It seems that in the last eighteen months the world has gone totally bonkers for plastic instrument powered games. With the release of first Rock Band and then Guitar Hero: World Tour the genre that started with rubbish Konami-made arcade machines has evolved to include microphones and drum kits in addition to the faithful plastic guitar, and the popularity of controller-enhanced music games shows no signs of slowing down.
Indeed, the humble art of flailing around your living room with a plastic instrument in your hands has become an increasingly popular cultural phenomenon - Eminem takes a pop in his latest video, while professional sportsmen, sexy supermodels and even Tony Hawk have been roped in to rock out in their pants for Guitar Hero’s most recent ad campaign. More sequels are planned, with DJ Hero promising to introduce yet more plastic peripherals to clutter your living room (I’m looking at you too Tony Hawk: Ride), and it seems we just can’t get enough of looking like idiots while pretending to play our favourite songs.
However, with such an enormous global audience for the franchise, it’s become more and more difficult for Activision to please everyone with the track listings of games. The first three Guitar Hero games walked the line between classic rock and mainstream, but World Tour was very much pitched towards keeping everyone happy, with a varied set list reaching from The Foo Fighters to Michael Jackson to (shudder) Coldplay. While this meant there was at least something for everyone, you’d inevitably end up replaying just a fraction of songs which you actually liked rather the rest of the dross, which you didn’t.
To resolve this problem Activision have brought us Guitar Hero: Metallica, the second of the special single band-focussed editions of Guitar Hero. It follows on from last summer’s Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, which even fans of the band found disappointingly weak. This looks like a stronger package though Boasting a set list including no less than 28 songs plucked from the best of Metallica’s extensive back catalogue, as well as another 21 tracks from acts chosen by Metallica, it looks to be an ideal pairing between the world’s biggest metal band and the fun of plastic instrument waving.
Of course, we can’t help people’s tastes, so if you’re not a Metallica fan then, needless to say, you’re probably going to want to give this one a wide berth. For Metallica fans though, and even those who mightn’t be that familiar with the band but remain open-minded, there’s a lot to be excited about here with a veritable best of collection of tracks available for guitar, bass, drum and microphone wielding players. Standout inclusions are classics such as "Seek and Destroy", "One" and "Master of Puppets", but there’s plenty to keep Metallica fans from any of the band’s three decades happy, with the inclusion of "All Nightmare Long" (arguably the best track from the latest album "Death Magnetic"), which is a particular highlight due to its fast and furious solos.
Sadly the songs from the 20 guest acts fall far short in comparison to Metallica’s best, and while "Tuesday’s Gone" by southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd and Motorhead’s "Ace of Spades" are undeniably great tracks, the rest of the set list isn’t nearly as gripping as the core selection of tunes from the bearded rock-gods.