yet, despite all this, all the flaws add to its charm. Bear in mind that many seminal heavy metal albums are not exactly over-polished and have thin production yet still will melt your face. Metallica's Kill Em All for instance. But it, and its follow up Ride The Lightning knock the socks off their overpolished later dreck. Similarly, Slayer were so much realer when they were hammering out Angel of Death and Chemical Warfare and Silent Scream than the pale imitations that were God Hates Us All and Christ Illusion and World Painted Blood. True, there are some excellent and polished metal albums out there (Iron Savior's Unification is one, Rhapsody (of Fire) and The Frozen Tears of Angels is another) but the best metal albums are generally, like this game, all a bit ragged. This is because the underlying AWESOMENESS of it papers, nay, cements, over any cracks in the foundations. The bit I mentioned about tooling around the Brutal Land just taking in the scenery? Well exactly. Let me describe it to you. You start in a ruined temple to the fire god Ormagoden and travel down a highway built by giants to a hilly region with fjords and Bladehenge, which is sort of a cross between Stonehenge and that place in Norway with the giant swords stuck into the earth. Then there's a beach with huge car engine parts washed up on it, a cave inhabited by metal spiders that spin bass strings, and a constantly flaming region inhabited by creatures that are half wild boar, half motorcycle underneath a black sky. There's a frozen mountainous region inhabited by woolly mammoths with six tusks, a jungle containing beasts known as Laser Panthers (which are just as bodacious as they sound) and ancient temples, and then the Dry Ice Mines, the Graveyard, and the Sea of Black Tears.
Then there's the different units you can command. There's four main factions:
Ironheade, the player's faction. True Metal Warriors. Leather and denim with a side order of axes and explosive stuff. They have headbangers who break shit by banging their heads on it, groupies with crossbows, grenadier bikers, hot-rod mounted ballistae, and amazons in King Diamond makeup riding fire-breathing cats. Their top unit is the Rock Crusher which is a giant mobile stage with speaker stacks that boost everyone's attack speed nearby, two turret-mounted mortar cannons, and metal rollers which allow it to roll over and crush even heavyweight enemy kit, and reduce infantry to a smear on the ground. Their leader is, of course, Eddie the protagonist.
The Drowning Doom. These are the goth faction. Their hat is that they have lots of negative status effects. Army-wise, they consist of emo zombies, corpse brides, electric chairs on carts that fire lightning bolts, mobile church organs, and grim reapers. Their biggest unit is the Tree Back which is a giant troll with a big tree growing out of it in which nests a murder of ravens that automatically set upon any enemy nearby. Not as hard hitting as the Rock Crusher but regenerates health very fast and independently. Their leader is... well, that'd be telling, wouldn't it?
The Tainted Coil. The BDSM/fetishist faction. Their hat is that rather than build new units at the stage, they instead get three "base" units of each tier which spawn other units of that tier at their location. This means that they're extremely flexible. However their expenses and build times are greater to compensate for this flexibility. They have giant bondage nuns with hordes of gimps at their command, demons wielding flails, bishops riding biomechanical cages, and for a top tier unit, the Bleeding Death, a massive four-armed demon with more hitpoints than you've ever seen and which is stupidly fast as well.
Lionwhyte. The non-playable-without-a-mod fourth faction, they're glam rockers. Their stuff is identical to Ironheade's but with more pink, tiger stripes, hairspray, and spandex. This is deliberate because every headbanger secretly likes glam but won't admit to it. If you don't believe me, approach your friendly local metal pub and sneak Warrant's Cherry Pie into the jukebox. Their big cheese is, of course, Lionwhyte who has so much hair he can fly with it.
Oh yes. Did I mention that Lemmy, Ozzy Osbourne, Lita Ford, and Rob Halford all figure in the ranks of the voice acting? In fact, they all play pretty much expies of themselves as well - Lemmy, warts and all as the Kill Master, a bassist healer and mystic; Ozzy as The Guardian of Metal, who lives in a cave under the earth and sells you upgrades and equipment; Lita Ford as Rima, the amazon queen; Rob Halford as the Baron, a gay, bejeweled biker. The rest of the voice acting includes Jack Black (of course) as Eddie and Tim Curry, Master of Ham, as Doviculus the big bad.
Granted, the game is a bit short but you can keep playing after the end, doing side missions, and just tooling round the Brutal Land as stated above. And the latter is the best part of it. The many native creatures that inhabit the Brutal Land appear to have their own ecosystem and food chains. And you can ride them. Yes. You can march up to any of the Brutal Creatures, zap them with a lightning chord, and then ride them around and have them attack your enemies. Even the ubiquitous steel-quilled hedgehogs, normally one-hit-point cannon fodder, you can stun, pick up, and then throw at the enemy. This extends to friendly units in missions and stage battles as well although you don't need to stun them.
What else can I say really about Brutal Legend? It's outrageous, it's silly, it's majestic, and it's got more ham in it than Michael Moore's arse.
It needs a sequel. That's what. There's scope for one, narratively.