I started this gaming week by forcing myself through some of GTA: Chinatown Wars – there’s plenty of side-missions yet to be done (I’m currently only 82% complete), and tons of Gold Medals to be acquired. Despite the fact that I can avoid the stupefying storyline, I still feel as though IQ points are shed for every moment that I play this game.

Which could explain why I’m so amazingly crap at PAC-MAN Championship Edition. It’s the only game that I’ve played where my accumulated gamerscore is less than the average of all registered players; I view this as an abject failure, but nothing I attempt helps me play any better. Disappointing!

But the big news of the week was, of course, the release of Brütal Legend. As a fan of eighties metal and Tim Schafer, I was looking forward to this with great interest; and, thanks to a handy tip from Aussie site The Economical Gamer, I was holding my copy in my hot expectant hands within hours of the release date being broken. And so, on Tuesday night, I settled down for a good, solid dose of metal and gaming.

And it was goooood.

I’d avoided playing the demo released on Xbox Live, wanting to come into the game fresh; and the opening titles & menu screen were every bit as awesome as others had raved. The first level was great, a decent bit of hack-and-slash, with some wonderfully expressive character models on display. A few hand-holding tutorials, a bit of decent driving, a few enjoyable boss battles, and evidence of some massive OCD collection side-quests, and I’m hooked, lauding Brütal Legend‘s praises to all who’ll listen.

It wasn’t until the following evening that I happened upon the first RTS section of the game. And, ummmmm, I wasn’t really sure that I liked it. The second one was a little better, but something didn’t feel quite right. Now, I’m no fan of RTS games in general – only having tinkered with a couple vicariously – but I wasn’t sure whether I was enjoying myself during those sections… at all.

Now, I know that Schafer himself has said that it’s not an RTS game, and I suspect that the problem here is all mine; after all, I’m the type of guy who’ll tip-toe through an FPS with health constantly at maximum and all guns fully loaded. I hate the death of any of my avatars, which is why I’m probably having a tough time enjoying myself with those aspects of Brütal Legend. And that’s a massive shame, because there’s so much there to love: the music selection (all 107 songs) is phenomenal (except, maybe, for Def Leppard’s poppy Rock of Ages, which feels woefully out of place), the storytelling is Schafer-sublime, and the voice-cast is superb – OK, so maybe Lemmy is a little too laid-back, but Ozzy is perfect. Lovely little touches – the cymbal bushes, the post-game interactions, the multiple Double Fine intros – are there in abundance… but I can’t shake the memory that Psychonauts managed to deliver phenomenal production, a fabulous story, and a great game.

Still, I’ll soldier on with Brütal Legend – I’ve only 100%-ed Gentle at this stage – and, hopefully, I’ll discover some love for the RTS-ish bits.

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