- Buy the Game
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
etallica is the last band I ever imagined would make the jump to video games. But after their well-publicized court battle with a certain music sharing program in 2000 (who doesn’t remember those hilarious “Napster Bad” videos?), the heavy metal rockers have since transformed into one of the music industry’s most active supporters of the digital age. They were the first band to offer downloadable content day and date with the release of their new album, Death Magnetic, and only the second to receive an exclusive game of their own. Unlike Aerosmith, Metallica actually deserves the “Guitar Hero” treatment, and while there’s no way Activision could have known the band would be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame a mere week after the game’s release, it certainly makes the event that much more memorable.
Reviewing a “Guitar Hero” game this far into the life of the franchise has become more of a chore than anything else. With the exception of new set lists and minor tweaks, the core of the game has remained the same. In the case of “Guitar Hero: Metallica,” the guys at Neversoft have taken the “World Tour” band play model to the next level by attempting to compress 28 years of music from the kings of angry rock into the ultimate Metallica experience. Fans and non-fans alike would have a hard time disagreeing that that’s exactly what’s been accomplished here, because even though the game won’t appeal to nearly as large of an audience, “Guitar Hero: Metallica” is still lots of fun.
Trumpeting the ability to play as the men of Metallica themselves – singer James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo – you’ll actually spend half of the time playing as the band’s opening act. After all, with only 28 Metallica tunes available, Activision desperately needed to bolster the set list. Why they didn’t just include more Metallica tracks is beyond me, but it probably has something to do with the opportunity to release more DLC in the future. As such, you get a pretty decent mix of guest acts ranging from the expected (Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page”) to the unexpected (Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town”) – some of which were covered by Metallica on their Garage Days, Inc. record. It would have made more sense just to include the band’s own versions (the game is called "Guitar Hero: Metallica"), but maybe there were licensing issues that prevented that from happening.
In terms of actual gameplay, everything has remained relatively unchanged. The only major difference is that instead of the much-criticized gig structure from “World Tour,” you now unlock songs by the number of stars you earn from each performance. It doesn’t take long to unlock the entire set list, however, with less than half the songs needed to be completed before you finish the game. Of course, you can also go back and play the ones you didn’t complete, play them all over again on a different instrument (or difficulty), or jump online and rock out with a friend. If that still isn’t enough, Neversoft has also introduced a new difficulty setting for drummers called Expert + that can be used in conjunction with a double bass pedal, as well as a new game mode (Drum Over) that allows you to turn off the notes and play whatever you want over each song.
Combined with an improved visual presentation that includes more realistic animations and a cleaner interface, “Guitar Hero: Metallica” is Neversoft’s best installment yet. While it’s true that the game won’t appeal to many “Guitar Hero” groupies, Metallica fans couldn’t ask for more. The set list reads like a double-disc Best Of album, and the addition of cool extras like concert footage, lyrics and Pop-Up Video-esque Metallifacts makes the $60 price tag a little easier to swallow. It’s still overpriced for the number of tracks on the disc (especially when only half of them are by the title band), but Metallica fans would probably pay even more, and at the end of the day, that’s all that counts.