Joystiq impressions: Brutal Legend [page 2]

Ophelia meets The Deuce
So, these tunes Eddie can play on his guitar. "It's the mechanic for your extended guitar gameplay," according to Schafer, who also said, "We're still working on it and don't want to have to retract it in a couple months. There's going to be an awesome interactive element, kind of the equivalent of a spell casting system for the guitar, where, basically you can do more involved actions." And ... we didn't get to see how it was performed, but the "spells" certainly work. More can be found throughout the game world on "Tab Slabs." One we were shown calls The Deuce to Eddie's location. Another is vital to the game's army-scale battle system.

"If you're going to get a heavy metal icon in your game, you should get him to scream motivational business slogans."

Before we got to that, we were given a quick tour of the area surrounding Bladehenge, the last refuge of the free humans. The world was lush and alive looking, extending for as far as the eye could see. We were especially taken by the scenic variety that seemed to change every couple of miles. Now and again, we'd see a creature we were told is called a "Raptor Elk."

Schafer explained that the initial area we saw was "probably the most tightly controlled part of the game," and that the world was wide-open after that. He headed into the first of 23 "main" missions, the goal of which being to rescue enslaved humans from "The Crushing Pit" mines.

It turned out there guys were real headbangers -- literally mining by hitting the walls with their heads. "What do you do with a bunch of kids who don't know how to do anything other than bang their heads all day long?," asked one of the main characters, Lars. "You start a revolution," Eddie replied. At this point, a menu asking "Start a revolution? now / later" dramatically slammed onto the screen. You can guess what our answer was.

The headbangers were being held there by General Lionwhyte, a human siding with the demons, voiced by Judas Priest's Rob Halford. We were told his attacks all involve screaming into a microphone. In this situation, he'd hypnotized his "workers" via a series of destroyable motivational statues. "If you're going to get a heavy metal icon in your game, you should get him to scream motivational business slogans," Schafer said, laughing.
Eddie broke the slaves' trance during a cutscene and then began the part of the game we weren't expecting, going into the demo. These guys stuck alongside Eddie and could be issued commands: follow, defend and attack. More joined as he headed deeper into the mines and Schafer explained that a "Battle Cry" tune could be played to motivate and make them stronger. "There are also people who'll join your army who are good at healing with their bass strings, which are really regenerative bass strings -- if that makes sense," Schafer said, strangely making sense.

"You can hang back and shoot people and motivate your troops with music or get in there and hack 'em up yourself."

The final sequence of our demo played out around a massive wheel of pain. "There's a little love for Conan, too. We've got a wheel of pain, but it's over lava, which makes it much more painful," ensured Schafer. The goal here was basic -- keep the bad guys (a.k.a. hair metal fans) from destroying its supports, sending the headbangers to their fiery doom -- but the battle was intense.

"The hair metal guys build an army the size of yours. for every guy you recruit, the hair metal equivalent goes to the other side," Schafer said, adding, "Eventually, both of these armies come to a clash, much like they did in the '80s in L.A." How big can these battles get? 40 to a side. This will carry over into the game's planned head-to-head "battle of the band" multiplayer. "By 'battle of the bands,' I mean with axes and killing each other to death," our host clarified.

Using D-Pad commands to send troops at Eddie's command off to fight while Eddie did battle elsewhere was key. "It really drives the player to decide if they're going to fight the whole battle themselves, or play the smart way and let their troops do the fighting for them," explained Schafer. "You can hang back and shoot people and motivate your troops with music or get in there and hack 'em up yourself."

Eddie, Ophelia, Lars and Lita
With the demo at an end, we asked Schafer about some of the things that'd come to mind while watching the game played. Things like: how much is there to do in the open world? A lot, actually. The final game will have around 30 side missions to take part in, ranging from races to relic hunting. There will also be rewards for pulling off crazy jumps, or performing well in battle. These feats will earn players "Fire Tributes" -- lighters, basically, that can be cashed in for armor and weapon upgrades to The Deuce, new music for its radio (oh, the radio!), plus additional axes, guitars and T-Shirts.

About The Deuce's radio, the Mouth of Metal: it's pretty amazing. "We found some really encyclopedic record store guys that really helped us break down and fill out all the categories, because we really want to be really inclusive," Schafer told us. "One of the fun things on this project is researching some of the lesser-known metal bands and putting them in there. It has a lot of control to it. You can check and uncheck songs you want to listen to, you can check and unckeck entire genres. It's sorted by sub-genre -- you can listen to only the hair metal if you want to."

So, what if you don't like metal? "A lot of people on the team came to it not knowing anything about heavy metal and learned a lot and learned to love it ... some people learned to hate it," Schafer responded. "I think more people will learn to love it when they play the game."

"It's not a game for just metal fans, in the same way that Monkey Island wasn't a game for pirates."