Remember back in 2005, when the Playstation 2 was still in its prime? The Gamecube was waning in popularity, and X-box 360 was just announced. During the fall of that year, there was really little that was truly memorable for Sony’s system. Then, a lovely surprise came to our retail stores, that game, was Guitar Hero. The game, packaged with a nifty new controller, became an overnight sensation, something not seen since the likes of Pokemon.
Now, in 2009, Guitar Hero is a multi-million dollar franchise. But, under the reigns of Activision and Neversoft, something has happened to one of the beloved franchises. It began to suck. A harsh criticism, yes, but still a fairly adequate description, as the series on a whole has been on the decline for the past year and a half. This year alone, two games for the major console systems were released, “Guitar Hero: Metallica” and “Smash Hits”. And by the end of the year, two more shall be released, the upcoming “Guitar Hero 5” and “Band Hero”.
Regarding “Guitar Hero: Metallica”, it is easily the better of the two games in question, primarily because of the well implemented setlist. Metallica is essentially one of the biggest music acts in the world, and despite faults or complaints about their musical style since the early 1990’s; it is a treat to have a majority of their greatest hits represented in one game disk.
Along with a slew of major songs like “Master of Puppets,” “Creeping Death,” and “Battery,” we also get handpicked songs by Metallica as a special “guest” act. Some, such as Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Queen, are pretty much staples in the games now a days. But some more random favorites of the band, including Diamond Head, Bob Segar, and Mercyful Fate, are also included, offering some new and songs that are actually fun to play. Also added are “Metallifacts,” a little extra that offers some interesting facts that diehards and newbie fans alike would enjoy.
Despite the good setlist and sweet extras, everything else is pretty much a carbon copy from “Guitar Hero: World Tour.” The way the setlist is structured, the online modes, the custom character assets, even the character designs, are all pretty much lifted from “World Tour.” Of course, some of these items have a Metallica slant, but it’s still annoying to see nothing else changed. Fortunately, the game is actually fun to play, primarily due to the song strength.
The game is graphically still a mixed bag. Like “Rock Band,” the point of the game is not about graphical prowess, but in “Rock Band” it is at least adequate. The character animations are stiff and the graphics have this ridiculous sheen to them that makes everything look like polished plastic. Even Metallica as a whole looks very cheesy, almost as if it’s a cartoon caricature made in 3-D of the band. The venues also have this stiff animation, very cartoony but at least very well made and structured.
Of course, the sound is very good. Unlike “World Tour,” I actually enjoyed the soundtrack. This may be due to my love for Heavy Metal, but the simple fact is that most of the songs were fun to play this time around. In “World Tour” and even in “Smash Hits,” playing the game felt more like work over having fun, something that is honestly my major complaint now in the entire series.
And that is actually the best part of “Guitar Hero: Metallica.” It has that charm that really swept up gamers when the first iteration came out back in 2005. It was fresh, fun, and also a much better iteration than “Aerosmith,” proving that Guitar Hero still has some enjoyable gameplay in its saturated franchise. Yes, there is nothing new added to the series, and frankly, this should have been a pure DLC game, but the fact that the game was fun makes it at least playable in the end.
Final Score B-