Review by dougmoto

""Put another dime in the jukebox baby""

Is this the real life?

The mumbled static buzz clings to his ears, deafening him to the thunderous roar of the crowd as the lights dim. Blood courses through his veins. He was born for this. He practiced day in and day out, for what seemed like an eternity. His fingers were cut, but his determination squelched the pain. Just for the thrill of experiencing this moment. And what a thrill it is. A shudder of excitement jets through his body as he picks up his guitar. Everything seems different. Even though he has lived with this guitar and bled with this guitar, it seems weightless in his weathered hands.

Is this just fantasy?

They say that when the blood of an artist mixes with the fine metal on the guitar strings, it will never sound the same when played by another. The guitar becomes more than just a piece of wood. It becomes an extension of the user's will and ambition, like the artist and his canvas or the photographer and her camera. Calling such a personal extension a mere instrument… well that would be just simply unacceptable. It is so much more than that. It becomes a friend. He puts the strap over his shoulders.

Caught in a land slide…

The spotlight is on him now, a messianic beam of light illuminating his thin frame in center stage. His arms cradle the guitar with the tenderness of a mother. His eyes are closed. When he plays a set, the only sanctuary he has is in the blackness behind his eyelids. There is no one to judge him there. There are no expectations. In a vast desert of hopes and cheers, this is his oasis. This is his life factor. The drummer counts them in, and the song has begun. His fingers sweep furiously over the frets, stretching the limits of finger vitality. Like a man reborn, he feels life shining its soft sunlight onto his face, mixed with a gentle melody. He opens his eyes. And smiles sheepishly.

No escape from reality

He remembers. He remembers the truth. He takes a nervous glance over his shoulder; was anyone watching? He may not be a virtuoso, or a musical genius. He may not be a brilliant guitarist with years of experience and prestige under his belt, pounding out flawless melodies and casting a spell over listeners. In fact, he may not even know how to properly hold a guitar. But, from the basement of his parent's house, this college dropout is having the time of his life. You see, with the help of a brilliant PS2 release, some determination, and just a dash of imagination, in that one moment, he really was…

A Guitar Hero

You may be inclined to categorize guitar hero with every other rhythm game created, but that would be a hasty judgment. Try the game out first hand, and you shall see the light. The main difference between this experience and say… Dance Dance Revolution, is how much importance is on you. Playing DDR, you can easily mess up a few notes, and the song will go on without skipping a beat, people may not even notice. Try that in Guitar Hero, and you'll be serenaded with some violent clicks and beeps, drawing laughter from onlookers. As you hang your head in shame, and laugh nervously, you realize why this game is so much fun. It pushes you to get better, not only for the self-satisfaction, but to impress others. You might be the most humble human being on this planet, but you'll want to show off your slick hand eye coordination once you master this game.

To help fuel that addiction, Red Octane has provided a good lineup of recognizable covers. Pre-teens might be impressed when you five-star Franz Ferdinand's “Take Me Out”, while your parents might act slightly intrigued when they hear that hit single from Boston “More than a feeling”. The selection is quite varied, with styles ranging from soft acoustic songs to metal like Pantera. Even if the song doesn't quite suit your musical style, you'll most certainly have a blast nailing those blazing fast solos.

Of course, you might look a little silly shredding on a half size guitar, with 5 buttons. I'll admit that I laughed when I took out the controller for the first time. But the concept is actually pretty well thought out. Five buttons is just the right amount; any more would be too hectic, any less would be much too easy. The strumming works out fine as well, giving you the opportunity to alternate pick, a useful technique for GH and real guitar. They've even including the option of hammering and pull offs. Although it doesn't work as smoothly as on a real guitar, it helps a ton if you can get it down pat. It's quite obvious that Red Octane has put a lot of thought and time into this concept, and it certainly worked out well.

It's a shame they couldn't devote such dedication to the presentation of the game, however. Not to say that it's anything shoddy, in fact, far from. But it makes you wonder how close to perfection they could have been. The character models are interesting and cover most stereotypes: The punk rocker, the hippie, the connoisseur, the prodigy, death himself… The cast is pretty interesting, but there's only about 10 characters to play as. A larger selection, or a create-a-character would have done this game wonders. The actual guitars look like their realistic counterparts, but seem to share a similarity. Hmm… What should I play? A Gibson Les Paul or a Gibson SG, or maybe a Gibson Firebird? Yes, it seems that Guitar Hero only has the licensing rights to the Gibson models. It would have been quite interesting to see a good ol' Telecaster or a PRS thrown in there somewhere. Although they would probably all sound the same, just like the guitars do now.

Aw that was a little harsh, wasn't it? I hate finding flaws in games I love, but I must. In reality, each guitar produces a unique tone, pretty much impossible to reproduce. I realize that this would have meant creating several more sound files for each song, but wouldn't it be worth it for the experience? In any case, the guitar track that IS there is fairly well done, and sounds comparable to the actual song. Like a real song, the horde will cheer with you when you cast your magic, and will boo when your fret board mana is depleted. Thankfully, aside from that, you'll find the crowd is auspiciously quiet during your set; It's much easier to concentrate when you're not feeling the pressure.

But let's say that Red Octane did fix every single little nuisance I find. That would be disastrous. Not only would I be writhing on the floor half the day from rhythm game withdrawal, I would have nothing to look forward to in my gaming life. As of right now, I am very much excited for Guitar Hero II. If Guitar Hero was any closer to absolute perfection, I probably wouldn't even think about making that purchase. That being said, Guitar Hero is probably the closest thing to a perfect game that I will experience for a while.

Pros:

+Crack-Cocaine-esque game play
+Good variety of songs
+Disgustingly Fun

Cons:

-Guitars sound the same
-Selection isn't exactly huge

Overall:10/10

Dougmoto- (I'm so cold…)

*quote is from Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' "I love Rock and Roll"


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/23/06


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