Eddie Riggs (voiced by Jack Black) is the best roadie in the business, but modern times have seen him forced to work with some awful bands as he’s seen his beloved heavy metal get watered down to suit a ‘tween demographic’. After saving one of the dipshit band members from certain death onstage, Rigg’s huge stage set collapses on him. As his blood drips into his Motorhead-esque belt buckle a metal monster erupts from the stage wasting the band, and Riggs is transported to a whole new dimension. It’s got the crazy turned up to 11 all the way from here on in.
The recent demo was a bit misleading as it made the game out to be a hack n’ slash style game and made no mention of the Overlord-like RTS segments. At regular intervals you assume command over troops and order them to defend your ‘stage’ or assault the enemy’s stage. You buy extra troops by earning ‘fans’ from pyres that you need to convert. Unfortunately this is the game’s weakest area with the controls often being imprecise and troops often ignoring commands and showing no common sense. These battles can go on for a bit too long as well. You are able to do some fighting yourself (much better), with a combination of melee axe swings and using your guitar to electrocute or burn enemies, or you can go for a spectacular Riff attack, the best of which being the ability to call in a huge flaming Zeppelin to crash down at your feet. It looks absolutely awesome.
Riffs are small parts of gameplay where you match up a few button prompts Guitar Hero style. These can summon your car (the Deuce), call troops to your position, or attack enemies with a Facemelter or the aforementioned Zeppelin. Riffs can also be used to raise half-buried Relics such as tune-up garages, hidden music tracks or new special attacks. There’s plenty more hidden Riffs hidden around the map too.
You can complete side missions such as beating a beast hunters kill records, team ambushes, gun turret sections or finding statues. There are 120 dragon statues to find, 13 story statues with animated episodes to view as well as area vistas to unlock. Completing side missions will earn you Tributes which can be used to buy upgrades for your axe, guitars and the Deuce.
These open world aspects are never imposed upon you and you aren’t forced to do lots of tedious driving as the map isn’t oversized and the missions take part in nearby locales for that part of the story, rather than one on the far west then one on the far east and so on.
The driving sections take place between missions to get around the map. Or there are a few escort missions where you protect the tour bus from biker hogs or winged horses, these work better than most games protection driving missions. The arcadey handling and open-worldness feels very similar to Jak & Daxter 2 but with less bland desert, actually the environment is one of the game’s strongest points.
Taking a lot of inspiration from bizarre cover-art for countless 80s metal bands, the world is made up of an incredible blend of green valleys and gloomy mountain ranges but with random Heavy Metal lore everywhere. This might be a range of cliffs built purely from huge amps, or the trees made from exhaust pipes or the bass strings that are spun from giant metal spiders. Then there are the remnants of the Titans with huge statues of guitars or swords or a mysterious giant broken freeway complete with yellow stripes. Is it the past, or the future, or is it just Riggs having a demented dream? It’s brilliantly absurd and a refreshing change to the lazy level design of many other modern games.
Even the characters are metal inspired. The headbangers have muscular necks almost as wide as their backs, roadies carry massive amps to attack with feedback, Judas Priest’s Rob Halford leads a pack of bikers, Motorhead’s Lemmy uses bass strings to heal others. You team up with these guys against moody emo kids, goth monsters, and traitorous hairbangers.
You can use a Heavy Metal flavoured double team attacks during fights, such as a circle of headbangers protecting you, aiming a female groupies gun, controlling a giant fire breathing beast, flame trailing bikers or the absurdly brilliant black panther with eye lasers!
The script and cartoony character design is never far away from providing the laughs. One of the game’s funniest moments is when you’re sneaking up on two hairbangers (the glam rock version of the headbangers) guards, you over-hear them swapping hair-care tips for ages, or when Riggs is leaving the underground tune-up garage after Ozzy tells him to return with Tributes he says something like “I will return covered in the metal gods love,” and then realises how gross that sounded. It’s a game that isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself, heavy metal and other music genres, although you will get the most out of it if you’re a metal fan as the soundtrack has some of the best tracks old and new.
The best use of music is the escape from an exploding palace when you use the Deuce to avoid falling buildings and giant creatures to the cheesy tune of ‘Through the Fire and the Flame’ by Dragonforce. It’s the first time the game uses the song and it just kicks your ass.
The online multiplayer options are in the form of stage battles with two of you controlling opposing armies. So if you do like this part of the game, then the wide variety of extra soldier types on offer as you control the evil armies too should keep you happy. It all runs smoothly too.
If you chose to ignore most of the side-missions of the main game there is only about six hours worth of game here. But the laughs and tearing around the mental landscapes and scooping up the collectables should keep you entertained afterwards especially with such a killer soundtrack.