Review by TheLostToaster

"A game which simply rocks, literally and figuratively"

When the first Guitar Hero hit the gaming scene, it caught everyone's attention: a game with its very own guitar-shaped controller which could be used to play loads of different rock songs, easy and difficult, short and long, slow and fast. Copies of the game were promptly whipped off the shelf, people rocked themselves silly and all marvelled at how wonderfully such a simple idea was executed.

They relaxed, only to have more rocking goodness thrown at them, going by the name of Guitar Hero II. Yes, the sequel, with dozens of different songs of different kinds of rock, from the likes of "Dead!" by My Chemical Romance, to Lynyrd Skynyrd's legendary "Free Bird" had arrived.

But of course, there are those who have never heard of the popular game. Guitar Hero II has a simple concept. You use the guitar controller's five coloured buttons (green, red, yellow, blue and orange) to hit the corresponding buttons scrolling down the fretboard in the middle of the screen. And also like on a real guitar, you have to use the strum bar at the bottom of the controller to play these notes.

It delves deeper too, by giving you chords (playing two notes at the same time), long notes (holding down the fret button for some time to rack up points) and you can also use good tricks such as hammer-ons and pull-offs (strumming once and playing following notes without strumming again)

It sounds like an easy thing to do, and it is if you're playing on difficulties Easy and Medium. But when ramped up to a difficulty like Expert, it all gets fiendishly difficult, and you may have to spend days, maybe even weeks before mastering even one song, moving your fingers like a maniac, desperately trying to keep up with the tempo. Yet when you do master a song, it gives you such a good sense of achievement, that you're able to fluently play such an insanely hard song, and it's this that ultimately keeps you going.

Now what's a rhythm game without some great music? Thanks to a wicked soundtrack (and a damn good song-covering team), you'll be treated to a grand total of 74 songs, and nearly every thinkable type of rock has at least one song of its kind. Feel like some grunge? Try "Heart Shaped Box" or "Them Bones". Perhaps some metal? For that, there's "Hangar 18" and "War Pigs". Progressive rock? Metalcore? Punk? Southern? It's there. Sometimes you may even find yourself headbanging and acting like a real rock star when playing along to these tunes!

The story (if you can call it that) is in a mode called Career. It's basically a rags-to-riches story where you make a band and play your way through eight tiers of songs (each tier harder than the last). You get rated with stars depending on how well you did (3-stars is lowest, 5-stars is highest). However, what Career mode is really used for is to rack up in-game cash by playing songs well. Then you can go to the in-game store and buy all sorts of stuff: guitars, finishes, characters, outfits for the default characters and up to 26 bonus songs! Also, as you progress through the story, you unlock new venues to play at, getting more professional each time.

But after a while, you may feel a bit tired of playing alone all the time. So why not try Guitar Hero II's outstanding multiplayer? If you have another player around, rest assured you'll have a fantastic time. Work together as a team in Co-Op with one person on lead guitar and another on bass, racking up huge scores and feeling like true rockers. Battle it out to see who the ultimate guitarist is on Face-Off. What's great about the latter is that you can both choose the difficulty of your choice, without both having to be same. The game will make sure it's a fair match by evening out the amount of song the two of you play.

But what truly stands out about Guitar Hero II is the sheer replay value of it. It's not a well-I-beat-the-story-mode-and-there-isn't-much-else-so-back-to-the-store-we-go game but one where even if you finally beat Expert, you look back at your scores and think "I could easily get a better star rating on that song…" and you'll just keep playing and playing until you've finally perfected every single song in the game. And let me tell you, as of today, nobody ever HAS perfected every single song in the game, even the complete pros who top the leaderboards every day. So I'm sure you can imagine how much replayability the game has. ;)

And now the final question: rent or buy? Absolutely and definitely buy. This game has everything you could possibly want from a rhythm game: a killer soundtrack, fluent gameplay, top-notch multiplayer and utterly enormous replayability. Guitar Hero II is a game which can get even the most grouchiest killjoy strumming away, nodding his head in time with the music and wondering how such sheer quality can be stuffed into one small disc.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/08/07

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