Review by Muk1000

Reviewed: 04/17/06

You don't have to be a fan of rhythm games to enjoy Guitar Hero.

I am the proud owner of two Guitar Hero guitar controllers (one black, one cherry!), so I can say with confidence that I've tried everything this game has to offer. Well, I can't get far on the highest difficulty, but who knows when this review would go up if I waited until I could pull that off. Let's just say that this game reaches DDR-ish levels of difficulty. Not that that's a bad thing.

Guitar Hero comes with a guitar controller. Shaped like a guitar, but with buttons instead of frets (fret buttons), a "strum bar", and a whammy bar. It's certainly different from playing a real guitar, but I think it's the best they could have done while still making it user-friendly. By holding down certain fret buttons and "strumming" the strum bar, you hit notes displayed on the screen. If you've ever played or even seen a rhythm game (who hasn't seen DDR at this point?), you know what I'm talking about. The whammy bar is used for something special. I'll get to that later.

There are several modes in the game. The first is career, which lets you play through the songs from easiest to hardest on one of the four difficulty levels. One of the best parts of Guitar Hero is that it has an incredible learning curve. If you start with the first song on Easy and slowly work your way up, you'll get better at just the right speed to keep up with the growing difficulty. In its own way, Guitar Hero "teaches" you how to position your fingers and play the game. As a result, you can quickly move through the songs without it ever feeling too easy or too hard. Eventually this effect lessens (for me, in the third difficulty level), but it lets even new players master the basics with very little trouble.

There is a quick play mode, of course, which lets you pick a song and difficulty and start tearing it up. At first this mode only has a small selection of songs, but you can unlock a whole bunch more by playing the career mode. There is also multiplayer which is definitely worth the price of a second guitar controller if you have someone to play with. I had a group of friends over, and even those that didn't play video games often could play the game with relative ease. The PS2 has never been a great party system, but Guitar Hero helps remedy that problem.

The song selection is fantastic. Almost all of them are covers, of course, with some of the extra, more "indie" songs being original versions. The quality of these covers vary, but for the most part they're excellent, so you won't have to cringe at the singer while trying to keep up with the solo in "Ironman". The playlist includes songs like "I Love Rock and Roll", "Smoke on the Water", "Take Me Out", "Ziggy Stardust", and the horribly difficult "Bark at the Moon". Unless you hate rock, it's hard to find a problem with this line-up.

Once the song starts, you have to hold down one or two of the five fret buttons as they're shown on the screen and strum. You've got single notes, power chords, long notes, and even notes that let you perform hammer-ons and pull-offs. If you manage to hit enough notes without missing any, you'll gain a multiplier, which can quadruple the amount of points you earn. Mixed in are special notes that get you "star power". For example, if you see a long note that is glowing, you can continuously move the whammy bar up and down as you play it to acquire star power. When you have enough star power, you can tilt the entire controller upwards to use your power, temporarily doubling your multiplier. The best time to use this, of course, is when you already have a x4 multiplier. A x8 multiplier can send your score shooting through the roof, and on top of that, star power allows you to quickly win back the crowd if you're about to fail the song.

Guitar Hero is a fantastic game. It may be the best rhythm game I've ever played. From the simple beat of "I Love Rock and Roll" on easy to the finger-melting maelstrom of "Bark at the Moon" on extreme, you'll love Guitar Hero's exciting gameplay and immersive feel.

Gameplay: 10 (Fast-paced, exciting, immersive, and an extremely friendly learning-curve.)
Graphics: 7 (The character models aren't top notch, but it really doesn't matter. You won't be paying much attention to anything besides the notes rushing at you.)
Sound: 10 (A great playlist and realistic sounds are critical in a rhythm game like this; thankfully, Guitar Hero delivers.)
Controls: 10 (It uses a guitar controller! What more could you ask for?)
Fun Factor: 10 (It can sometimes be hard to recommend a game that costs $80. Not in this case.)

OVERALL: 9.2/10 (Rounded to 9)

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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