For the most part, franchises don't change as they're ported from one system to the other--that sort of dedication by the development team just doesn't usually happen. It's a surprise, then, that Guitar Hero 2 for the Xbox 360 has managed to brake that shoddy franchise mold and do something to better
the series. Graphical updates aside, what makes this version a hit are the small fixes on the older songs (especially "Heart Shaped Box"; although the singer's voice is still appauling). Much care has been taken with the game on the whole. Guitar Hero 2 has finally made it to the Xbox 360 (with downloadable content, more on that later) making it the most complete version of the game yet.
I love Guitar Hero. Something about it reinvigorates video games for me. Lately, with all the military games, shooters, action, and violence et al
, I've been lacking the reason to get back into games. I'm not sure what it is about Guitar Hero that does it for me--maybe it does it for you too. Maybe it's the ability to pretend to be a rock star (or a cheesy cover rock band). Or the ability to play a miniature guitar. Or the tongue-in-cheek humor hidden within the game. Doesn't matter; whatever it is, it works.
The first thing you'll notice about the game is...well...the miniature guitar. This one is not the Gibson SG from PlayStation 2 version, but a sleek white Gibson X-Plorer, c. 1958. (Who says rock and roll is dead? Not I.) Certainly the most stylish guitar controllre yet to grace Guitar Hero, the only drawbacks of this one are the slightly awkward placement of the start/back buttons next to the Xbox 360 "guide" button and a d-pad. The d-pad is a nice extra, but is only really used for navigating the Xbox 360 dashboard. The controller's buttons feel stiffer than the PlayStation 2's SG controller, making it somewhat of a chore to get used to. However, once acclaimated, the buttons are actually more responsive and have more "click" to them. They're also, for some reason, no longer rounded off on one end, which seems to only be aesthetic, anyway.
After many, many hours of playing GH2 on both the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox 360, I have found it is easier to pull off many of the tougher solos on Extreme with the X-Plorer. That said, it is slightly more difficult, thanks to the more "blocky" feel to the buttons, to slide your fingers across them in songs like "Institutionalized." It takes about an hour to get used to it, but after that it's hard to go back.
As for the new, revised set-list? Things are much, much better this time around. Red Octane smoothed out the order of the songs, putting the harder songs later in the order so they flowed better with the natural difficulty of the game. Also, because of the 10 added songs, some of the others have been bumped down into other venues.
Looking for all the new songs? Oh yeah, we got them. There are 10 new songs in total (2 are bonus tracks) and also the option of downloadable content. Iron Maiden's "The Trooper," "Hush" by Deep Purple, "Possum Kingdom" by the Toadies, "Dead!" by My Chemical Romance, "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo" by Rick Derringer, and "Billion Dollar Babies" by Alice Cooper and a few others. Overall, some great additions to the Guitar Hero lineup. As for downloadable content, there are three packs. Each contains three different songs from Guitar Hero 1. The songs have been redubbed and make playable for co-op. These are:Guitar Hero Track Pack 1
(30.87 MB, 500 MSP, about $6.50) - Released April 11, 2007
Guitar Hero Track Pack 2
- "Bark at the Moon" - Ozzy Osbourne
- "Hey You" - The Exies
- "Ace Of Spades" - Mot?rhead
(30.64 MB, 500 MSP, about $6.50) - Released April 11, 2007
Guitar Hero Track Pack 3
- "Killer Queen" - Queen
- "Take It Off" - The Donnas
- "Frankenstein" - The Edgar Winter Group
(32.71 MB, 500 MSP, about $6.50) - Released April 11, 2007
- "Higher Ground" - Red Hot Chili Peppers
- "Infected" - Bad Religion
- "Stellar" - Incubus
The price of the tracks is somewhat an issue on blogs and forums right now, but I don't have a problem with the price so much as I do with the selection. Love "Bark at the Moon" "Ace of Spades" "Killer Queen" "Frankenstein" "Higher Ground" and "Infected" but could leave the rest. They have been, obviously, packaged so that when you buy two good songs, you get one less than "stellar" one (yes, I'm looking at you Incubus). Still, the downloadable content is very welcome and gives this version of the game legs. They might not be long and sexy legs due to the price, but at least the game can move around some. That may sound tit for tat, but I'm all for cheaper songs and more selection. Why not let the people decide what songs they want?
So there are the graphical upgrades too. I've heard lots of people noticing the game tell me, "Hey, you can actually see
your dude's fingers wailing at the strings in this version!"--dude, meaning your on stage persona. The graphics were tightened up, sharpened, and now in HD. And the animations actually look better and more lively, and all of the textures are very sharp--it's like all the while I had been playing the PlayStation 2 version and forgot to wear my glasses. There are even a few changes to the new costumes that veterans of the PS2 versions will immediately notice--such as Axl Steel's fu-manchu when wearing his "other shirt."
You'll also notice a few other things in the game, like the drummer going missing after the first encore. Nice touch.
Granted the graphics in Guitar Hero 2 aren't phenomenal. They're actually pretty bland 3D models. However, the game itself is so chocked full of visual stimuli and goofy cartoon rock effigies that you'll be hard-pressed to hold that against it. It definitely has the style thing down pat.
The Xbox 360 version also gets its achievements points. And here we have an inspired use of the achievement system in that there are enough to keep you busy, but also to keep you gaining them as you play. Two or three achievements, like failing a song on easy, are good for a laugh. Some, like hitting 400 notes in a row, are pretty darned hard. Others, like getting 1000 note streak in cooperative mode, are just straight-up mean. You'll be working at them all for quite a while and they'll give you more than enough reason to go back and get 5 stars on every song in Expert mode or in cooperative mode.
One of the biggest dissapointments of Guitar Hero 2 for the Xbox 360 is that it lacks any online component (other than Leaderboards). That means that if you want to play some coop, you're going to have to find a friend with a X-Plorer Xbox 360 guitar and get them to come over and play. Too bad, so you'll have to save your gamertag on a memory card and bring that to your friend's house.
Guitar Hero 2 for the Xbox 360 is a very successful and hugely enjoyable game. It's the general energy
and humor in the whole experience that makes it so enjoyable for me. It reminds me, and we can all stand to be reminded now and again, that not all games are meant to be taken seriously all the time.