Two things you need to know before we go any further. One; we’re looking at the Xbox 360 version of the game. Two; I don’t play the guitar very well. I can manage the intro to Smoke On The Water and I can struggle through Monkey Island theme tune on a banjo, but that’s it. Even that much is owed only to my hillbilly origins in the depths of rural Derbyshire.
So, being a bit of a guitar newcomer and only having tried Guitar Hero before a handful of times (and having been trounced on every occasion), I was a bit anxious about reviewing the game. After all, there are folks here who can nearly manage a perfect score and who play regularly in Heavy Metal bands.
Call me shallow, but I just didn’t want to look like the office newbie if I could at all help it. Unfortunately, that’s not something that I could really prevent because the hype for the game is so big that as soon as the guitars arrived in the office everyone crowded into the meeting room with me – baited breaths steaming against the plate glass.
I booted up the Xbox 360, plopped the disc in the tray and set about strapping the guitar over my shoulders. I took a breath and got ready to make a tit of myself because, when you get down to it, that’s what this game is all about.
If you’re not familiar with how Guitar Hero works then allow me to explain it to you whilst you gracefully dispose of the rock you’ve been hiding under for the last few years.
The gameplay and premise is simple. The story? Mostly non-existent. Players simply turn the game on and use the custom-made guitar peripherals to strum their way through a selection of riff-ariffic tracks. Each song is a separate, self-contained level which sets players the challenge of simply keeping up with the song.
To actually play the songs is something which is pretty easy to get to grips with, but tough to master unless you have fingers like Michael Flatley's legs. A fretboard appears and coloured dots fly out of the horizon and towards the players, with each colour tied to a button on the guitar-controller's neck. When the dots reach the bottom of the screen players have to press it on the controller and strum at the same time.
It sounds complex, but in reality it’s very simple and, since the notes flying towards the player correspond to the beat and pace of the music the illusion formed is quite strong – it actually feels like you’re playing the guitar. The on-screen background is filled with footage of your virtual band too so that if you’re especially unimaginative then you can fool yourself into thinking that you are actually a rock star.
The difficulty of the game is thankfully pretty scalable and ranges from Easy, which is challenging but possible for people like me, through the more mainstream Medium and Hard up to the finger-burning Expert mode which even our resident thrash-metaller has trouble with.
Enough with all this introduction nonsense though – the actual reality is that the game is incredibly well known and even those who haven’t played it will at least know how it works or have seen someone play it. So, let’s shove all this chaff aside and get down to the important stuff: embarrassing photos of us all and our take on the selection of songs available.