Brütal Legend • Page 2

Buckle up.

The trick, as ever, lies with using magic and melee together for strategic effect, stunning long-distance enemies with lightning, before moving in close to split them in two in a more hands-on manner. It looks like a viciously effective system, the comedy animations as your victims flail about never undermining the pleasing brutality of your attacks. And while the basics are simple, Brutal Legend is happy to pile on the complications even in the tutorial mission, loading you up with combos and eventually chucking in a new character, the large-eyed Goth fox Ophelia, to fight alongside you and double-team on one-liners and special moves, the first of which sees the her launched from Riggs' shoulders before spinning violently into a crowd of enemies.

With the demonic nuns finished off, it's time to introduce The Deuce, Riggs' main means of transportation, and the surprise third pillar of the weapon system. Summoned and upgraded by learning and performing guitar riffs at shrines dotted around the world - the exact implementation has not yet been revealed, but in theory the whole thing sounds similar to the short songs learnt during the Ocarina of Time - players will eventually be able to fit out the Deuce with anything from mounted Gatling guns to flaming side-jets. A convenient boss fight against a gooey, vertebrae-heavy snake-thing quickly follows, highlighting the Deuce's uses in combat - the short version: it does a mean line in ramming things - and from there, Ophelia and Riggs are thrown into a race down a collapsing stretch of highway, before the tutorial comes to a fittingly thunderous climax.

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Lemmy from Motorhead has a speaking part - apparently eager for a videogame role ever since Keith Richards provided the voice of Pac-Man.

To illustrate the kind of things that will follow, as Riggs races around gathering together a resistance army to take on the demons, we're given a quick glimpse of two missions from later on in the game, the first of which is a simple escort job with a maxed-out Deuce protecting a tour bus full of comrades, while the second, more elaborate, set-up sees Riggs sent into a charming combination of mine and prison to recruit foot-soldiers for his army. The recruits in question take the freakish form of Headbangers: slaves clad in rags of finest leopard print, who boast massively over-developed necks after years of breaking rocks with their skulls. Won over with a special riff from Clementine, they can then be directed around the map with a large cursor, and given a range of orders including attacking, defending, and taking out obstacles. It's a mini-version of Pikmin with jokes, essentially, and provides plenty of strategic potential as Riggs works his way through the mines: stay back and let your crew take on the enemy themselves, or micro-manage, flitting between magic and melee, hoping you can handle directing your Headbangers at the same time?

It's a confident demo, and suggests a game that uses its traditional framework to contain a surprising range of different challenges, with a solid focus on brawling and exploration tying everything together. While we've yet to see anything that matches the invention of Double Fine's previous game, it's worth remembering that Psychonauts' stand-out moments were often wily spins on tradition themselves - the teasing, claustrophobic brilliance of the Milkman mission was, at heart, a humble chain of fetch quests with wobbly sidewalks flung in, and the magic came with the dazzling presentation and arrangement rather than the mechanics.

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The music has been chosen but is yet to be approved. Hint: don't expect My First, My Last, My Everything.

And in presentational terms, at least, Brutal Legend is shaping up to be everything you could hope for: Black's trademark mix of mock grandeur and sleazy punning fits perfectly into Schafer's world, and the bizarre excesses of the design, blending lighting rigs, Roman temples, and strangely enchanting piles of gore constantly throws up unexpected sight-seeing opportunities. There are dangers, after the genre-hopping of Psychonauts, with a structure that allowed individual levels to riff on everything from right-wing TV news to the Napoleonic wars, that such a focused narrative could mean Brutal Legend comes off as an over-extended in-joke for musos. But, while there's plenty in here for people who can tell Megadeth from standard-issue regular deth, there's also enough character, humour and thought to suggest that, in amongst the wisecracks, hot rods and golden eagles, almost everybody will be able to find something to enjoy.

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