Brütal Legend: Another nice game marred by rampart sexism.

Brütal LegendWarning: Some minor spoilers included

So I just finished my play through of Brütal Legend which I got from the latest HIB and I must say, even though I went in with reduced expectations due to how much internet anger there was about the RTS parts of the game, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Yes the RTS parts are clunky as fuck, since they are built for console controls in mind, and the general gameplay is nothing particularly groundbreaking, but I loved the theme and I especially loved the music.

It’s not that often that I get a game that includes some of my favourite songs as the themes to its greatest moments 🙂

The non-RTS gameplay was as good as can be expected, albeit lower than I would have liked on the musical part. It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t (or they decided not to?) implement the guitar/music playing more into the gameplay mechanics, as it would have been far more interesting to see some kind of hybrid mix of mechanics similar to Guitar Hero implemented more thoroughly. As it is, it just ended up with mediocre driving, mediocre hack & slash and bad RTS.

But that’s OK, I can forgive a lot of these because of how much I just enjoyed driving around and enjoying the world, talking to its characters and generally seeing how they visualized the various Rock/Metal types into the setting. I really liked how your first enemy were the Glam Rock types while the second major enemy were the Emo/Goth Crowd. I.e. The classic cousins of the Metal Scene. Pity we didn’t see some rockabilies as well, the original enemies of Classic Rock.

The storyline was also quite nice, with interesting scenarios, lots of explosions and a fairly interesting twist. It wasn’t the greatest story ever told, but it made for a few enjoyable musical afternoons.

Exploring the world for the panoramas
Exploring the world for the panoramas

However what I just can’t digest was just how sexist ((Not to mention whitewashed. Zero People of Color)) the game was. While the game had some dynamic women as side characters, they were portrayed in the best way designed to give a boner to the young male metal audience. Slim figures with thin arms (even when wielding a polearm double as big as themselves, or being able to carry their own body weight in a single arm for long lengths of time) and even slimmer waists; Always sporting sexy-looking clothes and eventually reaching to the absurd via the introduction of the “Amazon-like” clan, who wear only enough strings and ribbons to make them look as desirable as possible.

Now I know the game is stylized and before you start telling me how all men have huge muscles or are dumb meatheads and so on, just remember that males actually had variations. You had handsome males (like the ridiculous Aryan “king” who fortunately has the good decency to die in the middle of the story), ruggedly handsome males (the protagonist), ugly males, tall males, short males, fat males, buffed males, lanky makes, disfigured males, monstrous males and so on. On the other hand, females had one mode only: Nymph ((Oh there were two enemy females that didn’t fit this archetype: One tall daemon enemy that was monstrous but trying to be sexy nevertheless, and one fully clothed white-bride-like undead thing. The only fully clothed females in the game iirc.)).

In other words, as usual, beastly males were there to serve as male power fantasies and expectations, while females, even theoretically strong females, were not allowed to escape the “…but desirable” contextual prison. They could be strong characters as long as they remained in the patriarchal paradigm of how a woman should look like.

The story suffered accordingly, although thankfully it didn’t plaster all the stupid tropes straight. It did Damsel In Distress the romantic interest in the end, but at least it wasn’t blatant about it. Still nothing particularly progressive there, only just less traditionally backwards than usual. I guess I can count my blessings that I didn’t have to suffer the atrocious Manowar song “Woman be my slave” which I hate with the heat of a thousand suns.

So if we really struggle to ignore all this ((And I am perfectly aware how difficult that can be for those not basking in my straight-male privilege.)) then one can enjoy the game and indulge oneself in the heavy metal world that the minds of Take-Two have conceived. And at least on that end, they did a damn good job.