|Guitar Hero (2005)
Publisher: Red Octane
Available for: PlayStation 2
Now that we know how to play the drums (“Donkey Konga”), dance like a pro (“Dance Dance Revolution”), and sing like a diva (“Karaoke Revolution Party”), it’s finally time to master the art of playing the guitar. And let’s face it, who hasn’t dreamt of being a rock star at some point in their lives? Whether it was playing the air guitar or strumming away on your janitorial utensil of choice, Radiohead had it right when they said “Anyone Can Play Guitar.” Well, sort of. Guitar in hand and tongue flailing, rhythm game developer Red Octane has answered the call with “Guitar Hero,” a musical rhythm game that will have you playing like a pro in no time – on a plastic toy guitar, of course.
“Guitar Hero” in no way gives you the magic powers needed to read music or play guitar, but it brilliantly emulates the feeling of playing the part of rock god for the day. The game can also be played two different ways - using the conventional PS2 controller or the Red Octane SG controller – but unless you want to have zero fun, there’s no other way to play this game than with the guitar controller that is included in the available bundle package. The guitar controller is just that, a guitar miniaturized to about half the size (28”) of a normal Gibson. On the guitar are a few things: a strum bar, five fret buttons, and a whammy bar. The five fret buttons are all color coordinated to match the symbols during gameplay, and the strum bar can be moved up or down as if you were strumming the strings on a real guitar. During each song, a series of colored discs scroll down the screen to signify notes that you will be playing on the guitar. When you want to play the notes, you hold down the particular fret button and strum. Voila! You can play guitar!
Now, there’s actually a lot more to it than that. In fact, of the four difficulty levels available (Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert), most players will have a pretty tough time just getting through the songs on Easy; after several hours of play, Medium will finally become doable. The higher the difficulty, the more notes you’ll be given, so those who already have experience playing the guitar will probably have less trouble with the Hard and Expert skill levels. Also located on the guitar is a whammy bar, for adding a little soul to the song, and a tilt sensor that rewards you with more points when it recognizes your guitar in the upright position. And while all of this is loads to fun to talk about, “Guitar Hero” wouldn’t be anything without its amazing soundtrack.
Featuring thirty tracks made up mostly of classic rock songs and a few modern tunes, the variety in music is nearly flawless and includes the following: “Cochise” by Audioslave, “Fat Lip” by Sum 41, “Higher Ground” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones, “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath, “Killer Queen” by Queen, “More Than a Feeling” by Boston, “Sharped Dressed Man” by ZZ Top, “Take It Off” by the Donnas, and “Ziggy Stardust” by David Bowie. As you play through the game’s Career Mode, all thirty songs can be unlocked, as well as seventeen additional tracks. Once unlocked, those songs can then also be played in the Quick Play and Multiplayer modes. What’s even more amazing is that each of the thirty songs was actually recorded by a cover band, but you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
“Guitar Hero” is just one of those games that after you pick it up for the first time, all you can think about the rest of the day is when you’ll get the chance to try it again. After playing through a few of the songs several times, the gameplay still remained fresh, mostly because, like a musical instrument, the more you play a certain tune, the better you get; and the feeling of playing along to some of the coolest guitar solos note for note is indescribable. “Guitar Hero” is not only the best PlayStation 2 game of the year, but is worth going to buy a PS2 console exclusively to play this title. I truly hope that both Microsoft and Nintendo jump on the train sometime in the near future, but even if they don’t, at least Sony devotees can look forward to sequels with even more great songs to jam to with the volume blasting at eleven.