Guitar Hero Mania!!!

Guitar Hero III’m going to start out by mentioning that this will be a long read. For the past three days I’ve been fully engrossed in the newly released Guitar Hero II for the 360 and I’ll be using this post to cover my thoughts about the game along with a few news bits that were released over the past few days. So mainly a pseudo review along with some guitar worries, some news on Rock Band, and even a little strategy to wrap the whole thing up.

So get a snack because this will be a doozy. If you’re interested in just a particular section, click on any of the above links. Otherwise Continue Reading for the full article.

Let me start this off by saying that I’m coming at the 360 version of Guitar Hero II from playing the first Guitar Hero on the PS2. I never picked up the sequel due to the lag issues I was having with the original on my high-definition television. Although I eventually learned of the “configure lag” feature, I opted to wait it out and spend the $90 just for the added songs, leaderboards, achievements, and (most importantly) promised downloadable content of the 360 version. So while I may make some comparisons between the first and second Guitar Hero, I won’t be comparing the 360 version to its PS2 counterpart as I’ve never played it. With that out of the way, let me say that the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II is a title that should be in every gamer’s library.

Guitar Hero has been out for over a year and a half now, so I’m not going to bore you with play mechanics and such. If you’re really not familiar with the series, check out this link for some gameplay videos and see what it’s all about. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

James HetfieldDone? Now while those notes are coming down the frets, you use a guitar peripheral play them in time with the music. The Xbox 360 features a brand new controller in the form of a Gibson Xplorer. Many musicians have played this, one of the most famous being James Hetfield of Metallica. Oddly enough there are no Metallica songs in the game, which is a little disappointing, but that only leads into the eventual downloadable content which I’ll talk about later.

Guitar Hero 2 XplorerThe guitar itself is a little bulky when compared to it’s PS2 cousin. The neck seems to fit better in my left hand, and I like how it’s a bit heavier than the older model and feels more like a real instrument rather than a cheap plastic toy. The only problem I have (besides some whammy bar issues which we’ll discuss later) is how that piece on the bottom left (referencing the picture) juts out. This is irritating because I have a hard time finding a good place for my right arm so that it isn’t constantly hitting the thing. This is a minor annoyance though that I’m willing to compromise on as overall it’s a great controller.

The songs in Guitar Hero II seem to progress fairly nicely in their difficulty. I remember in the first Guitar Hero having trouble with a few songs in the middle of hard mode, and then sailing on to the last group of tracks without any difficulty. In GH2, when you start having trouble with songs, moving onto the next grouping is only going to make things harder, which actually makes a lot of sense. All of the tracks are fun to play, though to me there are more that I’ve simply never heard of. That’s nothing against the game though as I’m sure that the songs are popular in some demographic, so it’s probably just my lack of keeping up with bands like The Sword or The Living End. Be that as it may, don’t let anyone fool you. The expert mode in Guitar Hero is easy compared to GH2.

Now here is the reason I’m not calling this an official review: I’ve not played multiplayer. Unfortunately the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II doesn’t support online play via Xbox Live. Since many of my friends that have a 360 have already purchased GH2 on the PS2, they see no reason to spend the extra money on much of the same content. Not only does this mean I will probably never experience co-op or versus play, but I’ll also never be able to unlock the nine achievements specifically created for multiplayer. Perhaps in the end Red Octane will take note of this and try to release the same game on separate platforms at the same time instead of six months apart.

What I’m most looking forward to in the 360 version is the possibility of downloadable content. Though I’m unsure as to how extensive the content will be (i.e. new stages/characters/guitars in addition to songs), knowing that over time my Guitar Hero song list will expand is exciting. Hopefully this will extend the life of the game so that by this time next year I’m not spending another $60 just for the same gameplay but more songs.

So in the end, if you have a 360 and don’t yet have Guitar Hero II, I definitely recommend the purchase. If you already own the PS2 version however, then you’ll have to figure out if the addition of a different controller, downloadable content, and limited Xbox Live functionality is spending another $90.

When I first started playing Guitar Hero II, I immediately noticed something was odd with my controller. On longer notes, I would use the whammy bar but it wouldn’t start working until about a quarter of a second into the note. I thought maybe the issue was with me until the next day when I read numerous reports of other gamers having the same issue.

2 VersionsThis article over on Joystiq sums up the issue nicely. For some reason, Guitar Hero II was released with two version of the controller (as seen on the right). One has the pedal port (that thing that looks like a phone jack) next to the power chord (Part No. 95055) while the other has it next to shoulder strap (Part No. 95065). It seems that the model that is experiencing the whammy bar issue is 95055. So while Red Octane investigates these problems further, try to pick up a copy that has “Part No. 95065” clearly displayed on the back next to the barcode.

We’ve been talking about the Rock Band game recently and per this article on Kotaku, Harmonix has stated that the 360 Guitar Hero controllers will be fully compatible with the game. This comes as a relief as that’s just one less peripheral gamers will have to purchase to enjoy everything that Rock Band claims to offer.

Finally, I was pointed at this guide written by Game Almighty on some strategies concerning Guitar Hero II. It’s pretty interesting, and if you’re new to the series you should check it out as it has a lot of good information, including some video clips.

Phew! All finished!

About the Author

Having over 25 years of gaming experience, Zach knows a thing or two when it comes to one of his favorite entertainment activities. Additionally, he has also written many articles previewing and reviewing titles which can be found in various places around the net, including