"All Nightmare Long, Wherever I May Roam, The Memory Remains," Mama Said, "Nothing Else Matters."
"It’s Guitar Hero. It’s got Metallica. The end.”
[image1]That’s what I wish I could write, but since this is a “professional” review, I’ll go into college essay mode and expand on that for the next 1000 words or so. (Don’t even try me, I know all of you have done it before.)
Metallica is a band that completely slipped past my radar during my adolescence. Now that could be because I was the stereotypical secluded nerdy Asian (I was a cool in my own world, mind you) that listened to video game soundtracks rather than whatever happened to be popular on Desperate Gullible Prepubescent Excuses For Music FM. But I would like to believe that it was because Metallica, as I have learned over the years (and immediately from the brain waves across the room emanating out of Blake, who wishes he could have a
friendly lengthy chat with Lars), hit their so-not-cool phase before I started to fathom the word “outside”. And that was before they triggered my anti-establishment teenage rage by helping destroy Napster. Just who are these douches again?
But despite my misgivings about a homage to a band who has their genre of music in its name (and nearly all of my peers rolling their eyes whenever the game is mentioned), Guitar Hero: Metallica is exactly what you expect it to be: a solid, offhand reworking of Guitar Hero World Tour with a bunch of Metallica songs. Guitars are strummed, vocals are sung, drums are hit, four star-power boosts still oddly fill in six bulbs (try figuring that one out?), loading screens have skulls and mohawks, the options have a cheat section, un-pausing during play has a 5-second resume, costumes and bonus footage of the band can be unlocked with cash, and your rank improves as your cash earnings improves. Well, what else do you want? It’s Guitar Hero.
How Metallica fits into the Guitar Hero mold is in effect the same way as another band: Aerosmith. Beyond being able to select Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, and Robert Trujillo as in-game avatars, you can play through 28 tracks from a number of albums in Metallica’s discography, coupled with 21 songs apparently chosen from Metallica’s “personal favorites and influences from over the years”. All of the tracks are masters (that is, the track has each part for guitar, bass, vocals, and drums individually separated from each other), which is the new standard nowadays in rhythm games.
[image2]Also expect to run through the tracklist in the order of easy (some would say, generic and un-interesting) to difficult (some would say, Metallica’s “good” days), with the band’s “Fight Fire With Fire” and Slayer’s “War Ensemble” as its most furiously demanding songs. (Their expert drum sections are insanity on a stick, pun much intended.) While all of the songs from the 10-song “Death Magnetic” downloadable pack are on the setlist (the PS2 and Wii versions will get “Broken Beat & Scarred”, “Cyanide”, and “My Apocalpyse” from the Death Magnetic pack for free), none of the other songs in Guitar Hero World Tour can be imported in. Worse, none of the core songs in Guitar Hero: Metallica can be used in Guitar Hero World Tour, a lack of portability that could easily be amended by having an import feature in either game.
Addressing some of the minor problems with Guitar Hero World Tour, this Metallica version makes several tweaks to the HUD interface and even includes an additional peripheral for the drums. Similar to Rock Band’s star rating gauge, a new indicator of how many stars your current point total is worth has been added to the upper right side of the screen. Your health gauge and star power gauge have been placed from the upper left-hand corner, which tears you away from the screen during multi-part play, to the side of your track for easier monitoring. Additionally, a few new sound samples from Hetfields’ ESP Truckster guitar, Slayer’s Tom Araya’s ESP Bass, and Metallica’s drums have been added in the music creation mode.
The new addition to the drums is a second bass pedal that can be attached with a splitter and is integrated into the new difficulty Expert+. This will likely be a savior for expert drum players whose feet just can’t keep up with some of passages that love to bombard you with
damn, nauseating yellow lines. A special freestyle drum fill section has also been added to some songs where drummers can create any rhythms they wish. Taking this further, players can turn on “Drum Over” mode and play the drums for any song in complete freestyle. (Perhaps similar modes for guitar, bass, and vocals should also be put into the idea hat… *nudge, nudge*)
[image3]One change that is more controversial is the change away from a strict tier progression. Instead of having to beat the songs within a certain set, all you need to do is earn a rather small number of stars to reach the next tier. While this means that you don’t have to slug through the out-of-place, ill-designed boss battles, it also makes “beating” the game less of an accomplishment. Completionists will likely cheer that they don’t have to slug through each tier by the skin of their teeth, but perfectionists won’t be that thrilled, though the average difficulty of the songs is a smudge harder than before.
Perhaps in the limelight of Rock Band: Beatles, Guitar Hero: Metallica shouldn’t be left to the sidelines. If you hate how Metallica has “sold out”, then everyone already knows what you’ll do. But if you could care less about
how others will point and laugh where others will kidnap and dump you off what others will think about having this in your game library, then it’s hard to envision a better game rock anthology for Metallica.