Guitar Hero – PS2
Release Date (NA): November 8th, 2005
Genre: Music and Rhythm
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
The Guitar Hero franchise may be over, but for a while it made a huge impact on video games and party culture. It turned non-gamers into addicts, breathed new life into a slew of classic rock songs, got people interested in playing actual guitar, and even generated competitions and experts in YouTube videos gaining brief worldwide acknowledgement. People laugh at the thought now, but the truth is that the game (perhaps not this one, but at least later iterations) is just as fun now as it was 7 years ago.
If for some reason you don’t understand what Guitar Hero is all about, here’s the jist of thing. Players use a guitar-shaped controller (or not, but where’s the fun in that? (unless you’ve mastered the guitar!)) to push buttons coinciding with a scrolling chart on screen. These charts are meant to offer a visual representation of guitar licks and riffs from various songs, most of which consist of classic rock in this volume. The idea is to hit as many notes as possible. Play progresses from easier songs to those filled with maddening guitar solos. One can also choose from easy with 3 buttons, medium with 4, hard that uses all 5, and expert which also requires all 5 buttons but is filled with more notes and more or less requires advanced techniques. The chart also scrolls faster with each increasing difficulty setting.
I won’t go into too much detail explaining all the little techniques available that push this title past simply pushing buttons, but suffice to say there is enough to learn to keep any dedicated gamer busy. The fun lies in being able to feel like one is part of the song, playing on everyone’s air guitar fantasy. Not knowing the song doesn’t get in the way too much, there were several songs that I didn’t even particular like but always had a great time playing Guitar Hero to. In order to have enough money to make this title successful (as well as the issue of needing and obtaining a master track), all of the songs on this first game are sound-alike covers. If one knows the song really well it can be slightly annoying, but for those only vaguely familiar with the tracks the difference is negligable. Although this would generally be frowned upon in later games, this corner-cutting is easily forgivable for Guitar Hero’s first outing.
The only real graphics besides the basic charts are those of the characters playing in the background. It’s unlikely that these images will grab one’s attention while playing, but still the visuals are less than impressive and far below what the PS2 could handle. Characters lack detail and fluidity of movement. The background stages are adequate yet uninspired, often looking like a mediocre cartoon. Generally I don’t meditate too much on the sound quality of games, though in a game based on sound it is extremely important. Everything sounds pretty good coming out of a stereo and not so much when played through TV speakers.
One would expect very precise controls in a game where timing is everything and Guitar Hero doesn’t disappoint. It’s a bit of a subjective issue as to whether or not the game is repetitive. Well, it certainly is repetitive, but deciding if this is good or bad is up to the player. Just like a real guitar, it takes practice to master this plastic peripheral and that means playing songs over and over, working one’s way up the difficulty scale. While it may get tiresome to individuals, it’s a great game to have around for gatherings and friendly competition. The multiplayer isn’t fully developed until later titles and often times it isn’t possible to simply face off against another player.
The original Guitar Hero doesn’t stack up too well to the multitude of sequels, but the music selection is solid and the concept is in place. This certainly isn’t the first (or second, or fifth) title I pick up when I’m in the mood for some fake plastic rock; it’s got so many rough edges. It does deserve some level of credit as the very first entry in what would become both the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises, games that would take the world by storm, if even for only a short time.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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