PS2: Guitar Hero
Published by RedOctane
Developed by Harmonix Music
Rated T for Teens
Reviewed by: Craig Bryan | Contributing Writer Gamer’s Perspective
Rhythm games by their very definition are dull and repetitive, thankfully every so often one breaks down the stereotypical barriers set by poor titles that have gone before it; Guitar Hero is one of those games. Harmonix have made some questionable games in the past but it seems with Red Octane and their impressive SG guitar controller on board they’re ready to finally make a name for themselves.
The controller is essentially a plastic guitar with five buttons running up its neck, each one colour-coded in accordance with the games various notes. Pressing down these notes at the correct times along with a quick click of the “strum paddle” provided will play that specific note in all its glory. The concept sounds pretty simple but emulates the feeling of playing a genuine guitar superbly well; being a guitar player myself I can personally appreciate the time and effort took to make a controller that not only satisfies veterans but is also accessible to beginners.
Career Mode makes up the main portion of the game, you start off as a relative unknown playing in basements and the like, eventually working your way up to much larger stadium gigs. The song structure works in a similar way with just 5 tunes at your disposal from the get-go, upon completing them another 5 become available and so on; each set becoming progressively harder until the game finally eases you into the big face-melters with their quick riffs and crazy solos.
Guitar Hero takes advantage of its difficulty settings superbly well; inviting users to begin on easy and challenging them to work their way up to the insanely fast-paced expert mode. Even attempting medium with little or no experience will almost certainly end with you being booed off the stage and failing the song horribly. Starting the game on easy grants you access to only three of the five fret buttons (green, red, yellow) and eases your fingers into the whole experience. Medium introduces you to the fourth button (blue) and sees your hand switching positions to accommodate certain note combinations. Hard finally brings in the dreaded fifth (orange) which will require the use of your pinky if you’re going to have any success. Then we come to expert which doesn’t add any new buttons but it doesn’t need to, with it’s vigorous pace you will need the utmost skill to even keep up. Each difficulty bleeds nicely into the next whilst slowly but surely increasing your skill, speed and dexterity.
Aside from the Career Mode you also have a Quick Play Mode and a Multiplayer; both bare no surprises. Quick Play predictably lets you jump into any of the songs you so wish and Multiplayer lets you share the fun with a friend. The problem is the game only comes with one guitar controller and extras aren’t that easy to get a hold of, you could always play with a standard Dual Shock but the game would lose all appeal. Also as fun as the Multiplayer can be it doesn’t exactly offer an array of options or modes to keep you interested for all that long, the main problem is the inability to vary the difficulty for individual players; making it less accessible to people unfamiliar with the game. I guess it’s also worth noting that the game offers a brief tutorial but as essential as it is in teaching you standard techniques it really offers little else.
If hammering out notes wasn’t enough the game also throws something known as Star Power in for good measure, while it’s not mandatory it does double your score multiplier and helps get the audience back on your side when times are looking bad. This is a must when you’re in pursuit of 5-star rankings and a 100% completion. Star Power is earned by pulling off certain combinations of Star Notes the game can throw at you from time to time, if you clear enough of them your Star Meter will fill up. Once it reaches a certain point you can activate your Star Power by tilting you guitar controller vertically just like a rock star. The implementation of this feature adds a strategic element to the proceedings, saving it for a particularly note-heavy section can boost your score to epic proportions.
The songs are the true star of this game though, due to copyright laws most are only covers of the originals but you won’t care when you’re rocking out to near perfect renditions of classics such as Smoke on the Water and Bark at the Moon. There are also some newer tracks to play with songs from Sum 41, Franz Ferdinand and Incubus making an appearance so there should definitely be a song to match everyone’s tastes; if there isn’t then you really need to broaden your musical arsenal. There is also an array of unlockable content here with an extra 17 bonus tracks available; pushing the total to an impressive 47 in total. It’s just a shame this game didn’t incorporate songs from guitar goliaths such as ACDC, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses and Led Zeppelin.
As with almost every rhythm game I’ve ever come across the graphics aren’t the greatest but at least this one makes the effort with some pretty cool art designs. The venues are also pretty well conceived and really create a sense of atmosphere that tends to suit the particular venue you’re playing in. Sound is vital in a game such as this and thankfully Guitar Hero adds just enough decoration to spice up an already impressive set list. Audiences will clap, wave and cheer when you’re doing well, the guitar will emit a realistic sounding clunk when you miss a note and every time you enter Star Mode the song your currently playing will play that little bit louder.
Guitar Hero may be simple in principal but add the controller and some awesome songs into the mix and what you’re left with is a truly atmospheric game with devastatingly addictive results. Great on your own and great with friends; this game rejuvenates a genre that was quickly becoming stale with a forceful pull on Sony’s whammy bar. Whether you’re looking to get into guitars, rhythm games or just have a blast then this is the game for you
Gameplay – Fun, addictive, immersive, Bark at the Moon…..what more do you want!?
Graphics – Doesn’t push any boundaries but does do a great job compared to similar titles in the genre
Sound – Just enough decoration to spice up an already impressive set list
Value – Playing the same great songs over and over again never gets old