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, Smash Hits,” on paper it seems like a good idea; taking forty-five of the best songs from the original games on one disk, and repackaging them to fit in the entire band structure. Ok granted, it also seems like a quick cash-in title to help hold us over until “Guitar Hero 5,” but it has to be a good game, right?
Wrong. I so wanted to like this game, but I sadly could not get into the game at all. And the problem is not due to the strength of the setlist, nor the fact that nothing has really changed since “World Tour”. In fact, it’s arguably the best setlist out there, mainly because of the strength of its songs, taking the best from the first three “Guitar Hero’s,” “Encore: Rock the 80’s,” and even a song from “Aerosmith.” But in the end, it has one; glaring flaw that just destroys the experience of the game, and that flaw is the fact that it’s not fun to play.
A very sad thing too. The game has great songs, including “Bark at the Moon”, “Free Bird”, “Monkey Wrench”, and “Smoke on the Water” make appearances in their full band glory. But one major problem is that most of the songs have been re-tooled from their original Guitar Hero tracks, which is both a good and bad thing. The good is that it updates the songs, but the bad is that it eliminates any muscle memory that you may have from playing the previous games. Another glaring flaw is that a majority of the changes in the fret-board setlists are made too impossible to complete, even on expert.
Take for example, the almost infamous “Through the Fire and Flames” by Dragonforce. In “Guitar Hero III” it was rightfully a bonus song, not necessarily needed to complete the game, but fun to play because of its borderline ridiculous difficulty. In “Smash Hits” it’s part of the setlist that you need to complete the game, making it almost impossible to pass on expert. Another major problem is the retooling of songs that were already a pain to complete, such as “Extreme” and “Raining Blood.”
This makes the game only for the hardcore fans of Guitar Hero, rather than for the general audience that enjoys the game overall. The game essentially becomes work over fun, a major pain in the ass over enjoying yourself and playing the game for what it is. You can accomplish something in the long run, striving to become better at the game, but even achieving rock immortality this time around is too tedious and annoying.
The game is pretty much the same in all other facets, multi-player is unchanged, custom characters and instrument pieces remain unchanged, the online GHtunes tools remain unchanged. The graphics and even sound remain unchanged. The game is going the way of Dynasty Warriors and Smackdown vs Raw, unchanged gameplay mechanics leading to nothing but stagnation. And it looks like “Guitar Hero 5” will follow suit on this.
Frankly, it is kind of sad to see how disappointing “Smash Hits” is. The franchise is still a powerhouse, but is so saturated with so many games in one year, with the same gameplay mechanics; it is hard for it to stand out anymore. Coupled with the uncomfortable difficulty and uninspired gameplay, “Guitar Hero Smash Hits” is nothing more than a quick cash-in that’s only redeeming quality is to give nostalgia to the fans of a five year old series. But honestly, picking up the older games would be more fun.
Final Score- D+