You do all of this by flying over the battlefield. Thanks to a demon's curse, Eddie Riggs can open up his wings and fly. This allows you to quickly survey your enemy units, tell your soldiers where to go and plan your attack. On top of giving out orders and creating new units, you are also able to swoop down and battle the demonic baddies by yourself. That means that you can hack and slash your foes with your giant battle axe and perform all of the other special attacks that you've earned (and bought) throughout the course of the game.
Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle in the gameplay comes when you start teaming up with your own guys. It's called "Double Team" and it's what sets Brutal Legend apart from the likes of Command & Conquer 3. You can double team every unit you build, which means that you will suddenly be given a special power associated with that unit. For example, if you build a Metal Beast (a large bear-like creature) you can ride around the level breathing fire. Another unit allows you to ride a motorcycle around enemies so that you can trap them in a ring of fire. And teaming with the Razor Girls (with their skin tight t-shirts and Farrah Fawcett hair cut) will let you run around the level firing large shotguns.
Early in the game you won't have to worry too much about double teaming the enemy, but as you progress through the game you'll discover that much of the strategy involves you quickly deciding who would be best to team up with and when. Since you aren't stuck with one double team, you can quickly discard one unit for another, creating a fighting force of unquestioned power.
When you aren't fiddling around in these real-time strategy battles, you are exploring the world around you and getting into random skirmishes. From the get-go you have two weapons to play around with, your trusty battle axe and Clementine, your guitar. The battle axe is for short-range attacks, while the guitar allows you to shoot lightning and fire several feet ahead of you. On top of these weapons, you also have the ability to combine these into a metal solo which stomps the ground and push everybody away from you. This move does very little damage, but it will give you a chance to catch your breath and get out of a rough situation.
Along with your standard weapons, you also have what some might consider to be magical powers. The game's spells are presented as guitar solos; short musical notes that you'll have to play in order to cast your spell. In a lot of ways it's like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, only instead of a wind instrument you rock out on your electric guitar. The difficulty of the solo will depend entirely on how powerful the magic is, so get ready to bust out some Rock Band-style guitar riffs from time to time. Thankfully these riffs only use three of the Xbox 360's face buttons and the system is incredibly forgiving.
The magic is a real mixed bag in Brutal Legends. Early on you're given the power to summon your hotrod (known as The Deuce); which may just be the single most useful spell in your tour book. Other spells include the ability to literally melt your enemy's faces off with the power of rock and recruit new followers just by showing them the beauty of heavy metal. By the end of the game you are rockin' some of the craziest spells I've ever seen in an adventure game, including one that is so destructive (and cool) that I don't dare spoil it for you in this review.
This nightmarish world of Brutal Legend is fully realized and a lot of fun to explore. This isn't one of those games where most of the world feels randomly placed; every inch of the world feels like it was hand crafted by the metal gods. Best of all, each area of the map is completely unique. You start out in a field full of rock formations in the design of guitars, hands and other metal images. Before long you are in the jungle battling panthers that shoot lasers out of their eyes, the snowy mountains with saber-tooth mammoths and in a spooky graveyard-style world where the dead roam freely and there are large dogs with guillotines for a tail.
The world isn't simply gorgeous to look at, it's also filled with extra missions to complete and secret objects to find. In that sense it's a lot like Grand Theft Auto or any of the other popular open world games on the Xbox 360. While it's not pigeons you're killing, you do have to raise 120 statues and find all of the hidden music. You will still perform in car races that are straight out of Rockstar Games' crime simulator. You can hunt and help friends beat back ambushes, it's all par for the course.
In a funny way, this world comes alive thanks in large part to the music that is constantly playing in the background and the cast of characters. Not enough can be said about Jack Black's performance in Brutal Legend; it's a role that feels like it was specifically made for the comedian. Jack had me in stitches from beginning to end, thanks in large part to his spot-on delivery of each and every one of the game's one-liners. It doesn't hurt that the character of Eddie Riggs is a lot more expressive than your usual video game hero, it all comes together to create one of the greatest video game characters of all time. I cannot think of a better pairing than Jack Black and a game about the power of metal, it's a match made in Heaven ... or would that be Hell?
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