Review: Guitar Hero
First some background. The developer of Guitar Hero, Harmonix, had previously created Amplitude and before that Frequency. All three of these games are music based games where you have to strum or button your way through a song. Frequency was the first, and in my opinion (and that of my friends) better than the sequel Amplitude. While Amplitude had a much better shared multiplayer view, the songs weren’t as good and the sense of actually playing the music was much decreased in Amplitude. So when the guys come over to play games at my place, we usually plop in Frequency and not Amplitude.
Guitar Hero carries on the tradition, and I think is an improvement over Amplitude. It actually includes a guitar controller, which is a half-size plastic guitar with five coloured buttons on the neck. You “strum” a two inch long lever, and the guitar even includes a bendy bar. But you don’t have to use this peripheral if you don’t want to. Using the controller feels very much like Frequency or Amplitude, except that you sometimes have to hold down the notes over time, which wasn’t a feature in the previous games.
But the guitar peripheral makes it so much more fun, you’ll want to use it. The joystick ability really only comes in handy when you play in two-player mode against a friend and can’t afford to buy a second guitar.
But how do you actually play a song? Easy to learn, difficult to master. The coloured buttons on the neck correspond to coloured dots on the moving score of the song. The score actually approaches you, and as coloured dots approach and cross a line right in front of you, you have to have the correct coloured button held down as you strum the guitar. Then the note will change to a different one, so you have to change your fingering before your next strum. It is easier than it sounds. Check the IGN website for Guitar Hero videos.
How is it? Fun fun FUN! This is one great game with great songs, and great multiplayer action. I’ve only played it multiplayer with a controller, but getting a second guitar in there would be even more of a blast. I had my friends over to play this game and they all raved about it. If you like listening to music and have a PS2, then you owe it to yourself to at least try this game.
Problems? Yes, a few. My biggest complaint (though not that big in absolute terms – this is a great game) is that the mapping of music tracks to game tracks isn’t as fun as many of the tracks in Frequency and Amplitude were. In those game you’d really get into a groove and really enjoy how the tracks were arranged by the developers. Guitar Hero doesn’t have quite the same creativity when it came to laying down the tracks. As well, the game ramps up in difficulty way too fast. The hardest setting is clearly impossible for everyone without a genetically enhanced metabolism. (This was also a problem with Frequency and Amplitude.)
But don’t let those things distract you from what is otherwise a very fun game. And if you don’t want to splurge on the full price right away, you might want to try Frequency. It’s an older game, so it’s now in the bargain bins. It’s a true gem, and you can try out this style of gameplay for less than $10.