The countdown of my personal picks for the best games of 2009 is now entering the home straight. Last week I revealed the first half, now this week it’s time for the top five. And at #5 we hear a demon screaming, angels singing and creation’s hammer hitting the anvil of time…
5. Brütal Legend (360, PS3)
If The House of the Dead: Overkill left us with perhaps the best ending of the year, then Brütal Legend greets us with perhaps the best opening. Jack Black’s ushering of the player into an old record store, making us privy to a long-lost musical treasure, gave clear indication of the deeply personal journey we were about to undertake. This is the game Tim Schafer has always wanted to make. Like a monstrous bassline shaking you to the very core, Brütal Legend floods your soul with love for its subject, its characters and its world.
Schafer mines every metal element for a pun or metaphor and then refines them all into recognisable but often unexpected gameplay. Leading groups of headbangers into battle; drawing energy from your legion of fans; playing face melting guitar solos; paying tribute to the Rock Gods; everything just makes perfect sense, forging a heavy metal fantasy that’s as seamless as it is seismic. Even the curveball – the pseudo real-time strategy of the centre-piece Stage Battles – plays out like an epic face-off between two bands scheduled simultaneously on opposite stages at a festival.
In less skilled hands, it could have descended into parody. But Schafer and the Double Fine team respect their source of inspiration too much. We’re always laughing along with Eddie and friends – never at them.
Brütal Legend has heart like you’ve never seen in a video game. Its superbly written story is by turns triumphant and touching, best encapsulated in the early scene when Lars asks Eddie, “What do you do with a bunch of kids who just wanna bang their heads all the time?” and Eddie, his eyes misting up, his voice quivering, replies, “You start a revolution, Lars…”
It’s fucking awesome.
Kotaku AU’s Games of 2009 are my personal picks for the best games of the year. I make no claim to have played everything released this year, nor do I pretend to be any way objective in my rankings. I look forward to debating my choices with you in the comments.