Review by kiriyama2

"I want to rock n' roll, perhaps even all night!"

I never played the original Guitar Hero game on the PS2. At the time I just couldn't justify spending almost a hundred bucks on a game with a fancy pants controller. Which may have been hypocritical, because I bought Steel Battalion years before. I almost broke down and bought that one, but I didn't because none of the GameStops or EBs near me had the damned game. Then a few months later when I went to buy a copy they assured me they had in, I was told that a 360 version would be out a couple of months later. So I decided screw it, and waited for that one instead. My rationale was, sure it's a bit more expensive (ninety dollars), but it had almost ten more songs than the PS2 version, with the promise of downloadable content after its release. Hell, I even loved the 360s guitar better than the PS2 SG. Maybe I'm just loony, but I always liked the Gibson Xplorer more than the Gibson SG.

The guitar controller really feels quite good, I love the shape and feel of the scaled down Xplorer. It's quite sturdy, the buttons are nice and responsive, and the whammy bar isn't cheap and isn't like to break down unless you actively try to snap the bugger in half. The only complaints I have with the controller is the fact that strap is very small. Perhaps it's only because of my build, but when I tried to wear the strap initially the guitar rested comfortably at just below my neck. Which I assure you isn't very comfortable at all. But that's okay, I since figured out how to comfortably wear it (hurray persistence). The only other gripe I have is the fact that sometimes the game will think you've tilted your guitar to activate the star power when in fact you did nothing, except maybe just try to adjust it so it was a smidgen more comfortable, then other times it'll refuse to acknowledge the tilt when you do try to activate the star power. It's a bit frustrating, but I'll live, it only happened once or twice when I played for a long time (say for more than an hour). A complaint that I used to hear prior to the games release was the fact that the controller was wired, which I don't understand. So what if it's on the 360? It was wired on the PS2 versions, it's wired here. Just get used to that and move on (besides, wired saves on buying additional batteries), it doesn't detract from the gameplay in the slightest, it just means you can't act like a complete jack ass and try to totally rock star it and jump around the room whilst playing. The Xplorer also has this little slot on the bottom of it, which as far as I can tell serves no particular purpose. Although allegedly there'll be some sort of whammy pedal add on released for it, but I kind of doubt it.

Graphically, I suppose it's decent enough. It sort of does look like a PS2 game, but I expected that, being a PS2 port and all. The character models, with the exception of maybe the drummer, look like toys. Also the crowd just sort of seems to be the same three or four character models copy and pasted again and again, but again, I'll live. I don't really care what the background and crowd images look like, I'm most of the time just staring at the fret board that dominates most of the screen. Which, odd as it may seem, looks somewhat good. Aside from the multicolored fret board, the background graphics that I suppose were good for the PS2 iterations, there's the little rock meter. That tells you if indeed, you are rocking or sucking something fierce. The star power meter that can really save your bacon if you're performing rather poorly, and the score indicator, and a multiplier that serves little purpose other than to say that damn it you're playing like a champ. The guitars remarkably like their real-world counterparts, and hey there's even alternate costumes you can buy for the characters. So yeah, I suppose they're good, but then again I wasn't really expecting the world from the graphics department in this game.

The music selection in a rhythm based game like this is what can really make or break it. Fortunately the game does not disappoint in the song selection. For the most part the songs are good, the selection in this game had one, maybe two that I didn't care for. To wit, the game really could have done without the song Tattoo Love Boys, John the Fisherman and that atrocious Yes We Can garbage. Aside from Yes We Can the other two I don't really have a problem with, it's just stuff that I can't really stand (then again I've always hated Primus), and I find it to be quite annoying. Also the majority of the songs in this game are covers, and for the most part the cover artists do a good job. The artist covering the song Strutter did a good job, and almost sounded like the real Kiss. The Guns n' Roses guy kind of sounds like the singer, but it's a bit of a noticeable difference. The soundtrack is great, it's got some great stuff, some meh stuff, and the aforementioned songs that I hated. Where the game really excels is with the inclusion of what has to be the most rocking song on the entire play list. I am of course referring to the one the only Trogdor, the Burninator.

So what exactly does the gameplay in Guitar Hero entail? Well fundamentally, you hold your guitar controller (either the Xplorer or the newer Les Paul) and you hold down an assortment of colored buttons (ranging from green, red, yellow, blue, and orange) on the guitars neck and you hit this little bar to make the actual guitar sounds. Of course the game will degrade to a cacophony of discordant plunks and screeches every time you miss a note. And if you're new to the game (like I was when I got this game back in April) the game will seem downright murderous. On more than one occasion my arms felt like they were about to fall off, and this was on the easy difficulty. When I felt that it was time to move on to medium, where you have to hold down that fourth blue button I felt it was almost impossible. Sure I eventually conquered it, and I was dreading the eventual move to hard, where you have to move your hand up and down the neck of the guitar to hit the orange button. Needless to say I felt a particular sense of pride when I was able to four star Free Bird (the final song you see). I haven't quite played enough of Expert mode to comment on that fully, but from the few songs I've played it is much more tortuous than the hard difficulty. A thing the game's got going for it is the inclusion of a cooperative multiplayer mode, it's really quite fun, instead of both of you playing lead one of you is either cast into the bass role, or as the rhythm guitarist. There's also an enjoyable competitive mode, for when you feel like dueling axes to see whose got the better plastic guitar skills. Everything the game does is just done right, I can hardly think of one thing the game does wrong, other than being entirely murderous to new players.

The downloadable content I feel deserves special mention. I think it's somewhat reasonably priced, if not a tad expensive. Several of my friends told me that it would've been cheaper to buy Guitar Hero 1 and 2 for the PS2 than buying the DLC on the 360. I really don't have much of a problem with the price, especially since I bought the game on the 360, obviously I'll have no intention of buying the PS2 game. Which really works out for me since they've released the majority of the songs from GH1 for download. Of course, wouldn't you know it, the ones I really wanted aren't available for download, and given that GH3 has recently come out I can't really count on them releasing the other GH1 songs for this one. But I'll live, I'm tenacious like that. The other downloadable content for the game that's available is sort of meh, in my opinion. Unless you're really into My Chemical Romance, or whatever they threw into Indie Pack 1 I don't foresee you buying it. Of the ones that are available the ones I easily recommend are the Indie pack 2 (if only just for The State of Massachusetts by Dropkick Murphys), and the first Guitar Hero 1 DLC pack (if only for Bark at the Moon, and Ace of Spades). The downside to the DLC other than spending money for the songs, is the fact that they only release them three per pack. I really sort of wish they'd have released them, oh, four at a time, especially since they're asking for little over six bucks for them.

So is Guitar Hero 2 worth picking up? Yes, yes it is. Especially since they've recently dropped the price of the bundle to about seventy dollars. Hell, I thought it was worth picking up for ninety. I don't think you'll be disappointed by the sheer entertainment value the game offers. It's especially fun to play with a group of friends. So if you're looking for a new rhythm game, but don't want to dole out a hundred for Guitar Hero 3, or the almost two hundred for Rock Band, you should definitely give Guitar Hero 2 a look.

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 9/10 (yes, Yes We Can dragged it down a point)
Gameplay: 9/10 (treacherous difficulty aside, it's great)
Lasting Appeal: 9/10

Overall: 8.75/10 (rounded up for great justice!)


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/01/08

Game Release: Guitar Hero II (US, 04/03/07)


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