Review by Exodist
Definitely the better version of Guitar Hero II.
It made some sense to port the Guitar Hero series to another platform considering the massive success it has been. Oddly enough only the Xbox 360 was chosen, although I guess it makes sense in the long run. The 360 versions bring some new content, although its mainly the same as before.
The Guitar Hero premise is fairly simple. You start a new band (basically the file name, you can change it though) then choose your difficulty, Easy, Medium, Hard or Expert. After this you choose your character and guitar, select a venue, then you're interested to the set list. The set list is set into eight different groups, each containing six songs (new for the 360 version since there are new songs, the original contained five songs a tier). Depending on the difficulty you must beat a certain number of songs, before doing the encore of the group (the last song of each tier is locked, beating the required amount of songs unlocks it, beating this song will get you onto the new group). Once you beat all eight groups you have kind of beaten the game. Of course there is much more to do after this!
Beating a song above Easy rewards you with money (the higher the difficulty, the more money). The amount of money depends on your rating, the more points you get, the higher your rating is, ranging from 3* to 5* (which can be quite hard to achieve). However you can only get a certain amount of money from each song, for example, say you can get $1000, you might get a certain amount on one difficulty, for example, $300 for a 3*. Then getting a 5* would get you the rest, $700, so getting a 5* first try would get you the full $1000 (I can't remember currently how much you do actually get). With this money you can buy new characters, guitars, costumes etc, and of course, bonus songs. Money is universal for each band, to fully buy everything you need to 5* every song on each difficulty (this excludes bonus guitars unlocked by beating a difficulty or 5* all of a difficulty, I actually brought everything else only beating Expert). You can beat the bonus songs, 5* all the songs, and move onto the next difficulty (for the newer players). Fortunately the bonus songs aren't necessary, you don't need to beat them to complete a difficulty or to unlock achievements (you ONLY have to 5* the career songs for a 5* all difficulty achievement).
So for the newer players, how do you actually play the game? The game comes with a guitar controller, based off the Gibson Xplorer. Its better than the old SG controller, but maybe not as good as the more recent Les Paul controller which comes with GHIII. Admittedly my Xplorer controller (just after a month) has problems, the whammy bar automatically falls down (so it faces the floor, kinda annoying) and my strum bar sometimes registers twice (pressing down on it once might make the cursor go down twice on menus etc). Unfortunately its wired, although this isn't much of a problem in my opinion, it has its guide button, head set port, and a D-PAD for navigating the dashboard. Some poor design however are the start and back buttons, they're way too small and hard to press. Either way, the controller has five different coloured fret buttons on the top of the next, each representing the notes in the game. At the base is the strum bar. On screen you will see the five colours at the bottom (same order as on the controller). Notes will scroll down the screen, if a green comes down the player must hold down the green button. When the note crosses the colour at the bottom, the player must then strum (still holding the fret button) to actually hit the note. You can also get chords (two to three notes at the same time) and Hammer Ons and Pull Offs. These notes can be hit without having to strum (there is a more detailed tutorial in the game for these). It sounds simple and at first it is, easy uses just three buttons, medium four and hard all five, Expert just has a lot of chords. Hitting notes gives you points (the basis for what rating you get) and increase your multiplayer, hitting 10 notes without missing puts it up, all the way to X4, where your points give you more points. You also get a ROCK meter, missing notes makes this go down, hitting notes makes it go back up. If it gets to low you fail the song and must start again. Finally you can get star power, hitting these sequences of notes without missing gets you this power, using this makes your ROCK meter go up easier (and down harder), and doubles your multiplayer (X8 on chords = mass points). If it sounds confusing its fairly easy to play, and the in game tutorial does a good job of explaining.
OK, so what is new for GHII veterans? On disc you get a whole new ten songs. They're pretty good songs (apart from DEAD!, although I admit its kinda fun to play on Expert), although they're not too challenging (apart from The Trooper, the hardest new song) and its probably not worth getting the whole game for these songs unless you're a massive GH fan, like myself (which is why I finally managed to get this version). However there is Downloadable Content being released. Unfortunately its a tad overpriced, costing you 500MP for a pack of 3 songs. Another problem is a lot of it are songs from the original Guitar Hero. However this does offer you the chance to play the new songs with improved HO/PO, and the Bass/Rhythm part in Co Op. Im hoping the DLC will become free soon with the recent release of GHIII (im keeping my points for the DLC on that), but you will probably have to pay for it. Also new is the controller (explained in the paragraph above), and of course, Achievements. The achievements are fairly easy, given for different scores, note streaks, getting a X8 multiplayer (easy), beating difficulties, 5* all difficulties (excluding bonus songs) etc. They're easy to get but do take some time and effort, they offer a good distraction to the main game, although getting 1000/1000 does require good skill and a friend also with good skill. Lastly, the graphics are better. Playing on a HD TV I can definitely see the difference, the whole game definitely looks better than the PS2 version, but not next gen. Lighting is the main improvement, along with fret boards, notes etc. The music in the game is pretty much the same as before. Some great rock tunes, and a few bad ones too (look out for Red Lottery, Yes We Can and Institutionalized), and as said before, most of the new songs are great (im not too sure on the DLC though).
Overall Guitar Hero II for the 360 is definitely the better version. If you're looking to get the game, definitely get the 360 version if possible. If you already own the PS2 version like myself, I guess its worth the purchase, but be prepared to pay for the extra DLC songs. If you're a massive GH fan you will probably get this version too anyway. Either way, its a great game and isn't to be missed out on. Overall I would give it a 8.8/10, rounding up to a 9.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Guitar Hero II (EU, 04/06/07)
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