Publisher: Red Octane
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1 – 2
Come on, own up - we've all done it! And I bet most of us have been caught doing it as well at some point eh? Don’t worry, I’m not talking about something the church would frown upon, I’m talking about rocking out to some Air Guitar! Now many of you won’t know this but the world of air guitar is huge. There are CDs dedicated to the art form as well as professional competitions. But all of that is about to change! - Oh yes - Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce to you, the most fun you can have standing up in your living room; Guitar Hero.
Now, while the idea of music rhythm games is nothing new, they've been with us in so many different guises, ranging from the standard and arguably the most popular in the form "dancing" all the way through to bonkers ones like the classical music inspired Mad Maestro. But don’t think that the guitar market ones have been forgotten about either. There is the excellent GuitarooMan on PS2, as well as Guitar Freaks from Konami, but while that did have a PS2 release (Japan only I’m afraid) it’s essentially an arcade machine, and the guitar controller for the PS2 version was very expensive.
One of the possible sticking points though, could be the price tag. Personally I don’t think it’s bad at all. For your £50 you get the game and a custom controller (with neck strap!). If you break it down in to current high street prices, you’re paying £30 for the game and £20 for the controller, and while the game doesn’t need the guitar controller to be played, it would be a real shame if it wasn’t part of the package. The controller is SO integral to the game; it makes it not worth playing at all without it, as all the fun and the genuine sense of immersion completely disappear.
The controller consists of five neck buttons to simulate the notes of a guitar, a “whammy bar” to bend the notes you play and the actual “strummer” to simulate the playing of the strings. There are of course the standard Select and Start buttons on there, as well as tilt sensor in the neck of the guitar – but more about that in a moment. Each of the neck buttons is colour coded to match the notes shown on the screen. The gameplay is very simple (as you’d expect), but becomes incredibly involving later on.
Essentially, you are a budding Guitar Hero and you get to choose from one of 6 likely wannabes to make a name for your band by playing more and more shows and complicated songs. Your view on the screen consists of the guitar neck, and it is separated into five sections that correspond to the colours on the controller. As the notes that you need to “play” travel down the screen toward you, you must time the “strum” and the colour press at the right moment to make the sound. Too early or late, and you’ll either miss or get a bum note. Timing of the notes themselves can be planned in so much as you can get that finger ready before the strum is needed, and that way you can plan a note or two in advance. It can be a touch tricky at first, but you soon get the hang of it. Game Over is reached when you miss too many notes – this is governed by your “Rock-O-Meter” and shows how much the crowd is enjoying your performance. Get it all wrong and your Rock-O-Meter will start to drop; if it gets to the bottom, you’re gonna get booed off the stage. There are ways to combat this: First – learn to play the song better! Second: Your Star Power meter. This is your special weapon in becoming a Rock God/Goddess. Over the course of the song, special notes will appear and if you can get all of them in a string without missing any, you’ll get a bonus, and this adds to your Star Power. You can activate this at any time by simply raising the neck of the controller. The effects are twofold; you’ll get a bonus multiplier for your score and if you’re in trouble with the crowd, it will instantly help.
There are a few excellent tutorials that introduce you to some of the more complicated and challenging areas of the game. These are different skills you need to learn to be able to cope with the harsh reality that these are guitar legends you’re trying to emulate, and they will always be better than you! The harder difficulties start to introduce more fret buttons and even more notes into the equation, but once again, as soon as you get the hang of it you’ll be flying along.
Not many games can draw you in on the promise of making you feel like a rock star, and even fewer could pull it off, but this one manages it admirably. The game is downright FUN. Yes, it does get hard, but it won’t stop you trying to beat it, and then once you do, you’ll be trying to hammer your score. It’s got that “one more go” or in this case “one more song” factor by the truck load. The feeling of actually nailing that particularly tricky section, or a fast lead or time change is immense. It’s a massive sense of achievement and self-gratification, and yet never does it feel like the game is being “unfair” – you know you can do it; you just need to be a bit quicker next time!
One of the only possible downers to this is that the songs are not the originals, they are cover versions. Now, before you go running off and sulking, it needs to be said that they are of amazing quality. Apart from a couple of vocal performances that are not quite as good as the originals, that’s about it – the actual musicianship on offer is stunning. The reason behind this is fairly simple; some of the tracks are too old to have digital masters and therefore the development team couldn’t separate the guitar tracks to allow for them to make the game. A fair point I’m sure you’ll agree.
In terms of extras, you have a two-player mode where each of you (either with a pad or extra controller) can play the same songs, each taking different sections of the song, extra characters to unlock, new guitars, songs and ‘making of’ videos can be yours as well.
So, to sum up, a hugely entertaining game, and in fairness, one that has little competition in the West, but one that deserves to do very well. If you’re looking for some genuine fun and thrills, and something a bit different – you cannot afford to look any further than this! Even If you will look a bit of a plonker with your plastic guitar!!
- Excellent learning curve
- Excellent selection of music tracks
- Genuinely fun
- Sore wrists
- Takes a little while to master
- Not enough hours in the day!