Xbox 360, PS3
With more and more people getting their music digitally, fewer people journey to the record store. That's a damn shame, because there's nothing like cracking open a new CD and poring through its liners (I'm old enough to remember that records had the truest experience of this sort, and I'm young enough to not have had a record player). And — oh, man — metal albums had the best covers ever. Crazy visions of destruction and the impossible majesty of fantasy — could you imagine if such album covers were real? Well, imagine no more, 'cause the rock gods hear your cry, metalheads, and the makers of cult-fave Psychonauts have blessed you with Brütal Legend.
It goes like this: Eddie Riggs (Jack Black, of course!) is the best roadie who ever was. A stage mishap awakens his magical belt buckle (a gift from his dad) and transports him to a world that can only be described as The Most Metal Place Ever. Eddie soon learns that he's either to bring freedom to the oppressed or destruction and ruin.
As Eddie travels the land, he amasses an army, meets the metal legends (voiced by Lemmy, Ozzy, and Rob Halford, among others) and rocks harder than the rest. It's all to destroy Evil Lord Doviculous (Tim Curry), who may know more about Eddie and his history than Eddie himself.
Brütal Legend offers an open sandbox experience, with several different gaming modes. There's the standard runaround and stomp option, where you'll use your metaphorical ax, "Clementine," and your real fucking ax, "The Separator." There are also several driving modes where you take control of "The Deuce," and a real-time strategy mode where you lead your army to destroy the hordes who would dare oppose Ironheade (spelled with an "e" so everyone knows they're serious). And should you take a break from the main storyline, there are many side missions. There's an online mode that allows you to face your fellow metalheads. The overall experience isn't perfect, but it's close.
With a visually interesting world, a soundtrack with more than 100 songs spanning all genres of metal, and a ridiculously funny storyline, Brütal Legend is probably the most fun game to have come out so far this year. So skip the downloadable demo and hit the store and just buy the damn thing. —Bryant Franks
Need for Speed Shift
Xbox 360, PS3
The veteran videogame series remakes itself as a terrific racing game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Unlike past outings — where you maneuvered your pimped-out ride through crowded streets like a Fast and the Furious douchebag — Shift is all about skills behind the wheel. Still, if knocking around opponents is your thing, the excellent multiplayer delivers. —Michael Gallucci