Guitar Hero

Game Reviews | Aug 26th, 2006

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Company: Red Octane
Platform: Playstation 2
Rating: T
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So you want to be a guitar hero? Who hasn’t dreamed of stepping up on stage in front of thousands of people and ripping off a kick ass solo with a little bit of whammy and distortion thrown in for good measure? Guitar Hero takes those delusional thoughts and twisted visions of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (minus the sex and the drugs) and packages it in a tiny little Playstation 2 game complete with an innovative mini-guitar controller.

Guitar Hero is a game that in my mind should have been made years ago. I’ve always loved a good video game soundtrack in games like the Tony Hawk games or the Gran Turismo games, but what Guitar Hero has done is taken an awesome soundtrack and built and entire video game around it. There’s pretty much something for everyone. Ozzy, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Pantera and Motorhead for the metalheads…Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Boston, Deep Purple and Cream for the classic rockers…Queens of the Stone Age, Audioslave and Black Label Society for the modern rockers…and there are even some “gasp” punk songs from Bad Religion, the Ramones, the Acro-Brats, and Sum 41. I was surprised to see songs from Bad Religion, the Donnas and even a White Zombie song on there. The lineup of tunes is mighty diverse.

What makes the game so innovative and realistic is unique guitar controller. This controller is as close to a guitar as a video game controller can get. There’s a whammy bar, a guitar strap and even a sheet of stickers included so that you can junk up your controller with crap much like in real life. There are five “fret” buttons at the neck of the guitar that have to be held in conjunction with the “strum button” located in the center of the body. So basically, you must hold in a certain color-coordinated note with your fingers while you strum away with your other hand. If you’ve played a guitar before, whether it’s a real one or one made of air or you if you’ve ever witnessed someone playing the guitar, then you probably understand what I’m talking about. You play along with the song of your choice and you try to keep up with the colored notes by hitting them on time without missing a bunch of notes. If you keep screwing up, you have to replay the song from the beginning. The notes come towards you on a scrolling path, which at first seems to be flinging at you at about a million miles an hour. Once you get a grasp of switching fingers and sliding up and down the neck, that’s when the game starts to get fun. On Easy, you only use the first three buttons: the green, red and yellow. The other difficulty settings throw more buttons at you. Medium introduces the dreaded blue/pinky key along with the fearsome red + blue combination power chord which forces you to press the unnatural combo of the middle finger/red key and the pink finger/blue key at the same time. I had so much trouble with this particular chord that at first, I completely avoided any song that had this combination in it. Hard and Expert throw in the orange key, which forces you to slide up and down the neck of the guitar just to reach the damn thing. Hard as funk I tell ya. Apparently, that’s why I don’t or probably can’t play guitar.

At first, there aren’t many songs for you to choose from. I think there were about 10 songs to start out with. You have to earn the rest by playing through the Career Mode and meeting the requirements, which basically force you to finish each song with a decent performance. Your performance is based on a five star system with one the worst and five being the most awesome. This is a good thing, because even on the Easy difficulty setting, you don’t want to start off by playing “Bark At The Moon” or “Cowboys From Hell”. Damn near impossible even for an experience player. As you move up the ranks, your surrounding change and you earn cash that you can use to unlock new songs, guitars, skins, playable characters and production videos. There are also a handful of characters that you select to represent you on stage, everything from the British punk rocker to the 70’s era metalhead to the run-of-the-mill alternative chick. The coolest thing is that at any time during your career, you can change your band name, your characters and the guitar that he plays. Two words…Grip Ripper.

With most bands, you start out by playing in the basement or in a garage and you work your way up to better venues until eventually you’re selling out arenas. In Guitar Hero, the same thing holds true. Your band begins in a dingy basement and as you progress through the career mode, you grace the stage or old theatres, nightclubs, festivals and stadiums. There are only a handful of stages but each stage is filled with animations and shifting environments that change with how good you’re doing on a song. If you’re totally sucking, the crowd boos you and the environment is static, but if you’re rocking the roof down, the stage explodes with animations and the crowd starts cheering along. If you play well enough over the course of a song, you’ll gain Star Power (no not like Mario) which doubles your points and can bring you back from the red right quick.

Besides the vast library of great songs, the interactivity is what gives Guitar Hero its’ unique feel, its’ replayability, and its’ general overall enjoyment. During any long note, you can crank on the whammy bar and distort the note beyond oblivion. You can either tap a button to access your built up Star Power, OR you can simply jolt the guitar upward. Now which way sounds more fun to you? Damn right! The multiplayer mode isn’t that great even though this is a game that you can sit down with a couple of friends for hours and just pretend rock out to all night. Believe me, I’ve done it. Many times. The game keeps track of high scores so you can also play around by your lonesome and try to top your best runs.

Personally, I enjoy this game so much that I can’t find any major flaws…just nitpicky stuff. Such as the graphics being static at times and the lack of more venues to play in. The one thing that everyone can find wrong with the game is the lack of some particular song that you feel should have been included. Where’s the Van Halen? Guns N Roses? Metallica? Rush? Come on now…they can’t include every single song in the game. They have to save something for the sequel or sequels, which are sure to follow.

To make a long review short, Guitar Hero kicks so much ass in so many ways. For someone like myself who never picked up a guitar and strummed a single note in his life, the game makes you feel like you could someday be up there on stage in front of a sold out arena covering “Iron Man” and “Killer Queen” with a miniature guitar with five brightly colored buttons and an Eddie Van Halen guitar decal. It really does make you feel like a guitar hero…and if you can get past the first ten seconds of “Crossroads” on Expert, then you are a better man than I and you deserve that title. Bring on the sequel!!!

Bottom Line:
Favorite Aspects: Strapping on the guitar, using the whammy bar, the great selection of songs, the characters particularly Johnny Napalm and the Grim Ripper, the double guitar (awesome!), and basically everything else.
Overall Rating: