tiistai 8. marraskuuta 2011

REVIEW - Guitar Hero: Metallica (2009)

GENRE(S): Rhythm
RELEASED: March 2009
DEVELOPER(S): Neversoft Entertainment, Budcat Creations
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

Metallica was formed by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich in late 1981. The band was one of the most popular metal bands of the 80's, having almost won a Grammy Award for the best rock/metal performance in 1989 with ...And Justice for All. In 1992, they did win a Grammy for the best rock/metal performance with their namesake record that saw their first of many radical changes in style. Despite suffering harsh criticism for their music as well as the members' personal endeavors and reputation within the metal community, Metallica are still the most known and popular band on the planet, as they are selling out concerts in under three minutes and their albums are often considered standards and guidelines which every metal band must live by. By 2009, Metallica had done it all - all that was missing was a video game. Then came Guitar Hero: Metallica, and it ruled - for a while.

The memory remains

When I was 13 years old, Metallica were my favourite band in the whole wide world. I had about a dozen Metallica t-shirts (I hardly wore anything else), loads of video tapes of their performances, as well as official documentaries, all their albums, and my room was plastered with magazine cutouts and posters of Metallica. I drove my classmates nuts with my Metallica ramble, as I did not one, but two papers on Metallica which I had to read out loud in front of the class. "The Unforgiven" and "Nothing Else Matters" were among the first songs I learned to play with the guitar, and most of our band's rehearsal repertoire was made up of Metallica songs, as we were all huge fans. At some point, I simply lost interest in Metallica and started to listen to less known bands that I simply thought were better and more enthralling than the overplayed trendsetters from San Francisco. In a few years, that lack of interest turned into hate; first, the several filler albums released after Reload really pissed me off. The St. Anger album was the last nail in Metallica's coffin; it is still one of the worst "metal" albums I've ever heard. I started to make fun of my former favourite band every chance I got, pissing off many of my friends who, ironically, I had introduced to Metallica in the first place! In 2008, the Death Magnetic album was released and I was very, very surprised by it. I dug up some old Metallica and realized I hadn't listened to the stuff in years, and it was then I TRULY realized how great the band used to be. Thanks to Death Magnetic's influence, the band was one of my favourites once again. Then, I heard of an upcoming Guitar Hero game called Guitar Hero: Metallica. I had to buy it, no matter what the cost.

Nearly every song has a very authentic intro.
With all due respect to Aerosmith, Metallica are in a whole different league than Steven Tyler and his mates as a subject of a Guitar Hero game focused on a single, particular band. Although all of their style changes have not been that great, there are good songs to be found from each era of Metallica, and their diversity almost spans the standard of a tracklist in any other Guitar Hero game. Metallica was the perfect target; they have a wide audience, they had a fresh, huge surge in popularity thanks to the release of their long-anticipated ninth studio album, and giving the band the chance to hand pick over 20 songs from other artists to be used in the game to fill the cup guaranteed the game was going to ROCK like Guitar Hero: World Tour should've ROCKED.

And indeed it does. We've got a whole truckload of Metallica's best songs from each of their albums here, 28 of them, to be precise. Nothing really bad swirled its way into the fray - I would've preferred "St. Anger" over "Frantic", if they had to pick something from the God-awful record, though. A lot of great songs are missing, but I believe there's an explanation for each of their dismissals. For example, I believe they left "Blackened" out since it was made part of the Metallica track pack for Rock Band 2 a while before the game's release, otherwise it would've been a no brainer of a choice. The reasons why songs like "The Four Horsemen" or "Jump in the Fire" were casted out should be obvious to anyone who knows half of Metallica's history. One should really not complain when one of the greatest metal albums ever conceived, Master of Puppets, is included in its near-entirety; even "Orion" is in, and it is definitely one of the most fun songs to play; Cliff Burton's bass track is the stuff of legends. 21 songs from other artists including ones that Metallica has covered over the years, their "friends 'n' relatives", and other great influences are included. If that's not saying much, maybe this will: Slayer. Suicidal Tendencies. Kyuss. Judas Priest. Queen. Lynyrd Skynyrd. System of a Down. The Sword. Diamond Head. Michael Schenker. Motörhead. MERCYFUL FUCKIN' FATE! This game will leave a metal fan's ass sore. It's not a perfect soundtrack, but it's damn near one.

The game is the most graphically appealing rhythm game there is. It's not fancy, but it's definitely fit for the context. The general font is the one Metallica have used in most of their publications since the early 90's. All of the band's movement, including guest stars Lemmy and King Diamond, is mo-capped by the gentlemen themselves, separately for most songs, to create the most authentic atmosphere imaginable. Too bad they're still caricatures, but we can't have it all at once. I'm giving the graphics an 8 for a fantastic effort.

I guess Lars CAN still move. He just hides
the ability pretty damn well.
The audiovisuals are where the _fantastic_ effort starts and stops. The game is exactly like Guitar Hero: World Tour, and most of that's bad. The mechanics haven't been honed at all; the game recognizes and registers every single hardware flaw even worse than the previous game. It's like you're forced to buy a new guitar controller right off the bat, 'cause the riffs are relentless and just one misplaced phantom note from the touch pad might equal loss of rhythm, and just a touch later, defeat. The vocals are just impossible. A few of my friends, including my former bandmates, can vouch for me on this one: I can sing almost every song in this game in perfect pitch, note by note. So why is it that I'm constantly deemed "Sloppy" or "Average"? I have to twist my voice in some very strange ways to nail one "Excellent" phrase in any of Metallica's songs found here, while in Rock Band 2, I got 100% for both "Blackened" and "Ride the Lightning" on Expert. Once more, I'm using the Rock Band mic, and I really hope, for the sake of the game, that it's up to the hardware compatibility, or lack thereof.

The new gameplay standard for the bass guitar introduced in Guitar Hero: World Tour climbs to whole new heights in Guitar Hero: Metallica, especially in Metallica songs recorded between 1983 and 1986, when Cliff Burton was alive and well, and a very important factor in the band's sound. Cliff Burton was one of the earliest examples of a standout bassist, not to take anything away from John Entwistle or Geezer Butler. I can honestly say some songs in the game are more fun to play with the bass than they are with the guitar!

Since most of the stuff here is metal, it should come as no surprise that the drum tracks are extremely difficult. However, as many drummers have noted, the drum tracks in Guitar Hero - in comparison to Rock Band - lack precision and difficulty. So, there's the Expert+ mode, exclusively for drummers, that features a double bass drum. I've not seen an Expert+ song played, but the friend I mentioned in the previous review said that even this mode was a huge disappointment to him, and I believe him, he has good judgement when it comes to musicianship, even of the virtual kind.

Hetfield's still my hero.
It all comes down to how long Guitar Hero: Metallica lasts in use, and that's a tricky question. Let's start with a well-known fact: 39 out of the 49 songs in this game have been made available as imported content in Warriors of Rock, which renders 80% of the game useless. Also, the DLC in Guitar Hero: Metallica is limited to the Death Magnetic album (hence just one song on the main tracklist). However, Warriors of Rock lacks the fan service. Beating certain songs unlocks Metallifacts, extremely fun trivia on those particular songs, scrolling on the screen while the animated band plays the song. There are also some rare video clips, including an EXTREMELY cool video in which King Diamond performs the "Mercyful Fate" medley live, together with Metallica, and interesting "making of" videos. The Career Mode might come to an end fast, especially since you don't need to beat nearly every song in the game to make it to the end, but the game does not lack content assuming you're a Metallica fan. Browsing through all of the content doesn't take too long, either, but if you're a Metallica fan, a true one, you'll probably do it a few times, and you're certainly going to be happy to own this game. The Trophies are not that good; they mostly range from online multiplayer challenges to band challenges which you cannot complete without having all of the instruments, and preferrably capable players for them as well. Personally, I stand at 66(,6?!)%, and I'm probably not going to get further since I have no more interest to play the game, nor is there any sense in it since I have Warriors of Rock.

Guitar Hero: Metallica was a great game when it came out, but its value as a lasting experience is only seen by the most relentless die-hard fans of the band. It's a novelty, a game every metal fan out there should own, just like Brütal Legend, to which the game is actually a quite good counterpart since it didn't have any Metallica in it. The hardware problems, the faulty mechanics and the seasonal nature of the game are just too much to handle nowadays, when there's a game like Warriors of Rock available for those still interested in Guitar Hero.

SOUND : 9.7


GameRankings: 87.00% (PS2), 85.89% (PS3), 84.42% (Wii), 84.94% (X360)

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich originally envisioned this game, as inspired by his and James Hetfield's children, who were big fans of Guitar Hero and learned about many of Lars' favourite bands thanks to the game.

A cover version of "Ace of Spades", recorded by WaveGroup Sound, was included in the first Guitar Hero game.

"One" was included in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. The Guitar Hero: Metallica version is slightly altered, and easier to complete.

The original tracklist was to include Slayer's "Angel of Death" and Mercyful Fate's "Curse of the Pharaohs", but they had to be pulled out in late stages of production due to their lyrical content, and replaced with "War Ensemble" and "Evil" from the same bands.

The band were eager to have songs from UFO and The Misfits in the game, but Neversoft was denied rights to use their songs, so they used songs by Michael Schenker Group and Samhain instead - bands that were founded by former members of UFO and The Misfits.

Motörhead and Mercyful Fate re-recorded the songs "Ace of Spades" and "Evil" because the original master tapes were not found to be used in the game's production.

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