November 2021 TA Playlist Wrap-Up – Brütal Legend

The TA Playlist Team - December 10th 2021

You sure you're ready for this? Because what I hold in my hand is not just gonna blow your mind… it's gonna blow your soul – Jack Black, Brütal Legend.

Welcome back to another month of TA Playlist! For November, we offered up four games with amazing soundtracks, but it was Double Fine 's 2009 heavy metal tribute Brütal Legend that topped the charts, garnering 36.9% of the total vote. After a month of headbanging, face-melting action, does the game still rock, or was it just a lot of noise? Let's crank up the amps and find out.

Eddie Riggs is the best roadie in the business, and everyone knows it. He can build anything, he can fix anything, and he knows that a roadie's job is to stay out of the spotlight and make someone else look good. But after Eddie is crushed in an onstage accident, he awakens to find himself in a hellish landscape of skull mountains, gigantic stone sword monuments, and trees made of chrome tailpipes.

Quickly picking up a double-bladed axe and his trusty Flying V guitar, which now has the power to summon lightning, Eddie immediately finds himself fighting hordes of dark druids and demons. One of the robed creatures reveals herself to be Ophelia, a human woman fighting in the rebellion against the demons, known as the Tainted Coil, led by the evil Emperor Doviculus.

Eddie puts some of his impressive mechanical abilities to work, constructing a druid-smashing hot rod which they use to escape, and Ophelia leads Eddie to Bladehenge, where brother and sister Lars and Lita Halford are building an army to free humanity from the oppression of Doviculus and his human underling, General Lionwhyte. Eddie pledges to use his formidable roadie skills to help Lars free his people from slavery and lead them to the Promised Land of Rock.

What follows can only be described as an eclectic mix of gameplay elements, including open-world exploration, third-person hack-n-slash, driving and racing missions, one-on-one boss battles, and real-time strategy stage fights, all woven together with a deep narrative that walks the line between reverent homage and affectionate parody of all things metal. The resulting mix is somewhat hard to define, but it's certainly one of the more unique experiences in the history of video games.

SkoochMG said:

To this day, it still stands out as a game that was something different (in a good way) and illustrated some of the different things that could be done with games. The Tenacious D and Jack Black vibe throughout the game and the way it makes the ridiculousness of the setting feel so honest are almost endearing.
The dialogue, cameos, humour, gameplay, soundtrack, factions, units, and world are all really great. In particular, the specific brand of humour and the relentless metal-centric themes really stand out to me. Even from the boot-up - the intro cutscene and main menu sequence are awesome and pull you right into it.
Cylon 118 said:
It's surprisingly good. Despite the throw-every-game-genre approach it has, they all work well, just ok but that in itself is a miracle because it really shouldn't! What is even more incredible is the back story and lore of the game are remarkably strong and well thought out, so the people behind this def had a lot of love for the subject.
Lanceride said:
This is such a unique game. The direction it ended up taking in gameplay is not what I expected.
Dresden N7 said:
Just wanted to say that this game has one of the best video game menus of all time.
You know you've got an interesting game on your hands when the Title Menu Screen receives multiple shout outs in the forums. The live-action video of Jack Black taking you to the back room of a record store to find a mysterious album in the "Forbidden Metal" section is hilarious, and certainly something you don't see every day.

Speaking of Jack Black, who was both the voice and character model for Eddie, the star power in this game is undeniable and was one of the highlights of the game for many players. One cameo, in particular, received several mentions:


Osmo76 said:

Shout out to the Prince of Darkness! What a strange cameo for a game, but I guess it's understandable in this context.
guycarb said:
People have mentioned great reasons to play this game (amazing soundtrack, Jack Black and that the game is on GP and its DLC is free), but let's not forget about Ozzy Osbourne being your go-to for upgrades to Eddie's weapons and his Deuce! [rock]
(Editor's Note: Not counting quoted instances, the [rock] emoji only showed up four times in the forum discussion this month. Somehow I thought it would be more.)

In addition to playing the Guardian of Metal, Ozzy also has another role in a secondary mission as Dadbat, an actual bat who threatens to "bite your f---ing head off!" Get it? Brütal Legend also features several well-known actors such as David Cross, Brian Posehn, and even Tim Curry as the voice of Doviculus, but it was the contributions of so many big names from the heavy metal world that drew the most attention to this game:
RiBoP said:

Read into some cameos, but there are some real awesome ones in there. Of course, the most obvious one is Ozzy Osbourne as the Prince of Darkness, but man: so nice to see Motörhead's Lemmy as the bass-playing healer Kill Master. You gotta love that voice and accent, right?!
Also in there: Judas Priest's Rob Halford as the screaming Lionwhyte (Eddie Riggs quote: "Geez, that voice is so annoying!" [laugh]) and The Runaway's Lita Ford as the Amazon-like Queen of the Zaulia, Rima: scantily dressed as a tribute to how she started her career in the '80s.
Apparently, Jack Black was a fan of the game Psychonauts (also by Tim Schafer), and only after he got involved, the game surprisingly got an unanticipated celebrity cast.
RiBoP saved me a lot of work for this article by posting a link to the interview by Nathan Grayson for Rock Paper Shotgun:
"It started small and then kind of snowballed," Schafer explained, still seemingly a bit shocked. "In the beginning of the game, I never would have dreamed that Ozzy Osbourne would be involved at all, or that we'd get all these Black Sabbath songs. That was just crazy. We were thinking we'd get a voice actor who was like Jack Black, who could do a Jack Black character.

"When we crossed that line to, 'Let's try to get Jack Black,' when he signed on, all of a sudden it started rolling really fast. Then we started talking to the metal acts, and we had Jack involved. This was not a joke. It was a really serious thing. Then everyone that signed on, all of a sudden they got the next people to sign on, and then pretty soon bands were sending us their CDs. They still send me CDs. 'I wanna be in the next one!'

"By the end of it I couldn't believe it was happening," Schafer enthused, almost childlike. "I couldn't believe I was hanging out in the studio with Ozzy and Rob Halford and Lemmy. I'm on the phone with Lita Ford and stuff. It got to be where I was thinking, 'What else is my favourite metal song?' and then putting them in the game. The whole thing was so crazy. The most ridiculous, surreal moment for me was being on the stage at the VGAs while Jack Black shot a flamethrower into the air, yelling my name. That was one of those things where I was like, 'I don't know if it can get any crazier than this in my life.' Then four Amazon women hauled me on stage."

I did some digging and found a video of that moment, from the 2008 Spike TV Video Game Awards, which also features an appearance by Rob Halford and the game's original trailer:
Playlist Trivia: Double Fine Studios has now had two games featured in the Playlist, with Costume Quest and Brütal Legend marking the first time two games from the same developer have been chosen back-to-back. But there are three game developers who've had more Playlist featured games, at three apiece. Can you name them?
While Brütal Legend boasts an impressive voice cast, what's even more spectacular is the soundtrack, featuring 107 licensed songs from artists spanning the entire spectrum of metal. Some of these tracks, such as Def Leppard's "Rock of Ages" or Motley Crue's "Dr Feelgood" play as background music during stage battles and cutscenes (the one featuring Ozzy Osbourne's "Mr. Crowley" was my personal favourite), while other tracks are unlocked by finding collectables in the world and adding them to the Deuce's radio playlist.
pedgz said:
Brutal Legend became the gateway game for my hard rock and metal buddies who didn't play a lot of video games before as well as the gateway for real-life video game friends who never or barely listened to hard rock and metal before.
Stevo6483 said:
Fantastic game, and even better than I was expecting. I'm a fairly casual fan when it comes to metal but the soundtrack blew me away! The particular highlight for me was having to escape the collapsing castle or whatever about halfway through the game while DragonForce's Through the Fire and Flames is playing. Such an epic moment. The humour and voice acting were top-notch too, and the gameplay was fun - even the RTS sections.
Spa1h said:
This is probably one of the most creative games out there, and it really proves the point that video games and metal share a lot of common ground. (Apart from hell gates, dragon-slaying, and Orcs).
The soundtrack is brilliantly chosen as it features many quite unknown songs from huge bands like Judas Priest, Black Sabbath or Slayer, which manage to not "disturb" the gameplay. However, they mixed in some really well-known bangers (The Through-The-Fire-And-Flames-Chase Scene was probably my favourite moment in that game).
And I agree. Best video game menu ever.
In addition to providing some excellent background music while you're tooling around the landscape in your Deuce, the different metal styles also help to differentiate the four main factions in the game. Eddie's heroic Ironheade faction is based on traditional heavy metal and hard rock, while the Lionwhyte faction represents 80's hair metal and glam metal genres. The Drowning Doom faction is very gothic in style, with influences from black metal and doom metal, and the Tainted Coil's BDSM style is represented by music from industrial metal and alternative metal sub-genres.

The bulk of the criticism of the game in the forums (apart from those who said they just weren't interested in trying it out) was directed at the real-time strategy elements or stage battles. Each faction sets up its stage at opposite ends of the arena, capturing Fan Geysers by building Merch Booths to provide resources for training up troops. Eddie sprouts a set of demon wings in order to fly around the battlefield, issuing commands to his troops to defend his base and assault the enemy stage. These battles only show up a handful of times in the single-player campaign, but they make up the entire multiplayer portion of the game. The criticisms were almost always tucked in among praise for the rest of the experience, though:
qwe1313 said:

I started BL mainly because of its rock & metal side but put it aside when I got to its strategy part. Unfortunately, even TA Playlist month (and I voted for BL) couldn't convince me to come back to this game. Maybe someday as it was a nice one (except strategy and moreover control over "soldiers").
SkoochMG said:
To keep it well rounded, I do seem to recall the actual stage battles felt a bit light on strategy and mechanics. And I know I had to use TA to find anyone in multiplayer.
Spa1h said:
Aged Graphics, hard to control RTS-Commands, Mopping up collectables and also the multiplayer component slightly suck. But ultimately, it is a brilliant rememberable experience. I'd love to see a sequel!

Not everybody was completely put off by the RTS elements, though:
EmagDrolBot said:
I played this years ago basically in two stints. I really enjoyed it but got a bit thrown off when it suddenly became a pseudo-RTS. Then I came back to it later and came to really enjoy the stage battles. I don't remember many details about the achievements; only that MP was a bit of a slog.
Flumptigan said:
I wasn't convinced before I played this because RTS games are not my bag at all but it turned out to be really good.
ManicMetalhead said:
While the stage battles did seem a little disconnected from the rest of the game, I still love the whole game. The soundtrack and the whole look of the game, and the way the music is linked to each faction. Also, having Jack Black, Ozzy, Lemmy, Rob Halford, and Lita Ford in it (and Tim Curry!) just absolutely made the whole game for me.
TymanTheLong said:
I remember playing the demo for Brütal Legend before the game was even out. I also remember how everyone was shocked by the unanticipated RTS aspects when it came out. I don't think Brütal Legend actually reviewed that well, nor that word of mouth was that great, but I think it deserves props for bringing RTS elements to Xbox when there were few.
Years ago, there was a massive video game history exhibition for months at our local science museum. My daughter made me take her every weekend (she loved old, clunky games as much as anything new). I remember Brütal Legend being featured in a relatively large section. Despite the initial shock of the gaming world not knowing where Brütal Legend really "fit," it's actually aged rather well. I don't actually like everything Double Fine has done, but they never fail to deliver something interesting.
I couldn't have said it better myself… whether you ultimately think Brütal Legend is a gift from the Metal Gods or a messed up mash-up of gameplay elements that don't quite mix, you have to admit there's nothing else quite like it!

842 tracked gamers unlocked at least one achievement in Brütal Legend during November, with 368 of them starting the game for the first time. All in all, the community unlocked 6,056 achievements in the game for the month, for a combined total of 102,485 GamerScore and 191,914 TrueAchievement Score. Naturally, the most frequently unlocked achievement was Got a Car and a Date in Brütal Legend for completing the first mission. The least-popped achievement was the grindy Sellout in Brütal Legend, for spending 250,000 fans across all game modes, unlocked by only 13 gamers in November.

Only 16 players managed to complete the game during the month, which isn't too surprising given that the game overall has a pretty low completion percentage. Of the 109,140 tracked gamers who’ve played Brütal Legend, only 1,969 have completed it, or just 1.80%. With a relatively tough completion like this, the following gamers truly deserve a big Shout Out for playing the game start to finish during November:

Gamertag Start date Completion date Time taken
ASUnknown1 1-Nov-21 4-Nov-21 3 Days
kT Echo 5-Nov-21 13-Nov-21 8 Days
UpliftGecko 1-Nov-21 14-Nov-21 13 Days
Ivan610 3-Nov-21 27-Nov-21 24 Days
You all rock! You can find all the Playlist stats and see how you did during the month here: TA Playlist November 2021 Stats.

RiBoP said:

Let's hope for a Brütal Legend 2! Psychonauts 2 took some waiting as well, right? [wink]
Link1207 said:
Thoroughly enjoyed this back in the day. Add me to the list hoping for a sequel!
While there's currently no word about a sequel to Brütal Legend, that's not for lack of enthusiasm from fans. A sequel was originally planned, and Double Fine reportedly put a lot of resources into the early stages of its development before publisher EA cancelled the project. This nearly ruined Double Fine Studios financially, but they recovered by recalibrating and focusing on smaller projects, like last month's TA Playlist game, Costume Quest.

Schafer's own comments have been gradually getting more optimistic about the possibility of a sequel. In 2013, Schafer said he'd love to make a sequel, but as an indie developer, he'd need a whole pile of money. That was before Double Fine was acquired by Microsoft, which don't seem to be having any cash flow problems at the moment, and the recent release of Psychonauts 2 has only added more fuel to the fire.

On the crowdfunding page for Psychonauts 2, the number one Frequently Asked Question is “Will you make a Brütal Legend 2?” Their response:

We've always said that we wanted to make sequels to both Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. We can't make any promises but if Psychonauts is a success for us, then perhaps Brutal Legend 2 will be more possible?
Only time will tell whether Brütal Legend will ever get that sequel, but if it does, I for one will be ready to rev up the Deuce and rock on.

Playlist Trivia Answer:

Three game developers are currently tied for the most times featured in TA Playlist history. The winners are: Remedy Entertainment (Alan Wake, Quantum Break, and Control: Ultimate Edition); Ubisoft Montreal (Assassin's Creed Origins, Watch_Dogs, and Child of Light); and Rockstar San Diego (Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire, and Red Dead Redemption 2). Double Fine almost made it a four-way tie, but Psychonauts 2 wasn’t able to beat out Forza Horizon 5 in the latest poll. Better luck next time!

That's all for this Wrap-Up, but we'll be back next month with a look at December's Playlist game, Forza Horizon 5, which was selected by the community as the best addition to Game Pass for 2021. Leave your thoughts on the new edition of this open-world racer in the Spoiler-Free and (possibly unnecessary) Spoiler Discussion Threads, and we'll see you back here after the New Year.
In the meantime, we'd love your feedback on these monthly Wrap-Up articles. What kind of information would you like to see included? More game synopsis, more quotes or different types of stats, or are these articles just too damn long already?

We appreciate you taking part in another year of TA Playlist and look forward to more great games in 2022. Keep an eye out for the January poll, which should be coming along in a week or so. Happy Holidays from the TA Playlist crew!

Track My Progress in Brütal Legend