Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Guitar Hero: Metallica – WROCK! …I guess

Because Bill thinks that his supreme powers as chief wank of Gameshark content permits him to torture people mercilessly, I’ve been assigned to review Guitar Hero: Metallica edition.

I am not a fan.

Fortunately for him, I’m a professional, or at least professional-esque. Kinda.

The game actually made a decent first impression. When I reviewed Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, which sucked, I made the argument that if you’re going to do this sort of band-themed music game then you really need to play with the formula and revel in it. (Even if it is Aerosmith.) At first, it looked like GH: Metallica was going to do that. The first two-song entry sequence into the game showed all sorts of custom stage work for the band; pyrotechnics at just the right moment, a roadie bringing out a new axe for Angry Lead Singer Guy (I forget the name and am too lazy to look it up at the moment) between songs, etc. Then the game enters a sequence in which you create your own rocker (I assume in the same vein as GH: World Tour) and create a band that serves as the opening act for Metallica. 

At that point I was thinking, hey, they might be experimenting with the usual GH format here. I was intrigued. Yeah, not so much. From there it’s a steady process of five-songs of non-Metallica stuff with your user-created band and five songs of Metallica stuff with the “real” Metallica rockers. (I think Jeffrey Lebowski said it best when he said, “Bunch of assholes.”) It’s straight out of the Guitar Hero formula, dating back to the first game. Or at least it appears so thus far, I’m about 50-60% through the track list at this point.

As for the actual playing of the music. Dare I say that it’s improved? My impression of Neversoft-developed Guitar Hero games is that they suck at note charting, most importantly when playing at higher levels (Expert). It always feels like they’re just throwing colored dots around to make the song more difficult to play, with only loose consideration given to how the song should actually play. I’ve seen some of that with this Metallica edition, but far more than is usually the case I’m actually forgetting about where those dots are showing up and just playing the song. That’s the feeling I get when playing Rock Band that I’ve always thought made that game far superior. The thing is, I notice this most consistently when playing the Metallica content. When I play the non-Metallica stuff I tend to notice the random-dot feeling more, which makes me wonder if perhaps Metallica got a little more hands-on with the implementation of their stuff. Or it could just all be my imagination and I’m just a whore for Rock Band. These things are, bizarre as it may be to contemplate, possible.

Ultimately, if you like Metallica (a lot), and if you like the standard Guitar Hero formula, then it’s worth the price of admission. If you’re looking for a game that really plays with the GH formula and the concept of focusing on the musical content of (primarily) just one band, then look elsewhere.