The Guitar Hero series has generally steered well of cash-in efforts, even if their Rock the 80s game was too lean for the £30 asking price. However, the Greatest Hits game doesn't offer a lot for hardcore Guitar Hero fans and is for the most part offering a service that Harmonix should allow players anyway: the ability to import songs from the previous Guitar Hero games onto their current-gen console.
The game has 48 songs pulled from the various Guitar Hero games up to his point, meaning you can now play various songs from the previous generation of games on your current-generation console such as your PS3 or Xbox 360. However, if you're a loyal Guitar Hero fan that has bought every game in the series so far, there's the distinct feeling that we should be able to add all of the previous games to our new console for free anyway, given that ardent fans will have spent hundreds of pounds on the series already.
The track list itself is rather good, particularly if you're fairly new to the series, and it cherrypicks a lot of the best songs from not only the major canonical installments into the series, but also the special games like Aerosmith and Rock the 80s. There's an eclectic song list that ranges from Southern rock like Lynyrd Skynyrd to Heavy Metal like Iron Maiden. So, if you're late to the game this will offer a lot more than if you're a hardcore fan.
On the other hand, the game does feature the same gameplay improvements of the newer games like World Tour, meaning you can play the older Guitar Hero songs (which were designed for just the use of the guitar) now with all the instruments. Still, if you've plunged so much mone into the series already, this feels like something that should be complimentary downloadable content than a whole new game costing £30.
Guitar Hero: Greatest Hits
I bet artists like Rush, Iron Maiden or Anthrax never thought their music would be used in a video game ever, let alone featured in a game where you use plastic guitars, drums and microphones to play along with their music. But since Guitar Hero debuted in 2006, the trend has become ever so popular with a huge amount of songs to download on Rock Band and Guitar Hero: World Tour, competitions and dozens of people posting their videos of getting 100% on songs. Cashing in on the extreme popularity, Activision has released Guitar Hero: Greatest Hits. Containing 48 songs from previous Guitar Hero games which didn't support more than Guitar and Bass, does the gimmick of being able to play drums and vocals on old songs entice?
The obvious gimmick about Greatest Hits (or Smash Hits in other countries) is that you can now play as a full four player band on songs which only previously allowed you to play guitar and bass in co-op. Unfortunately there's not much else the game adds to the franchise. Most of the features, like online band versus band matches, create-a-rocker, GHtunes and the career mode have pretty much been unchanged from World Tour or GH: Metallica. The create-a-rocker mode still works though it's weird why you can't import characters from previous games. However, online modes aren't great because there rarely are enough people to start a full band. The only mode people seem to play is the competitive Face-off and Battle modes. And no one plays Band v Band mode either. The music studio is still rather complicated to get any enjoyment out of it.
Thankfully, Greatest Hits gimmick, its setlist, is a good one as the setlist here is strong. Songs are taken from Guitar Hero 1, 2 and 3 as well as Guitar Hero Aerosmith and Rock the 80s, all of which didn't allow drums and vocals. There are some choice tunes from the first Guitar Hero game like Blue Oyster Cult's Godzilla, Pantera's Cowboys from Hell and Queens of the Stone Age's No One Knows. And songs from Guitar Hero 2 like Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird, Alice in Chains' Them Bones and Rush's YYZ keep the excitement going. Unfortunately, the choices from GHIII are rather disappointing. Instead of opting for more challenging songs like Disturbed's Stricken or Eric Clapton's Cliffs of Dover, the developers instead choose Heart's Barracuda, Pat Betnar's Hit Me With Your Best Shot and Kiss' Rock and Roll All Nite. Kudos for choosing Cult of Personality and Raining Blood though. And the Rock the 80's music, like Judas Priest and Anthrax, are some of the best songs featured in the game.
There are some highs and lows of borrowing songs from previous games though. The cool points is that some songs like Anthrax and Pantera are more unique to music games, with no downloadable content for them on other games like Rock Band. These songs tend to be more fun because they're something new for you to try. But some songs like Rush's YYZ and Lamb of God's Laid to Rest can already be downloaded on Rock Band, meaning you may have only played them recently or, better yet, would rather buy them cheaper on Rock Band. Though thankfully the ratio to unique:old is around about 75:25. The good thing about the setlist as well is that aside from two songs being Live, the entire setlist is comprised of master tracks meaning there are no more bad covers from the previous games. There are a couple of rough sound mixes on songs, but for the most part the sound quality is pretty much impeccable.
While Greatest Hits is mostly similar to its predecessors, there are some good and some odd changes which it borrows from World Tour and Metallica. You still get the meter telling you how many stars you've earned from the song and the blood red line around the screen to show that you are failing a song. Plus now some of the harder solos from previous games can be played using the solo bar added on the World Tour guitar, for example, the intro Through the Fire and Flames. This does make the game easier than World Tour or Metallica, but a couple of songs like Play with Me and Caught in a Mosh are still quite challenging. One thing which has been changed, and not for the better, is the note charting which has either cut out notes, added more or used the slide bar instead which will confuse Guitar Hero veterans mostly.
The career mode is quite disappointing here though. It's same as before, you play through the songs until you unlock more songs and eventually complete the career. The cool thing about Guitar Hero Metallica is that you could complete the game while completing about 25% of the songs, meaning you could of skipped hard songs or ones you didn't particularly enjoy, yet there was reason to play through other songs for unlockables like *spoiler* zombie band members *spoiler*. Guitar Hero Greatest Hits follows that system, letting you unlock songs quickly. But as you're close to finishing the career, you are suddenly halted by a message saying ''complete all songs to unlock the artifact''. It felt like someone had dangled a roll of £1000 dollars cash, only to find it was monopoly money. Okay, that would feel worse, but you get my drift. You may as well have played through all of the songs anyways rather than skipping them.
The worst aspect of GH: GH is the value for money. What you essentially getting is most recycled features, a new yet old setlist and moderate setlist and some new achievements for £40. It's not the best value for money. The new achievements consist of what we've come to expect from the series-complete every career on every instrument, get a certain score on a certain song and minimal tasks like creating a rocker, custom instrument or tattoo. It's very routine list now, though the GH5 list revealed earlier last month is promising. The sad thing about GH: GH is that for a full price purchase, which is how much I paid for it :P, it's poor value for money yet maybe if it was £30 or £25, it may have been a much better purchase in terms of value for money.
Graphically, Greatest Hits is actually fairly good. The characters look pretty much identical to World Tour and Metallica, but the new arenas and animations steal the show. There are several brand new arenas created for Greatest Hits including a jungle themed arena, a Sphinx, a London Sewer system and more flashy and impressive arenas. The arenas particularly come to life on their encores with huge special effects like a giant snake slithering its way out. There are also some nice touches, for example, on the song Psychobilly Freakout, everyone has a funny twitch to them and the singer, at one point, spins around on the floor in pure crazyness. The frame rate also runs smoothly thankfully, keeping the game at a smooth pace.
Is Guitar Hero Greatest Hits good, bad or ugly?
Greatest Hits is going to split people straight down the middle. If you've been with the Guitar Hero franchise since the begining, it's going to be a nice nostalgia trip for you but you'll probably be better of with a rent, especially if you're a Rock Band fan where you can download some of these songs off its marketplace. Yet if you're new to the series and want to see some of the songs from the previous game, then this might not be such an average purchase. It really depends whether you want to pay £40 for some excellent tunes, but mostly recycled content and some misteps in terms of gameplay. It's a bit like paying for a nostalgia trip-it can bring back great memories when you're riding it, but once you're off it, you'll be wondering why you paid £40 for it.
Guitar Hero: Greatest Hits was released on June 26th for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation 2 (bit pointless isn't it?) and Wii. It is rated 12+ for language and sexual references and can be bought for around £40.
In Guitar Hero: Greatest Hits players get the best of previous Guitar Hero games, now in a full band gameplay scenario. Turn down the lights, crank up the amps and prepare to command center stage as you rock out to the most fun tracks from Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80s and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. And for the first time you can join together as a band and jam to master tracks from the greatest Guitar Hero music on your controllers for guitar, drums and vocals.