Since those halcyon days of yesteryear when the first utterances and whisperings of Guitar Hero were rustling through the games industry, the genre that is the music game has come a long way. We've had many advance bids on singing games such as Lips, further development to the seemingly antique concept of dancemat games, but the biggest step in recent years is surely the cohesive implementation of four instruments in one game. The opportunity to chase the coattails of fame and fortune by forming your very own virtual band. While it should be pointed out that Guitar Hero's competitor, Rock Band, pipped the Activision-backed horse to the post in terms of the band concept, both games have added significantly to their respective offerings and the future looks bright for the genre, with both series sure to continue their journey onwards and upwards until even newborn babies will be clutching a plastic guitar or microphone.
Where Rock Band may have been first to realise the possibilities of having a "band in your living room", Guitar Hero was the first to harvest the sweet money-milk from the licensing cash cow by creating band-specific iterations. They began this last year with Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and now, after a long wait, it is time for the Sandman to enter, in Guitar Hero: Metallica.
Dripping with spine tingling riffs and licks, the brilliant Metallica-packed soundtrack puts your brain inside an amp and cranks it up to 11, before putting said amp in a blender and setting it to "Smoothie". With a collection of Metallica songs to dance your fingers to on the colourful dancefloor of those iconic green, red, yellow, blue and orange keys, the game doesn't need to offer any more, but like all good band vans, it goes that extra mile with songs from over 20 guest acts which, as the box boasts, were "picked by Metallica". While it would be fair to say that a good portion of these extra songs are just filler to cement the rock-solid bricks of Metallica hits together, there are undoubtedly some gems to be found in here, including Motörhead's "Ace of Spades", System of a Down's "Toxicity" and Thin Lizzy's "The Boys are Back in Town".
As with all of the recent Guitar Hero games, and there have been a few, the response of the guitar controller has been refined to a point where there is barely any room for improvement. The changes for Guitar Hero: World Tour have carried over to this edition, including utilisation of the slide bar in songs to make, as the game is quick to point out, a "wah" effect. All of the main songs, and some of the filler tunes, have support for the other band peripherals, namely the mic, Drums and Bass guitar. While all vary in difficulty, playing the game on each of these modes feels like it works well, and as bad as I may be with the drums and the mic, this time, alas, I cannot blame it on the game.
Something I was very pleased to note was the vast improvement in graphics and animation over previous Guitar Hero iterations. It seems that since the days of Guitar Hero III, which themselves were not all that long ago, the graphical side of Guitar Hero has been pampered and pedicured to gleaming perfection. With James Hetfield and the gang perfectly modelled and skin including pores and wrinkles, if you were suitably drunk, you'd probably think you were actually there. So if you're looking for a cheap gig, well, just sink some dollar on some beers and kick back with one of the most successful heavy metal bands of all time.
The story progresses with a support band hot on the heavy metal heels of Metallica, and in usual Guitar Hero style, the cutscenes are cartoon animations with speech reduced to grunting more reminiscent of baboons than of humans. I guess that's the price you pay for a lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll, though, 'eh?
Guitar Hero games are always good long-time investments, they have a ridiculous lifespan in that the songs can be played again and again, and for some, the challenge of being able to beat the epic War Ensemble on Expert+ may keep pulling them back for more.
For Metallica fans, this is a must, it manages to be both a greatest hits collection and a brilliant set of songs for Guitar Hero, and for those whose favourite GH song until now has been One, you could find your true calling as a Metallica megafan in the Xbox green casing and unassuming exterior of the great, the brilliant, the magnificent Guitar Hero Metallica.
Many would say no game is perfect, and until I release my game onto the unknowing gaming community at an unknown time in the distant future, I would have to agree. Guitar Hero: Metallica is no exception. My niggles with this game revolve around some of the newer features. For instance, when I want to play Quickplay, I expect it to be a rapid occasion in which I dive into the rhythm for a song or two while my bath is running. In this version, there is the whole extra layer of creating a set-list and while this doesn't take much time or effort, it's the extra process which detracts from the "jump right in" quality of the title. For me, that is an important aspect of Guitar Hero games, and the one that keeps me coming back for more.
The online modes add a further layer of Metallica madness as you take on rock combatants the world over, improving your axe-wielding wiles and quencing your thirst for the blood of ROCK!
All things considered, Guitar Hero is a game that really sets itself ahead of the field when used as an activity during a social gathering; there's nothing funnier than having a group of friends around while you display your spidering fingers on the guitar (or wailing shriek of a voice on the mic). This Metallica outing is definitely a game that I would reccommend you invest your hard earned notes in; it will be something you can always drag out when you have people around and will remain fun long past your death.
Sam has been unable to peel his bloodshot eyes and RSI-ridden wrists from the world of gaming since he was first introduced to it, like all good junkies, by his Grandad. From those early days of MegaDrive sweetness, bashing through the throngs of enemies on Shining Force II, his love of all things games has extended upwards and outwards onto a variety of platforms. You can either believe that spiel, or get the real scoop and know that his spaceship actually crashed here some years ago and he is currently incognito as a games writer for Console Monster.