Review by DJ cream

"Guitar Hero makes fingering A-minor look like a piece of cake."

Those who are well informed in the music genre of video games know that “Guitar Freaks” is an arcade game where one plays a guitar and rock out. Unfortunately, none of the Japanese home versions has ever made it to U.S. shores. Harmonix, popular makers of “Amplitude”, combines forces with Red Octane and deals the first blood in the market of guitar video gaming. “Guitar Hero” provides a great amount of fun, challenge and overall a great song selection to make the living room the next Ozzfest.

“Guitar Hero” is to “Guitar Freaks” as “In The Groove” is to “Dance Dance Revolution” in terms of challenge. Instead of “Guitar Freaks'” 3-fret button layout, “Guitar Hero's” total of 5-fret buttons already adds more of a challenge when controlling one's fingers to select the right note or chords to strum. Even with years of “Guitar Freaks” experience, it is still very difficult to first pick up the game and play on expert mode. With a 5-fret button layout, the player is forced to shift his/her fingers up and down to play certain chords like on a real guitar.

Another thing that “Guitar Hero” puts a lot of emphasis on is the incredible soundtrack. In past games, Harmonix was able to gather some well-known artists to contribute their work into games like “FreQuency” and “Amplitude”. In “Guitar Hero”, they went a huge step beyond and has gotten an abundance of legendary rock hits like “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple, “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top, and “Bark at the Moon” by Ozzy among other well known artists. As much as I love to play “Take it Off” by the Donnas or “Get Ready 2 Rokk” by Freezepop (I'm sure veteran Harmonix fans would rejoice along with me with Freezepop's return as well), I would like to hear more new and original music. What made “Amplitude” so great is that it did not have a heavy reliance on licensed tracks to make a great game. However, “Guitar Heroes” has a collection of renowned songs yet all of the new stuff (except for “Guitar Hero” by Monkey Steals the Peach) is pretty hard to listen to while playing.

Along with the original tracks not meeting expectations, “Guitar Hero” also fails to clear the bar that “Amplitude” sets in the appearance category. “Amplitude” was extremely visually pleasing with all of the bright colors and futuristic emphasis. “Guitar Hero” did not attempt to recreate such a bold presentation and settled with a much more boring “garage concert” look. In my mind, I can't really recall anything that made me say, “OMG! That looks like a piece of art!”

In a nutshell, “Guitar Hero” is an overwhelming experience to all players. It sets the bar on difficulty as well as musical scores. It travels a rocky path on conventional playing style as one can go metal on the guitar controller. However, it will not win and beauty pageants. In the end, “Guitar Hero” should appeal very nicely with those who really love to rock and know what they are doing in the process.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/30/05

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