Mostly, on this blog, I complain about games. So I thought it would be a nice change of pace to highlight and celebrate a really great moment from a game.
I’ve played a lot of games over the past several months. Some great, some not so much, and even one that I found so off-putting that I gave up on it after minutes, despite looking forward to it for a week beforehand. But most of all, so many of the games have in retrospect been only fleeting experiences, without a lot of really high points ones that stick with me, and live on in my memory to encapsulate and embody the act of playing.
So it was refreshing when, in a recent episode of the Three Moves Ahead podcast, Brütal Legend was mentioned in passing and it immediately evoked within me the memory of such a moment. It occurs midway through the game, just after the largest of the RTS Stage Battles thus far. The (up until now) primary antagonist of the game is defeated, and the next mission marker is right there, so I went straight into it, still riding on the emotional high from the previous victory. There’s a great, emotional cutscene where things get unexpectedly dire for our heroes, and then, well, have a look:
Immediately after the cutscene I’m thrown into this great little gameplay sequence where there’s nothing to do but try to escape, driving through the exploding, now demon-infested ruins of the city where the previous battle had just taken place. It’s already a pretty fantastic, intense moment, and then the music strikes up, and it’s Dragonforce’s Through The Fire And Flame, and it’s a ridiculous song, but it’s absolutely, perfectly fitting for the moment.
It’s interesting to note that this is an old-school, designer-driven, non-emergent moment. It only even matters that it’s gameplay insofar as the act of driving the car pulled me in to the moment. Gameplay-wise, it’s not even that good a sequence. I had to repeat the sequence a couple of times when I died because the escape path wasn’t clearly delineated.
Beyond minimal driving skills, there’s only one other, essential thing that I brought to this experience, and that’s a familiarity with Through The Fire And Flame. Recognizing the song through its opening was, I believe, the key triggering event that caused this sequence to cement itself in my memory. It’s a little ironic, actually, given Brütal Legend developer Double Fine’s troubled history with Activision, that I only know the song because of it’s role as “That stupidly-hard song at the end of (Activision-made) Guitar Hero 3”. I expect I’m not the only one for whom that’s the case, and it makes me wonder if the song would have been used at all in Brütal Legend if it hadn’t caught on via Guitar Hero.