Guitar Hero

June 11, 2006

Have you ever rocked out on an air guitar? Have you ever wished you could rock out on a real guitar, but found that pesky lack of talent getting in the way? Well, now you can rock out on a miniature Gibson SG plastic guitar, courtesy of Red Octane. This game proves that rhythm can still be fun, and it just may be the best of its genre, ever.

If you’ve ever played a rhythm game before, you’ll know what to expect here: a board, covered in 5 different coloured blobs, scrolls towards the screen. As they hit the bottom of the screen, you hit the corresponding key on your controller. What separates [i]Guitar Hero[/i] from the rest of the crowd is that you’re given an actual guitar to do this with, as opposed to the standard PS2 controller. Though the Dual Shock does function with the game, it’s barely worth a glance; the guitar controller is where it’s at. The specialist controller is also the cause of the game’s elevated price tag (Up to $15 more than most games).

The controller has 5 ‘fret’ buttons, a strum pedal and a Whammy bar. To hit a note successfully, you must hold down a fret button, then strum. Often, notes have a streak of colour following on after them- these are power chords, which are activated by strumming, like any other note, but then leaving the fret button held down. While a power chord is being played out, you can wiggle the whammy bar in and out, to bend the note, earning you more points.

The guitar also has a motion sensor, to detect when you tilt the guitar up. This activates Star Power (which is accumulated by hitting a streak of Star shaped notes, or using the whammy bar on a Star shaped power chord) where you’ll earn more points. At the end of each song, you’ll receive a review, and will receive 3 to 5 stars, depending on how many points you earned.

The meat of the game is in the Career mode, where you progress through the ranks of rock stardom. You start out playing simple songs in someone’s basement, and finish up playing legendary rock anthems at a massive amphitheatre. Completion of songs (and getting 5 star reviews) earns you cash, which can be used to purchase new guitars, characters and songs. Though this arguably ruins the game’s ‘arcade’ style nature, it does add a lot of depth, and makes it easy to keep track of which songs you’ve ‘5-starred’.

There’s the basic Quick Play mode, where you pick a song and a difficulty, and the game arranges the rest for you (Chooses the character, guitar, venue etc.) and you play simply to beat your highest score. This mode is fun, accessible, and very easy to pick up and play.

Possibly the greatest gameplay mode however, is Multiplayer. Here, you get to duel, head to head, as two players can attempt to out rock each other. And, in accordance with this, the sound from each guitar riff plays through the speakers separately on your TV, so that Player 1’s music comes through the left, and Player 2’s through the right. This makes for some very interesting sounds, and only serves to underline how good (or not) each of the players is.

The selection of music available is nothing short of astounding. There’s not a bad song in sight, with contributions from legends like Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, Motorhead, Blue Oyster Cult…the list goes on. There’s also a large selection of unsigned bands, including the remarkable Graveyard BBQ whose song, “Cheat on the Church” appears on the list.

This game is outstanding in everyway, with the only flaws being graphical. With the PS2 this close to the end of it’s era, we should be seeing better stuff than this. That aside, there’s a broad range of characters, venues, songs… everything has been done right. This has knocked [i]Donkey Konga[/i] off the top of the rhythm game pecking order, and is unlikely to be trumped by anything less than [i]Guitar Hero II[/i]. There’s no two ways about it – go buy [i]Guitar Hero[/i].

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.