Two Big Guitars

When pitching their concept to bands, the creators of Guitar Hero reported having a difficult time getting artists to visualize the game. I imagine the conversations went something like this: “So, wait. They’ll hit a button to play a note in our song?” “No, you see, they’ll have a plastic guitar.  It’ll be really cool.  Really…”

As Matt’s Acegamez interview with Ted Lange, associate producer for Guitar Hero II, shows (read full interview here), Red Octane had a much easier time finding bands to contribute their music to Guitar Hero II. Many professional musicians were fans of the first game.

For Guitar Hero II, pro and non-pro fans both probably would have been happy with more of the same. With over 55 new tracks, there’s plenty of sweet music to keep you happy and entertained for months to come. Luckily, Red Octane didn’t settle for a great song list. First of all, the graphics are much sharper, and there’s a bit more going on onstage to keep your spectators entertained. At least for awhile.

Let’s face it, though, sharp graphics aren’t enough to keep your friends entertained while you’re rocking out. That’s why the greatest new feature of this sequel is the introduction of multi-player. No more bickering over who has the highest score while taking turns in career mode. Now you can take on your friends directly in versus or pro-versus. The versus mode is set up as a guitar dual. You’ll play a few licks and then your friend will play a similar set. After going back and forth for a bit, you’ll both play simultaneously while a meter keeps track of who is hitting the most notes. The challenge is not letting your friend’s mistakes (or mad skills) distract you.

Also in multi-player is a cooperative mode. You can choose between rhythm, bass or lead and make sweet music with your friends. Like in versus mode, each player can be on a different level, which really helps keep everyone happy. Perhaps I’m too competitive, but I definitely preferred the versus mode.

The final new addition is the training mode, which will help players finally master that expert level. When you finish a song, there’s an option to check more stats, and this will tell you what parts of the song you really messed up (like all those tough solos). You can take this information to training. Here, you can pick your song and decide whether you want to play guitar, bass, lead or rhythm (choices depend on the song). Then, you can choose to play the whole song or only the bit that’s giving you trouble. Finally, and this is clutch, you can pick how fast you want the song to play: normal, slow, slower or slowest. Once your choices have been locked in, you play the song without those annoying vocals or fickle fans. Yes – this feature is as helpful as it sounds. Before long, I was mastering riffs I never could have played otherwise.

My only complaints are nit-picky and barely worth wasting your time. The tutorial still stinks. Like the first game, there are three tutorials, and you have to sit through all of them if you‘re interested in any of them; no skipping ahead to the last tutorial (the only useful one). Also falling under the minor annoyance category is you can’t unlock songs in multi-player, you still have to unlock them in career mode. Don’t worry, it won’t kill your next Guitar Hero party.

My advice to you is to buy this game immediately. And don’t cheap out, buy the game packaged with the second guitar, you’ll need it. While there are many great songs on Guitar Hero II (and playing an encore for your fans in career mode is more life affirming than you can possibly imagine), the bread and butter of this game is multi-player. Get the game, buy some beer (if you’re of age, of course), invite over your best friends (you know, the one’s who won’t laugh at you when you leap in the air with a plastic guitar) and prepare to have the most fun you’ve had since high school.

Keep rockin’! 

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