Guitar Hero

For those about to rock, we salute you - AC/DC

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My gamer self is mostly moribund. Her thumbs have atrophied, her hand-eye coordination has diminished, and even a fine party game like MarioKart can hardly hold her attention long enough to complete a race.

But now she has awakened. A game has called her name with irresistible dulcet tones, summoning her to the living room, guiding her to pick up the controller, and whispering into the curved hollows of her ears, "It's time to rock out."

That game is Guitar Hero.

Guitar Hero rocks. It rocks hard, and it makes you believe that you can rock too. It says, "Here, pick up this guitar. You and me, we are going to rock down the house."
The game comes with its own controller, a guitar-shaped thing about the size of a ukulele, with five fret buttons up on the neck and a strum lever and whammy bar on the body. There are also the obligatory "start" and "select" buttons, but you can't rock with those, so forget them. The three-stage tutorial guides you through the basics of playing notes and chords, hammering-on and pulling-off, and then turns you loose on the catalogue of classic guitar rock waiting for you and your diminutive plastic axe.

You can go straight to Free Play which has a few of the songs available for you to play right away and allows you to switch between Easy, Medium, Hard and Extra Hard whenever you choose. In order to access more than the first five songs however, you will have to take on Career mode, in which you work your way up the ranks of posers, playing in sleazy bars and clubs until you emerge as the true Guitar Hero, rocking out to a stadium of thousands. The game offers the choice of six characters and three guitars, but so far as I can tell, these are purely cosmetic details.

I started a career in Easy mode after watching Shawn struggle through the middle of Medium and was glad that I had. Unless your fingers are unusually nimble from, uh, whatever activities you pursue that build nimble fingers, I'd recommend that you start there too. Guitar Hero has a pretty well designed learning curve but things get hard fast in Medium and I was grateful for the grounding that Easy had given me.

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The basic gameplay is this: notes descend from the top of the screen and when they get to the bottom, you play them. The audio track of your playing registers missed or flubbed notes with screeches and plinks and correct notes with glorious, glorious rock. There are two meters on either side of the screen. One shows how much the audience likes your performance and the other shows your score for the song, which tallies as you play. There are a couple ways to boost your score. Enough correct notes in a row will give you a multiplier bonus which can be boosted again by using your Star Power.

Ah, Star Power. Possibly my favorite aspect of Guitar Hero. Some notes are special, marked with stars around them. If you correctly play a sequence of these notes they add to the Star Power bar on top of the audience meter. When you fill up the meter you can activate your Star Power by tilting your guitar upright and pointing it at the ceiling. This is important for two reasons: activating Star Power doubles whatever multiplier currently active on your score meter AND makes the audience love you. This can be a lifesaver when you start to lose it on a difficult song and the audience is starting to boo. Jack that sucker up at the rafters and suddenly you are sex on wheels all over again, baby.

Brace yourself - you get reviewed at the end of each performance. Your percentage of notes played and your score out of five stars pops up on a background of a newspaper article about your show. Once you get into Medium difficulty you also get paid for each show. Better performances mean better money, which you can spend on new songs, new guitars and new characters. You can also buy videos. Of what, I don't know. I've been too busy rocking out for that crap, man. I'm all about the music, you know?

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And what music. Guitar Hero features thirty songs from some of the hardest rockers known to man. They are all guitar rock standards, starting with Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll," and ending with the truly insane "Cowboys from Hell" by Pantera. My favorite is "Take Me Out," Franz Ferdinand, although "Smoke on the Water" and "Ziggy Stardust" are also a lot of fun to rip through. In addition to the more famous tunes that you unlock as you progress through Career Mode, you can also purchase 17 indie tracks. This was a smart and frankly awesome thing for RedOctane to do. They get some kickin' songs for cheap and the indie bands get some great publicity.

I love Guitar Hero. I love the stupid guitar-shaped controller, I love the cheesy cartoonish graphics and the clichéd rock-star posturing and I love the whole concept of Star Power, which is that if you have enough style you can make the audience forget that you suck.

Most of all I love the finely tuned, sharply honed sense that I am, in fact, rocking out. This becomes more pronounced as you move into more difficult songs and harder modes but it is present from the very start, right from the first song in Easy Mode. You feel ridiculous standing there with the little plastic guitar strung around your neck...and then you play that first note and you feel like a f*cking rock star, man. Yeah.

For those who made it possible for me to rock, I salute you.

Licensed songs, and the bands that made them famous:

• Motorhead - "Ace of Spades"
• Ozzie Osbourne - "Bark at the Moon"
• Audioslave - "Cochise"
• Pantera - "Cowboys From Hell"
• Cream - "Crossroads"
• Sum 41 - "Fat Lip"
• Edgar Winter Group - "Frankenstein"
• Blue Oyster Cult - "Godzilla"
• Burning Brides - "Heart Full of Black"
• The Exies - "Hey You"
• Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Higher Ground"
• Joann Jett - "I Love Rock and Roll"
• The Ramones - "I Wanna Be Sedated"
• Bad Religion - "Infected"
• Black Sabbath - "Iron Man"
• Queen - "Killer Queen"
• Boston - "More Than A Feeling"
• Queens of the Stone Age - "No One Knows"
• ZZ Top - "Sharp Dressed Man"
• Deep Purple - "Smoke on the Water"
• Jimi Hendrix - "Spanish Castle Magic"
• Incubus - "Stellar"
• Megadeth - "Symphony of Destruction"
• The Donnas - "Take It Off"
• Franz Ferdinand - "Take Me Out"
• Stevie Ray Vaughn - "Texas Flood"
• White Zombie - "Thunderkiss 65"
• Helmet - "Unsung"
• Judas Priest - "You Got Another Thing Comin"
• David Bowie - "Ziggy Stardust"

Indie tracks:

• Acro-Brats - "Call Out"
• Anarchy Club - "Behind the Mask"
• Artillery - "The Breaking Wheel"
• Black Label Society - "Fire It Up"
• Count Zero - "Sail Your Ship By"
• Din - "Fly on the Wall"
• Drist - "Decontrol"
• Freezepop - "Get Ready 2 Rock"
• Graveyard BBQ - "Cheat on the Church"
• Honest Bob and the Factory-to-Dealer Incentives - "Hey"
• Made in Mexico - "Farewell Myth"
• Monkey Steal the Peach - "Theme from Guitar Hero"
• The Bags - "Caveman Rejoice"
• The Model Sons - "The Story of my Love"
• The Slip - "Even Rats"
• The Upper Crust - "Eureka! I Found Love"
• Shaimus - "All of This"

Guitar Hero
http://www.guitarherogame.com/
Nov. 2005 (PS2)
Harmonix
RedOctane

Comments

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I have not had much of a chance to play this but the little time I have had over at Certis' place was so much fun. If you have the cash and don't mind feeling like a geek for the brief period of time in between the actual purchase of the game and that first note you play do yourself a favor and go pick it up.

I gotta check it out for the songs alone. Best game soundtrack EVAR.

Oh, and great review, hooch--Brennil. Perfect for a game that makes you wonder how in the hell it could possibly work. But I think the tagline "Hoochie's sweet sweet Guitar Hero Review" would have looked very classy.

Oh, and can we get video of you rockin out?

Great review. And I whole-rockedly agree!

So, out of the people who've taken the plunge with Guitar Hero, what's your favorite song to play? How far are you into the game?

My favorites to play are probably Jimi Hendrix - "Spanish Castle Magic" and Stevie Ray Vaughn - "Texas Flood" just because of how mellodic they are and because they're so fun to play. Then again, that song by The Donnas is pretty fun too.

I finally convinced myself that I can possibly play this game on Hard mode, but that it takes dedication -- much like someone trying to learn how to play one of these songs for real. Upon getting overly frustrated with "More than a Feeling" on Hard mode, my wife asked me if I thought real musicians mastered a song in a couple of tries. Well, no. Duh. So why should I expect to, she asked.

I hate it when she's right. And so I have a new attitude towards the game -- one that is slightly more chore-ish, but all the more satisfying. I play for an hour a day, 30 minutes on Medium mode trying to turn my last few 4-stars into 5-stars, and then I turn it to Hard mode and practice just one or two songs over and over.

Man, what a game.

great read! I enjoyed the hell out of Donkey Conga last year, if one can compare the two. At least they are in the "feeling geeky till the first note" department

Ah, Guitar Hero. I've only had it for three days, but already I'm closing the blinds first thing when I get home from work

(note: This step is imperative)

Trust me, Donkey Konga's got nothing on this! Even though I really enjoyed Donkey Konga, this game is in a league apart. What I really enjoy about Harmonix's games is how insanely polished they are - everything about them just feels absolutely bang on. For example, when you head into the chorus of 'More than a Feeling', it's insanely hard not to start rocking out! There's just this inexplicable moment where everything just gels and fits together perfectly where you get swept away by the game. Definitely a sign that the devs got something absolutely right.

As for favorite tunes, I really like playing 'Sharp Dressed Man' by ZZ Top and 'Spanish Castle Magic'. I'm not that much of a fan of 'classic guitar rock', but this game has actually awakened an appreciation for the music I never thought I had.

Great review Brennel, I completely agree!

Last night I got to Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out", and I felt like a total rockstar. When I got to "Symphony of Destruction", I knew I was hooked. This game is teh awesome. I snapped like a crack addict when Drunkensleipnir tried to take it away from me last night.

Great review! Love that last line

I opened it last night when one of my brother's friends came into my room to say high. We ended up putting it on the big screen in the living room and it completely took over his birthday party. By the time 3 AM rolled up I had five new non-gamers converted and ready to buy the game. We all took turns to play it on easy and we beat it. Now to work on medium.

OMG I can't wait! Four more days...Four more days...Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!

Robear wrote:

OMG I can't wait! Four more days...Four more days...Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!

Robear-kun, you got the memo right?

/runs away

I sooooo want to buy it, but can't afford to spend any money right now... :cry

The question I've had since first I heard about this game on Dubious Quality, is: Do I buy a PS2 just for one game? Anybody have any sense if it will be released for the XBOX anytime soon?

Great review.

Edgar_Newt wrote:

Do I buy a PS2 just for one game?

I honestly can't think of a better reason to buy a system. At least it has the virtue of being motivated by a practical desire, as opposed to the slightly-sketchy impulse to OWN EVRTING OMFG!1!.

I bought a Gamecube last winter to play Wind Waker (which i still haven't really started playing yet. Damn, the lack of free time!), and will probably buy a PS2 this winter to play Guitar Hero.

I bought a gamecube just to play Crystal Chronicles. I was a bit dissapointed. Wind Waker was fun, tho.

Alright. I've gone back on forth on this, mainly because of the pricetag. But, it seems I am going to have to bite the bullet and pick this up. It seems like a lot of fun with an incredible song list.

Oooh! My inner-rock-star just giggled devilishly. And it felt GOOD!

oldmanscene24 wrote:

Alright. I've gone back on forth on this, mainly because of the pricetag. But, it seems I am going to have to bite the bullet and pick this up. It seems like a lot of fun with an incredible song list.

Oooh! My inner-rock-star just giggled devilishly. And it felt GOOD!

Dude, if you get this, and it doesn't come with you to mom's this weekend, you are going to be in so much trouble it's not even funny.

Wahoo, back on the internets!

In the past month since I moved into my new apartment I have been without internet. Really the only thing keeping me sane has been Guitar Hero. I am almost through the 4th set on heavy now and spend most nights mastering a new song or two. It is funny, I never have had any interest in playing guitar, but now I really want to learn to play. That has to say something for this game.

Great review, Karla.

I figured since I have played guitar for over 20 years now (wow! that long??) This game would be a cinch. Nope. It's LIKE playing guitar, but it is definitely its own beast. That being said, there are enough similarities that I can limp my way through most songs on hard, and a few of the beginning ones on expert, but it's going to take practice. The game has been exceedingly popular in my office whenever it gets broken out, with a crowd at my door. I even got one very shy Korean girl to give it a go (after much coaxing), and she ROCKED. It said so, on the screen!

None of the reviews I've read describe how is the whammy bar utilized in the game.

If someone wants to try a similar game with a small price tag, I recommend Frequency, or its sequel Amplitude. They use the PS2 buttons, and the music is more techno, but the idea is the same, and it might cost you $15 at most.

Gorrila wrote:

None of the reviews I've read describe how is the whammy bar utilized in the game.

You wiggle it and it goes "wahhh wahhhhhhhh!!!!"

DS: I mean, is it used for scoring in any way?

Brennil wrote:

• Motorhead - "Ace of Spades"
• Ozzie Osbourne - "Bark at the Moon"
• Audioslave - "Cochise"
• Pantera - "Cowboys From Hell"
• Cream - "Crossroads"
• Sum 41 - "Fat Lip"
• Edgar Winter Group - "Frankenstein"
• Blue Oyster Cult - "Godzilla"
• Burning Brides - "Heart Full of Black"
• The Exies - "Hey You"
• Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Higher Ground"
• Joann Jett - "I Love Rock and Roll"
• The Ramones - "I Wanna Be Sedated"
• Bad Religion - "Infected"
• Black Sabbath - "Iron Man"
• Queen - "Killer Queen"
• Boston - "More Than A Feeling"
• Queens of the Stone Age - "No One Knows"
• ZZ Top - "Sharp Dressed Man"
• Deep Purple - "Smoke on the Water"
• Jimi Hendrix - "Spanish Castle Magic"
• Incubus - "Stellar"
• Megadeth - "Symphony of Destruction"
• The Donnas - "Take It Off"
• Franz Ferdinand - "Take Me Out"
• Stevie Ray Vaughn - "Texas Flood"
• White Zombie - "Thunderkiss 65"
• Helmet - "Unsung"
• Judas Priest - "You Got Another Thing Comin"
• David Bowie - "Ziggy Stardust"

Hell, that's half the highlights on my iPod.

Just got my copy today (early Christmas since we'll be out of town). I'm about to rock, so I need saluting.

Yeah, the whammy bar is used on sustains that have star-notes to help increase your star power meter. Using the whammy bar on regular sustains (non star notes) doesn't impact your score although it does make you feel cool.

As for buying a PS2 for this one game and the question of Xbox ports... it took 3 full Karaoke Revolution games to come out on PS2 before Harmonix ported the first one (with additional songs) over to the Xbox. Also, I know for a fact that there's also a follow-up to Guitar Hero in the works. And when I commented that I would love to have them mix Guitar Hero's gameplay with Karaoke Revolution's for an all-accoustic game, I was told to be careful what I wish for by someone in the know with Harmonix.

So, in other words, go ahead and grab a PS2 and grab a copy of Guitar Hero because this won't be the only game to utilize the controller.

Fletcher wrote:
oldmanscene24 wrote:

Alright. I've gone back on forth on this, mainly because of the pricetag. But, it seems I am going to have to bite the bullet and pick this up. It seems like a lot of fun with an incredible song list.

Oooh! My inner-rock-star just giggled devilishly. And it felt GOOD!

Dude, if you get this, and it doesn't come with you to mom's this weekend, you are going to be in so much trouble it's not even funny.

I would, but it probably won't happen until some time after Christmas. I've spent about all I dare to spend this year.

Why not borrow some from Fletcher?

Out of curiosity, does anyone know what impact it might have to try and use the guitar on a more traditional game? I wonder how it works...

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

Why not borrow some from Fletcher? ;)

He's already spent it all on booze, wild women, and penicillin. In that order.:)

penicillin ... hey, now that's an idea!

DrunkenSleipnir wrote:

Out of curiosity, does anyone know what impact it might have to try and use the guitar on a more traditional game? I wonder how it works...

I can see it now - Medal of Honor: The Battle of Woodstock.

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