Review by lockemaison

"Don't listen to any naysayers - an honest review"

I like music games a lot. I wasn't expecting to ever play Guitar Hero due to its high price, although I am a huge instrumental guitar music freak. Eventually I had to break down and see what this game was about. Actually this review is more of a response to the negative review. Read this review and I'll tell you why that one is total bs.

First let's talk about the music. As you all know this game uses covers of popular music from the past few decades. Most of the songs are classics and a few present day songs thrown in. If you're old like me or listen to the classic rock station a lot you'll recognize the tunes. For the songs that I do recognize, the covers are really amazing. I think they did quite an incredible job. They either sound just like the originals or slightly different - but damned if they these versions sound just as good as the originals anyway.

I went ahead and acquired or otherwise listened to the originals to the songs that I hadn't heard before. My verdict? Same thing, the covers were either really close/just as good or damn near exact matches.

The way they changed most of the songs was to make the guitar sounds a little cleaner and crisper. I guess the words would be 'easier to hear'. This way I imagine they could make it translate those sounds into a game easier. It doesn't hurt anything, the songs are still great. You won't go nuts over it unless you are some sort of snob or don't know the songs in the first place, the covers are MORE than acceptable quality. I'm in my 30s and I know many of these songs. All of my friends who grew up with the old songs covered also liked the quality of the Guitar Hero covers. Even my music buff friends were impressed.

The vocals: In some cases you can tell they were obviously not the original singers, but some of the vocalists do an incredible job of mimicking the original artist that you have to listen closely to tell the difference. Otherwise the vocals that don't sound like the original artists are just fine anyway. The Ozzy they got is pretty darn good.

Yes, the songs are totally complete - no edits or short remixes. You are playing the entire 4-5 minute song. Thank you very much. I've been waiting for this. I WANT to play the entire song, not some butchered short version. What kind of moron would you be if you just played a minute of a song on stage and then just stopped? The point of this game is to be the lead guitarist in a band, and pretending like that makes this game great.

I am a DDR freak and I'm extremely good at it. However, Guitar Hero requires you to be considerably more precise than DDR. In DDR and other games you can jump all over the place on your buttons as long as you hit your arrows/buttons right. But in Guitar Hero you can't touch the strum bar when you aren't using it and you have to hit everything exact. It makes perfect sense though, if you were hitting extraneous notes while playing a guitar for real you'd be making mistakes.

Gameplay - there are five fret buttons, the strum bar, and the whammy bar. All do exactly what you think they should and everything corresponds to the screen exactly. There is no confusion here and everything works the way it should. The red button coming down on the far left of the screen that you have to hit corresponds to the red button on the far left of your controller, etc etc, just like every other rhythm game. This is not rocket science, and unless you are dyslexic or a total idiot I don't see how this can confuse anyone.

The challenge in this game is the controller. Yeah, there are plenty of rhythm games that use 5, 6, even 8+ buttons for you to press, and those are easy business, right? While this game only has 5, you have to strum at the same time as well as the fact that your hands are in an odd position not normally used for video games. I tried to set the guitar down and play this game like Beatmania or some other piano style rhythm game - it doesn't work. You have to hold the controller the way it was meant to be held.

The frets and the whammy bar - If there were only 4 frets I guarantee you this game would get old very quickly, as it would be too easy. If you play in normal mode you only use 4 frets anyway, but on hard and expert you use all five and the game is totally different. Five frets might be difficult to play, but the challenge is good. The more you get used to it, the more fun it becomes. Five frets also forces you to shift your hand up and down up the neck like a real guitar player, which makes it more "authentic" to use a corny word. I do like the whammy bar a lot. I did use it how I thought I should in the songs where I knew it was supposed to be used. In other cases I just played with it. But in most cases I used it to gain Star Power, which helps you gain points and helps you when you're in trouble.

Ok, now for my list of gripes:

My big big BIG gripe is the lack of a practice mode. All you have is the full song to work with, and if you fail, you fail - all the way back to the beginning. If there was a DDR-like training mode where you could choose start and end bars and music speed, that would have helped me immensely. In fact I would have played the game a whole lot more had there been a mode like this. I can't tell you how invaluable that was in DDR, I spent hours learning like that.

It's really hard to see the blue fret button on the screen. They really should have used a different color or background. When you use the Star Power, the buttons become even harder to see despite that they are glowing. It's because they are glowing BLUE (the worst color they could have picked) and they are all the same color which really throws me off. I would rather they have glowed as the separate colors that they already are. The character animations are mostly for bystanders to look at, there is no way you will ever pay attention to them as a player.

Another thing I would have liked would be something like Parappa/UmJammer, where if you played extraneous notes you could add to the song. I would have liked to see a mode where there was "free play" in the songs where you could improvise and there wouldn't be a pass/fail judgement.

The whammy bar: Ok, I understand you make more star power if you use the whammy bar more often on certain notes, but the songs get really ridiculous when I wail on that whammy bar really fast in order to get my star power gauge higher. Change that. Make it like Parappa where if you do something stylish it will give you more power.

You can do Hammer ons and pull offs (too hard to explain, play the game and it'll teach you in its tutorial). These are optional techniques you can use to play fast solos. But the game requires your timing on these techniques to be SO perfect that it's too frustrating. However, I can see how they can be useful. The problem is mastering these advanced techniques is really really difficult.

Finally, last gripe.. not enough bonus materials. I don't care about guitars or skins, I want more movies and songs.

Fun - The fantasy factor of this game is almost its main selling point. The mental effect this game has on you is huge, and I feel sorry for anyone who overlooks or misses out on that. There's a reason why every game critic magazine and website as well as all the gamers out there love this game while only a scant few stiffnecks don't like it. Playing these songs is VERY VERY fulfilling. You have this big backing band in your PS2 and you are the lead guitarist. You are playing these songs you've always wanted to play and you can't help but rock out like a real rock star when you play. You WILL dance around and sing along. You can't do that in DDR, you can't say you are playing the song, you are just reacting to it. Playing this is like playing other rhythm games that let you play an instrument, but the effect with this one is magnified. You are standing up and playing a guitar - words can't describe how good that makes you feel, especially when you play well.

All in all, a fun game. It's kinda gimmicky but it's genuinely a fun time, especially for you people looking for a guitar stage fantasy. This is an EXCELLENT party game, but playing solo is very addictive, too. I know there's only 40+ songs here and that there are licensing issues, but I WANT MORE songs. I definitely want more classics, like Hendrix and 70s/80s rock, and I definitely want some songs from instrumental guitar masters like Satriani, Malmsteem, Vai, Harris, Chastain - you know the drill.. get those guys' songs, Harmonix! We paid for this guitar controller, we want to use it more. I would give this game a solid 7, but since it fulfills fantasy more than any other game out there I will add a point.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/27/06

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