Guitar Hero II Review
developer: Harmonix Music
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 07, 06
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Come on. Admit it. You have played air guitar to you favorite songs when you thought no one was looking. Really, it's ok. Everybody is doing it. (Err, no? -Ed) Well, at least they where until Red Octane and Harmonix released the original Guitar Hero a while back. When I first watched someone play the game, I remember thinking how foolish they looked playing with the game adapter. It reminded me of a little electronic guitar I bought from Toy R Us for my 4 year old son. It turns out, after talking to a few Guitar Hero groupies, pretty much everyone thinks the same thing when they watch someone else play until they actually play the game, and then they are converted.
I'm pwn1ng you, baby!!
Watch the pyrotechnics.
Bearing in mind how many people Red Octane converted with the first game, it should come as no surprise that they decided to treat us to a sequel. Now, given the success of the previous title, they could have just released a new song pack. They would have sold a million copies and laughed all way to the bank.
Luckily for the fans though, with GH2, they have done so much more than that by adding more characters, more guitars, and more extras to unlock than before. In addition, the animations for the characters and the stage sets seem more elaborate and detailed this time around. I consider these extras to be nice. They are, however, mostly just fluff.
The real meat of the game revolves around four things: The songs themselves, the implementation of playing the said songs, the new multiplayer modes and the practice mode.
The new songs are definitely a mixed bag for me. To be fair, I am not a fan of Hard Rock. (Boo! -Ed) That being said, I am a fan of 90% of the original Guitar Hero play list. The songs were easy to get into and (on the easier difficulties) easy to play and enjoy.
Enter the GH2 song selection. It's clear the people behind this game are Rock fans. If you are also a fan of Hard Rock, you will most likely love the new selections. With a bigger budget and proven track record they where able to go out and sign "almost" everybody they wanted in the sequel. Not being a fan, I didn't enjoy a lot of the new songs and they all felt a little too "Hard Rock" and not enough "Classic".
I will give credit for the quality of the songs. They sound great and the covers for the different song are very good.
In addition to the song selection, the game has bumped the difficulty up a notch. Across the board, every difficulty mode is a little more challenging than the original Guitar Hero. The easy mode now ramps up much quicker and medium mode is almost on par with hard levels in the original game. On the higher difficulties, you will find quite a few 3-note chords. Have fun with those. (I learned to play Joe Satriani's solos by watching the Muppet Show naked. Or was I just masturbating to Miss Piggy? Can't remember. -Ed)
What will really seal the deal for most fans is the practice mode. I can remember cursing the game (repeatedly) when trying to get through the solo of "Bark at the Moon" on the harder difficulties. I would do fine for the first half of the song and then get killed on the solo. I would then have to wade through the first half again to get to the hard part. Only to crash and burn one more time. It got old real fast. I am positive I am not alone in this.
The practice mode is a god-send in this instance. You can load up any song you have earned (not necessarily beat) and play certain sections of the song over and over till you get it right. On top of that, you can even slow down that section significantly so you can learn the notes easier. It is a fantastic addition to the game and in and of itself is reason enough for getting the sequel. I almost wish I could use the Practice mode on some of the original songs.
My sick guitar riffs will hypnotize you.
Guitar hero delirium!
Let's talk about the multiplayer a bit. As with the original, playing with someone else is twice as fun as playing with yourself (isn't this always the case?). (Nonsense, my right hand never asks me for money or has periods. -Ed) With Guitar Hero 2, they have improved the multiplayer in a few different ways. A nice addition to the GH2 multiplayer is that you can adjust the difficulty for each player. One player can be set to "easy" and the other set to expert. There are also two new modes in addition to the original Guitar Hero mode.
The original mode (Face-Off), where you take turns playing different parts of the song, still exist. In addition, you can unlock Pro Face-Off, where you go head to head with the exact same notes. This will eliminate any complaints about "my side being harder than yours". The final mode is just plain awesome. This is a Cooperative mode. Depending on the song, you will each take on a different instrument. One player will take the lead guitar and the second will play the rhythm or bass guitar (determined by the song being played). Oh, and you share everything: The note streak, the star power, and the rock meter (yes, you can "fail" the song in multiplayer co-op). Trying to raise your guitars at the same moment to activate the star power is just plain silly and totally cool at the same time.
Overall, I believe this game will be a huge hit for most of the players that enjoyed the original. What I am not sure of is whether it will bring very many new fans to the game. Yes the practice mode is awesome, the multiplayer options are greatly improved and the gameplay itself has been fine-tuned. But for most people, it will come down to the songs. I am sure this set of songs will be just what the doctor ordered for the true Rock fans. The casual Guitar Hero fans might not like them as much.
8.9 Very Good
They have made improvements across the board. New multiplayer modes are really good. Practice mode is a great addition to the game;
Some might disagree but the track list wasn't as enjoyable this time around. If you like Hard Rock, bump up the score a few points.
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