Welcome to Best of Xbox Game Pass where each week I’m going to pick out a game available on Game Pass and explain why I think it is worth playing. While I’ll certainly include some of the bigger titles available on the service, I’ll focus more on other games that you might have overlooked in the hope of leading you to a hidden gem
From the befuddled mind of Tim Schafer the many skilled staff of Double Fine came a unique third-person action-adventure game named Brutal Legend, a love letter to heavy metal music. Although it got good reviews and was adored by most people that played it, Brutal Legend sadly didn’t sell much and thus passed into relative obscurity, like just another local band that has the skill yet never quite manages to move up from playing at the corner pub. If a pounding beat the tortured scream of guitar gets your blood boiling, then Brutal Legend is one game you need to play.
The frontman is Eddie Riggs, performed by everyone’s favourite chunky ball of energy, Jack Black, who is absolutely at the top of his insane game. Riggs is a roadie, the guy in charge of putting up the stage for music gigs, making sure the gear is working right, checking on the instruments and basically doing everything needed to ensure a successful concert. He specialises in building stages for heavy metal music, and he himself is decked out in the classic sleeveless denim, spiked wristbands and long hair. In short, he’s a true fan of rock. It’s in his blood, in his bones and probably in his hair. He lives and breathes the music.
But Eddie also lives in a time where rock isn’t as big as it once was, and pop bands that barely play instruments are the new big thing. He builds an epic stage for a puny pop band and holds his head in his hands as they weakly bop around the platform as their adoring fans cheer them on. However, a piece of scenery threatens to kill an idiot band member and Eddie leaps in to save them, getting crushed in the process. Blood lands on his belt buckle which actually turns out to be an amulet for Ormagöden, The Eternal Firebeast. Eddie finds himself transported to an insane world of heavy metal where the landscape is covered in homages to famous album covers, where demons lurk around corners, where spiders spin metal and where a generation of kids has known nothing but banging their heads rhythmically on rock.
From there, Brutal Legend is a comedy tour of metal and mayhem. It’s a genuinely funny game, from Jack Black’s trademark enthusiastic performance style to his banter with the cast of likeable characters. Naturally, having a love of rock and metal will let you get the most out of the excellent story, but even if you’ve grown up listening to modern crap there’s still a lot of laughs to be had. Without a doubt, the story and the atmosphere are the two big reasons to play Brutal Legend. There’s no other game world quite like this one, no other game that treads the same hallowed ground.
Most of the game plays out as a basic third-person brawler with an axe providing basic melee moves and combos. But Eddie also gets a guitar so that he can thrash out some power chords, summoning down bolts of lightning for some long-range attacks. Yeah, the combat isn’t exactly deep or anything, but it’s still a reasonably fun hack and Slash with the added benefit of guitar solos mixed in.
The most unique thing Brutal Legend does in its gameplay is its weird real-time strategy segments where you suddenly find yourself in charge of a small army. You can hover over the battlefield thanks to your handy demon wings, issue orders and churn out units from your mega stage. Geysers of fans serve as currency which you can hoover up by building merchandise stalls on top of them. Yeah, it’s crazy stuff and some people are going to bounce right off of it. There’s a lot of debate even today about the RTS elements and whether they work or not.
If all this doesn’t sound cool enough then get this: you drive around the open world in a fully customizable hotrod that Ozzy freaking Osbourne helps you build. That might be the coolest thing to ever happen since that one human ancestor figured out that this weird smelling plant gets you wrecked when you set fire to it and breath it in.
Mind you, the Prince of Darkness isn’t the only famous face in the game. The cast also includes the likes of Lemmy and Lita Ford.
Of course, it goes without saying that Brutal Legend delivers one of the most killer soundtracks in videogame history. The developers managed to license out a raft of rock like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Metal Church, Motorhead, Rob Zombie, Cradle of Filth and so many more. All in all, there are 107 tracks on offer, spanning a range of sub-genres. Of course, there are a few missing bands, like Metallica and AC/DC, but sadly licensing fees stopped them from being featured. Still, it’s a kickass soundtrack that resembles a Spotify playlist of classic metal.
It’s rough around the edges and the gameplay is fairly basic, but Brutal Legend has something special that sets it apart: heart. This game is a pure passion project, a crazy game that pays homage to rock ‘n roll, to generations of people who have lost themselves to the music. It’s bonkers and unique and fun and charming and will capture the heart of anyone who has a love for metal. Hell, it might even convert a few non-metal and rock fans, too.
It’s one of my fondest wishes that Brutal Legend gets a remaster or the long-awaited sequel. Both things, though, seem desperately unlikely at this point, and so Brutal Legend must live on in Game Pass and in our hearts, and I implore you to download the game, raise your hand up and fucking rock out.