Guitar Hero II Review

Jon Criner

We’ve all had that dream, and I'm not talking about the ‘naked in public’ one. The one I’m talking about, is the dream of rock flowing from your fingertips like sweet lightning from Zeus. However, many of us can’t handle the setbacks of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, seven month hangovers, and pre-pubescent groupies. For those like me, there’s a safe alternative to the Rock-and-Roll lifestyle, and it’s made its long awaited arrival on the Xbox 360.

As simplistic as it may sound, Guitar Hero would be nothing without it’s controller; a hell-spun mixture of the bones of fornicators, and the sinew of thieves and gluttons…Actually, it’s a plastic Gibson. However, in that very plastic Gibson lies the heart of some of the most rewarding and immersive gameplay I have ever laid my fingers upon. Thwarting off school-girl like giddiness is near impossible as you unsheathe your new axe complete with strum bar, fret buttons, and a shiny whammy bar. Each component of the guitar has it’s own unique function that you’ll put to use night after night.

"New York City, I can't hear you!"

While playing, you’ll become familiar with the scrolling surface moving toward you, much like a treadmill, only this treadmill is filled with rock. Notes will find their way from top to bottom and you’ll have to hit the corresponding colors with the buttons on your fret board while strumming rhythmically. This is where the game shines! Miss a note, and you’ll botch a face melting riff with the sounds of amp feedback and string buzz, but nail the notes and the song will play normally making the crowd beg for encores, and plea for backstage passes.

The soundtrack is primarily covers, all of which are done extremely well with the exception of a couple vocalists. You’ll find Metal songs to worship Satan to, Classic Rock to comb your mullet to, and "Yes We Can" to slit your wrists to. All in all, the selection is fantastic, upwards of over 70 songs including songs which can be downloaded from XBOX Live marketplace. Although the selection is fantastic, we all have that one song we wish was featured. I guess my dreams of "Achy Breaky Heart" will live on until "Guitar Hero 7: Redneck Favorites"…

"Skulls and hearts on a fretboard=Bad ass"

The modes of play are all based around the same premise, normally something that would become old after while, but Guitar Hero has the charisma to rise above anything ordinary. Career Mode has you playing for money which in turn is used to buy more guitars, sassier outfits, and other fun things. The harder the difficulty, the more money you’ll make, and the more obscenities you’ll undoubtedly scream. Easy mode has you using just three of the five buttons with a low note consistency, whereas Expert will have you shredding with all five buttons using truly advanced techniques. Clearly one of the most challenging, yet rewarding games you’ll ever play.

Guitar hero also features cooperative play, though some would wish was extended to their Xbox Live counterparts, you nd a friend can still play on the same console. Cooperative play has the songs stripped into two unique sections with lead, rhythm, or bass guitar parts so you’ll both get an independent track. There is also a Face Off mode where you’ll both play the same part seeing who can score the highest. Nothing is more satisfying than getting together with friends and playing your little hearts out. Everyone has their own style while playing. Some stare with intense concentration, others have a look of pure confusion, some dance around while playing, and some grin ear to ear. Me? I like to play in my underwear drinking a warm glass of V8.

Overall, guitar hero is (bold statement) the best rhythm game I’ve ever played, overshadowing Dance Dance Revolution since I can’t seizure on command like a 12 year old. The songs are great, the look has been polished on our 360’s, the guitar feels right, and the gameplay is nothing short of amazing. If you’ve played this game, you know what I’m talking about, if you haven’t you really owe it to yourself to get out from under that rock…and rock!

Audio is the biggest part of this game, and thankfully, it was done exceptionally well. The covers are some of the best covers of that particular song you will ever hear with a big nod to "Message In A Bottle" and a few other remarkable re-makes. If a studio musician can tear into a note for note, Eddie Van Halen solo, that’s saying something. The only reason I’m not scoring the audio at a perfect 100 is because the songs are, after all, mainly covers and some could dispute their authenticity.

Being ported from last generation hardware where the gameplay speaks for itself, the visuals never needed a photo realistic touch. With that said, the look is very stylized, dramatic, and sometimes humorous. There is a noticeable difference in the clarity of the character models and the menus seemed to have cleaned up over the Playstation 2 version. The animation’s are smooth and the art style is very unique. A worthy mention in the animation department is the movements your "hero’s" do while playing. Their hands slide up and down the guitar neck, they strum rhythmically, and their finger placement and techniques seem to be that of a real guitarist.

Whether you want to indulge in a quick medley, or a Marathon-o-Metal, Guitar Hero 2 delivers! The gameplay is incredibly solid and well thought out. While very few games will stand the test of time due to creative constraints, Guitar Hero will always have a longer life-span. As long as you love music and solid gameplay, there’s not much more you can ask for!

From each characters unique personality, to the vast array of guitars and songs, this is one game that improves on it’s predecessor in almost every way. The musicians lifestyle is perfectly depicted where choices of leather and cheetah print is a way of day-to-day life. Practice mode is a very helpful addition and so is the tweaked hammer-on and pull-off’s. The only thing left to be desired is an online play component, which has already been confirmed for the next outing.

Finally a game that nails the true definition of what it means to achieve something. Believe me, if you can beat Jordan on Expert, you not only deserve an achievement, but also some daylight. The achievements are a progressive lot and while some can be attained fairly simple, others will take many hours of dedication to the shred. Finally, a game without finding "x" amount of hidden objects!

Guitar Hero 2 can be an easy game to overlook whether it’s the lack of violence, the smell of hairspray, or the price tag, but just below the surface lies one of the greatest experiences your console can supply. I used to wonder what all the fuss was about until I played the game for the first time, and believe me, the talk is warranted and the fun is genuine. I’ve finally found a reason to wear leather pants and Quiet Riot T-shirts, and you can damn sure bet I won’t be taking them off anytime soon…Well, until the neighbors see…

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