Brütal Legend • Page 2

Metal of honour.

Simple to get to grips with, the combat's rather satisfying, your growing arsenal of attacks split between a range of melee axe smashes and a suite of guitar-triggered magic assaults, all of which resemble comically lame stage pyros. The two elements dovetail hilariously at times, as you learn to blast people into the air with a polite burst of flame before "knocking them into the bleachers of pure pain". Every ally you meet as you gather your band together will have their own double-team attack, too, allowing you to launch goth minx Ophelia into a wave of satanic nuns where she deals death like a make-up-encrusted ninja, or to blow away the enemy with murderous seagull-popping sound-waves while riding on teetering stacks of a roadie's amps.

Despite such pleasures, Brutal Legend never quite feels like its full attention is on the quest: beyond a smattering of spiders' nests and mines there are no real dungeons to hack through and surprisingly few bosses to dismember, and almost every mission is over in a brisk 15 or 20 minutes. It's tempting to say that the game's heart is not in the adventure because its mind is out roaming the battlefield - and this is where Brutal Legend starts to get wilful and a little divisive.

Threaded inside the main narrative - and becoming an increasingly regular occurrence as the game continues - is a surprisingly elaborate RTS: the characters you meet en route double as traditional unit types, and the open world you explore on foot or behind the wheel of the Deuce is built to pull back into a smart arena of capture spots and choke-points. It's all rather elegant; as the game's dual nature starts to take shape, it's fascinating to watch how Double Fine gets the videogame equivalent of overtime out of the same small handful of elements. That said, it may come as something of an annoyance if you were expecting a few hours of soothingly simple hacking and slashing only to find yourself leading troops into pitched combat instead.

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Rolling eyes and arched brows, it can be hard to tell where Black ends and Riggs begins.

Still, even RTS newcomers shouldn't have trouble handling Brutal Legend's battles. Early on, Riggs gains the ability - this is a spoiler of sorts, but a small one - to sprout wings on cue and move about the field of conflict from above, and the d-pad is home to a handful of basic commands - attack, defend, follow, and move-over-there - that cover almost every eventuality. The massive rumbles are fairly streamlined - each fight is framed as a battle of opposing bands, with trashy stages providing the HQs to over-run, while "fan-geysers" can be captured to increase the flow of resources you'll need to build new units.

What Double Fine doesn't necessarily bring with it is the constant drip-feed of new objectives that keeps the best RTS games from feeling like slogs. Although Brutal Legend does occasionally throw in mid-mission challenges, they're uninspired affairs based on taking down various defences to get closer to the enemy base. Even on easy mode, the game's rather basic arenas make for some drawn-out encounters, and the whole thing never quite shakes the feeling that this half of the adventure is something of a cover version: a commendable attempt at a strategy game made by a team more at home with the one-on-one slugging.

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