You will come to Guitar Hero with preconceptions. It’s inevitable. You’ll wander whether you should fork out the extra cash for a game and a guitar peripheral – something which will probably just get pulled out at parties and the like. Well, stop that madness right now. You need this game. Yeah, maybe I should have saved that line for the last paragraph, but I’m hedging my bets here in case you don’t want to read the rest of my nonsense, because you need to know how good Guitar Hero is. Red Octane obviously has some sort of pact with the devil – they’ve created one of the most satisfying and compelling games ever, and you all need to play it.
At its heart, Guitar Hero is a rhythm action game: follow prompts based on the beat of whichever song is playing, and rack up the points. In truth though, rhythm action barely describes how this game works. It’s utterly transformed by the guitar, a device that at first looks like a child’s toy – with its brightly coloured buttons on the handle and chunky strum bar. You won’t look at it this way for long though. When used with the game, it blows every other rhythm action game you’ve played out of the water. Red Octane’s biggest success here is making you forget that you’re playing a game; when you’re playing Guitar Hero, you literally become a rock star. The amount of work put in to get this feeling is clear to see, as not only does the guitar allow you to play the notes, it provides a couple of other toys to make you feel like even more of a rock god. When playing the game, if you hit certain sets of notes, you’ll build up your star power gauge, a combo multiplier which ingeniously needs to be set off by holding your guitar vertically. Combine this with the whammy bar for distorting extend notes and in no time you’ll be standing on a mountain top, the wind in your hair, rocking out like a fiend. Ahem… maybe that’s just me.
The game offers a selection of 30 cover versions of classic rock songs, and although missing a few big names, provides more than enough fuel for you to rock out with. You’ll never look at ‘More than a Feeling’ in the same way again. Each of these tracks can be tackled on four different difficultly levels, ranging from easy to expert. And expert most certainly is that, requiring a considerable amount of practice to even attempt. It’s worth it though, and in all honesty you’ll put in these hours of practice without even realising it. Guitar Hero is easily as compelling as your more standard games types, like a good first-person shooter or platformer, and fast becomes the sort of game that pops into your head all the time. It’s scary when you find yourself doing the hand motions as certain tracks pop up during a working day. As long as you don’t start singing the lyrics you’ll be ok.
The multiplayer is perhaps the only disappointing element. To really enjoy it you’ll need to fork out for an extra guitar, and even then it can easily become very unbalanced if one player is even slightly more experienced than the other. It’s still great fun though, and with a couple of evenly matched opponents becomes as enjoyable to watch as it is to play.
Indeed, it’s hard to find any complaints about the game at all, as it’s such a well put together package. A few more songs would have been nice, but we’ve been promised further games in the series that will deliver this and more. In this way the extra cost of the controller comes with the guarantee that Red Octane plans to support it for years to come. If there was ever a game that needed you to experience it first hand, this is it. Screenshots or word of mouth can never fully convey what Red Octane has done here. Now, stop messing around and go buy it. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. You need this game. Rock on!