click to übersize
This isn't a Dynasty Warriors style hack 'n' slash with Brütal Legend characters swapped in; it's a large-scale, real-time strategy game with a definite learning curve, but also gameplay deep enough that we can see it becoming a standout multiplayer title on XBL and PSN. It's also big, loud, funny and very metal -- just like the main game.
The Drowning Doom are a band of gloomy, gothic warriors who draw on the power of ... sadness.
The battle took place on the mode's most basic map, essentially a horseshoe layout with each faction's base stage on either end and a soul geyser (the source of fans' souls, the mode's sole resource) right smack dab in-between the two.
Our opponent bravely choose Tainted Coil as his faction, so we had Eddie going up against the Big Bad, Doviculus. We were in direct control of Eddie, who could either run around the battlefield or sprout wings and fly -- perfect for getting a view of (almost) the entire battlefield. (That, and sneaking a peek at what your opponent is building at their stage.)
The first order of business was to claim those uncontested fan souls for our own, so we "built" a few basic units -- melee-attack Headbangers and gun-toting Razorgirls -- using a quick pop-up selection wheel and stormed it. Of course, our opponent was doing the same. It was time to use one of Eddie's guitar solos to our advantage. We played one (a series of timed button presses that started when we hit the first "note") to set a rally point where we were, ensuring every unit we built would head there upon completion. We played another to rally those milling around our stage to back us up.
We didn't hold the geyser for long.
We clambered to the top of a lighting truss and used a spotlight like a laser turret.
Once we'd nailed the basics and more or less knew the proper use of Ironheade's units, the action was fast, furious and surprisingly fluid. Decisions are made on the fly -- sometimes literally while flying -- so the mode keeps up a quick pace. (It's worth noting that the factions' avatars can't be attacked while performing solos, otherwise, as our coach told us, the game would devolve into constant griefing.)
Although we lost, it wasn't any fault of the game's; it was ours, and we vowed to one day get revenge. We can only imagine how challenging -- yet very satisfying -- skirmishes will be on the game's larger maps, especially when playing team games where multiple avatars are involved.
The verdict: From what we played, Brütal Legend's multiplayer is really good. It's not exactly noob-friendly (thankfully there will be tutorial videos when you first select the mode, and the main game is about 1/3 battles of this sort, which should make for a solid primer) but the payoff is worth hanging in there for.