torstai 3. marraskuuta 2011

REVIEW - Guitar Hero Rocks the 80s (2007)

GENRE(S): Rhythm
RELEASED: July 2007
DEVELOPER(S): Harmonix Music Systems
PUBLISHER(S): RedOctane, Activision

The Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II got exclusive songs, much to the dismay of franchise fans, who weren't happy to see the PlayStation 2 exclusive become a multi-platform title to begin with. Well, we PS2 owners got 30 exclusive songs of our own in July 2007, just three months after Guitar Hero II's release on the Xbox - in the form of Guitar Hero Rocks the 80s. The title's a little too promising, the tracklist certainly doesn't match its great potential, and the game is not a step into one direction or the other - half a step back at the most - but it's a fun, traditional Guitar Hero experience nevertheless. It goes back to the time music was music, and guitar riffs were guitar riffs.

The history of hairspray

Guitar Hero Rocks the 80s was my first experience with the phenomenon that was Guitar Hero, and because of that, I have undying respect for the game, even though I acknowledged the measly size of its tracklist and other shortcomings in comparison to the other games of the series from the beginning. It was the only game that came bundled with the guitar controller I could find at the time when I just had to buy one game in the series.

The first thing you've got to understand about the game is that it was never meant to be a full-fledged Guitar Hero game, although it was promoted as one; it's like an expansion pack of sorts for Guitar Hero II, released as kind of like an unofficial apology to PlayStation 2 owners for the exclusive songs in the Xbox 360 version of the game. Therefore, it doesn't show any signs of evolution whatsoever when it comes to gameplay. If you liked the way Guitar Hero II worked, you'll like this game. Although you'd rather not pay the same price for a game that has 30 playable songs as you did for a nearly identical one that had 64 of them.

Rocks the 80s looks different, in terms of style. Nearly everything about it is stylized to remind one of the main theme of the songs, including the company logos in the beginning of the game, which are pixelated to look like they were opening credits for a Commodore 64 game (hey, Rockstar already did this...). In other terms, the game looks just like it did before - ugly. But, once again, if you're here to judge the game based on how it looks or if you even have time to see how it looks, you're playing the wrong game.

Yep, it still looks like Guitar Hero, all right.
I have plenty to say about the tracklist, and I'm not sure where and in what tone I should begin. Indeed, there are only 30 songs, which equals to the main tracklist in the first game - that's way too few songs. Although there's a bit of pop, new wave and early alternative rock here and there, most of it's 80's metal or hard rock, even European stuff, which I'm very grateful for. If a Guitar Hero game's first three setlists have Quiet Riot, Scorpions, Skid Row, Twisted Sister, Dio and even Accept (!) on them, and the game continues by throwing down names like Ratt, Krokus, Anthrax, Judas Priest and - finally! - Iron Maiden, it can't be all bad as far as I'm concerned. Sadly, we also get a lot of hapless crap that should've been left in the decade in which they belong in return, including, but not limited to, The Go-Go's, The Romantics, X, Faster Pussycat, and, my personal "favourite", motherfuckin' Poison. One picky son of a bitch like me should also note that three of the songs aren't from the 80s. Limozeen is a fictional 80's band from a Flash cartoon known as Homestar Runner, and "they contribute" with a quite unmemorable, basic rock tune. As much as I enjoy their presence when it comes to gameplay alone, "Ballroom Blitz" by Krokus and "Radar Love" by White Lion are both covers of songs made in the 70's. Both versions were very popular in the U.S., but still, I don't rightly know why they were squeezed in here to steal valuable space... ah, what the hell am I complaining about? Weeeeell, if there's something to complain about, it's the usual fact that just like 23 other songs on the tracklist, they're covers made by the WaveGroup Sound studio. Covers of covers. Imagine that.

WaveGroup Sound continues to improve, to the point that some of the songs are almost indistinguishable from the real things, especially if you're hitting that strum hard enough to not hear the songs properly. However, the truth can always be found in the voice of the singer. If there's one thing I hate about WGS' covers in particular, it's how the singers, regardless of their nationality and articulating skill, tend to imitate the original singers to the point of pronouncing words similarly. Nothing beats the amusement-to-nausea that ensues when you're forced to hear an American guy trying to sound like Klaus Meine - the Scorpions lead vocalist infamous for his horrible articulation of the English language. It's even worse when the lyrics are changed, like in Accept's "Balls to the Wall". I'm kinda amazed they put the song in here to begin with, considering that most media jerks think the song is about testicles. Well, the original chorus remains untouched, but there's one sentence that sticks out to me like a sore thumb - "let's plug a bomb in everyone's ass" turns into "let's plug a bomb in everyone's case". ...What the hell?! Since I'm a long time Accept fan (15 years and counting), these kind of little things have the risk of setting a certain kind of mood towards the many cover songs, and since I'm a long time Accept fan, I started my Guitar Hero "career" with this song, so... ah, forget about it. We're here to play (with) the guitar.

Like I said, nothing has changed about the game, since technically it's not a sequel. The Store pretty much sells the same stuff - except for new songs to play - the Career Mode advances the exact same way (it's even got the same damn cutscenes!), and the mechanics are the same. Which, of course, means that they're good and comfy. I think that at this point the playability was no longer an issue - the success of Guitar Hero depended on the tracklist, the game as a whole and its longevity. The tracklist is pathetic in size, and the game does not have the tiniest spot in the franchise's actual evolution. Even though I have mentioned several times that the game is not a full-fledged Guitar Hero game, it's sure priced like one! That's a problem.

We got the beat.
As fun as it is to start out with a whole handful of the best of the 80's, somehow make it through the slump that the game falls into in terms of song quality in the middle of the game to at least TRY to wrap the whole thing up with a solid marathon of songs by Dead Kennedys, Anthrax, Winger (yeah, I know), Judas Priest and finally, Extreme, the game is a rip-off, pure and simple. There are so much potential songs from top-quality artists missing from it, that could have easily been squeezed in if the whole promising concept wasn't ultimately developed by a bunch of fools rushing in - who must've intentionally rushed the game to effectively end their contract and focus on their new, extravagant Rock Band franchise.

There are just a few really challenging songs, and even fewer in which the challenge is fun to face. Some early songs like "Because It's Midnite", "Ballroom Blitz" and "Round and Round" have SICK solos that come out of nowhere and not being able to beat them after acing the respective songs to the last note, not even with Star Power, and having to restart the songs over and over again because of them, is somewhat disheartening and before long, makes you hate the songs. Later tracks like Anthrax's "Caught in a Mosh", Judas Priest's "Electric Eye" and Extreme's "Play with Me" provide a whole lot more entertainment since they're difficult throughout. I'm still trying to beat "Play with Me" on Expert... but it's pretty much the only reason for me to keep playing the game.

In retrospect, Guitar Hero Rocks the 80s was not the best place to start investigating what all the noise was about, but it did do an OK job in turning me into a believer back in a time I virtually didn't know anything about the other games, or their variety in songs. The most serious completist will want this game, what we need is a similarly themed game with a doubled amount of songs at the very least.

SOUND : 8.0


a.k.a. Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s (US), Guitar Hero - 1980s Edition (working title)

GameRankings: 69.37%

In late 2007, The Romantics filed a lawsuit against Activision, RedOctane, Harmonix and WaveGroup Sound over their cover version of "What I Like About You", which they claimed to be virtually indistinguishable from their original song and trick consumers into believing the band endorsed the game. The case was dismissed in the court in the summer of 2008, as Activision had acquired the proper rights to use the song in the game, and the band no longer held the copyright for it.

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