In possibly the most appropriate accidental PR move of the year, the corner of the couch I got up from after playing heavy metal adventure Brutal Legend tore the front of my jeans leg.
I'm not a ripped-jeans kind of guy, but Brutal Legend's publicist had already told me that the game's chief creator, Tim Schafer, tells people you don't have to be a pirate to enjoy Monkey Island. So I don't have to like metal to like Brutal Legend.
OK, then why are you having the couch tear up my jeans leg?
What Is It?
Brutal Legend is a comedy action-adventure from Double FIne Productions, the studio that produced the beloved Psychonauts. The game's coming to Xbox 360 and PS3 this October and... oh, come on. If you're reading Kotaku you know this.
What We Saw
I was able to play the game's linear opening sequence which Crecente and I saw at Double Fine during GDC, got to drive around the game's open world, meet the Ozzy Osbourne-voiced in-game merchant and play a driving-based escort mission.
How Far Along Is It?
Brutal Legend's set for a mid-October release. What I played seemed very far along with few obvious problems. I was playing the E3 build.
What Needs Improvement?
Can't Look Back: Maybe Tim Schafer is expressing his view of how to live a happy life. Or maybe the design element just wasn't implemented yet. But Brutal Legend's car-based sequence don't allow the player to press a button and get a quick look at the enemies riding up in their bikes to attack. Objects in the rearview mirror may be closer than they are, but I can't see them at all if I don't have a rearview mirror. UPDATE: Word via Double Fine is that the completed game will have a look-back button. Huzzah!
The B Material: When humor works in games, it is a rare and beautiful thing. Every cutscene I saw was well-voiced and funny. Every heavy-metal-inspired sight gag was good. But some of the incidental chatter was grating. For example: the grumbling of an annoyed tour bus driver who got angry when I lagged behind and failed to protect his bus. He kept saying the same stuff. I need to hurry up. I get it. It's not funny.
What Should Stay The Same?
No HUD: Brutal Legend has one of the most imaginatively-rendered worlds I've seen in video games. Heavy metal album covers come to life and all that. So the decision to keep the screen uncluttered is a good one. I was thrown off, initially, that there is no mini-map when the player is running or driving through its open world. The only indications of where to go are audio cues, pillars of light or the illumination of one of you car's tail lights to indicate which way to veer toward a distant destination. But I got used to it and think I'll be okay accessing a map only in the pause menu.
Guitar Spells: The casting of guitar magic involves matching a few timed-button presses that are prompted as a bar passes over a phrase of simulated sheet music. Looks a little Guitar Hero-esque without getting too complicated. Works for me.
Brutal Action: Using hero Eddie Riggs' axe — the Separator — or his guitar — Clementine — to chop, electrify, inflame or otherwise attack enemies results in chunky, satisfying attack animations. Eddie's a burly guy. His axe is large. And giant chrome engines plummet from the sky because of his aggression. It's all fittingly thunderous.
Side-Flames: Spending some lighter tributes (the game's currency) on adding Gatling guns to your car's hood is fine. Spending them on flames that shoot out of the sides of your car is even better.
Brutal Legend was a whole lot of fun, a game that played well and made me laugh. That's what you'd want, I think. But I do wonder how much of the game will be set in a car and if that's going to counter trailer implications that this is very much an on-foot character-based adventure.