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Guitar Hero II Review

Guitar Hero II pack shot
Developer:Red Octane and Harmonix
Publisher:Activision
Genre:Music (Rhythm)
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.guitarherogame.com/gh2/
Release Date:April 5th, 2007 (UK)
Reviewer:Scott Smith (poog)
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For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last year, Guitar Hero is a rhythm game (think Dance Dance Revolution) that has taken the console world by storm. First appearing on the Playstation 2 early 2006, users are given the role of a lead guitarist; using a guitar shaped controller the aim is to match the coloured notes on the screen to coloured fret buttons and strum them through.

The XBOX 360 Guitar Hero II (GH2) is a port of the Playstation 2 version with the added bonus of improved sound quality (Dolby Digital) and tweaked HD graphics. The 360 version also comes with 10 additional songs not present on the Playstation 2. Axe fans will also notice that the controller for the 360 version is modelled on a classic Gibson Explorer in traditional Microsoft white, as opposed to the Red SG seen in the Playstation edition.

The tuned graphics make a surprising difference. While graphics are obviously not of massive importance to a rhythm game, when you add in the new lighting effects it does help add to that "look at me mum I'm rocking it large on stage in front of thousands of fans" aspect of being a rock star.

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Now the important part, the music! Guitar Hero is all about getting your rock on, so as you would imagine the music is what this game lives and dies by. The track list for GH2 is bigger than its predecessor - but unfortunately that doesn't mean it is better. Don't get me wrong there are some cracking tracks; Iron Maiden's The Trooper, Guns N' Roses Sweet Child O' Mine and the infamous Freebird spring to mind. The problem for me personally is, while I enjoyed nearly every track in GH1, some of the tracks in GH2 feel like fillers. Despite this, one of the great things about Guitar Hero games is that there are always a few tracks that you haven't heard of or didn't expect to like. GH2 did not disappoint me - Rock This Town is an absolute gem to play, and it's not on its own in the surprise category. Combine these with plenty of classics and there are easily enough quality tracks to keep you rocking for many hours to come.

Another point worth mentioning is difficulty. When I played GH1 it wasn't long before I was getting my groove on in expert mode. While my guitar playing skills obviously transferred across, it became clear that Redoctane and Harmonix, the game's developers, had really upped the ante in terms of difficulty. Solos seem more frantic, and chords can now come in 3 notes instead of just 2. The songs just generally seem harder, especially in hard or expert mode.

All of the tracks featured in GH2 on the 360 have been remastered to take full advantage of the Dolby Digital 5.1 feature. The results are nothing short of amazing, if your 360 is connected to a good sound system be prepared to be blown away. As for the musical quality, the majority of the tracks are in fact played by a cover band. This does lead to a few tracks feeling a tad strange, but on the whole they have done a good job.

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If you are a current owner of GH2 on the PS2, you are probably thinking "Why would I spend £65 on a game I already have?" It's a good question and the answer isn't clear-cut. It could well come down to which platform your friends own the game on. GH2 features two multi-player modes. Co-operative mode where one of you plays lead guitar, and the other Bass/Rhythm and Face-Off mode where you both play lead guitar in a shred-off of epic proportions. Of course, the main selling point for those choosing between platforms is Xbox Live. The 360 version when combined with XBL creates an exciting prospect.

While online play isn't available, Redoctane have provided users with the ability to download new songs over XBL. The first batch came out recently, and contained the classic hits of GH1. Unfortunately they didn't go down as well as I'm sure was planned. The price for a pack of three songs is 500 Microsoft points (£4.25) which does seem rather a lot. This has sparked outrage amongst forum users around the internet, mostly people are questioning why Redoctane had priced the packs so highly. Kai Huang, co-founder of Redoctane, had this to say in a recent IGN.com GH3 FAQ when questioned about the reaction to the prices of the song packs.

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"We have done a lot of research on the pricing to make sure we have got the price point right and to make sure that users got the best value for money. We think that it is the right price point. We also decided to bundle the songs in packs of three because this actually helps to bring the cost of tracks down, rather than just offering them individually. That was what we wanted to do. However, we do listen to the fans and take any feedback we receive seriously."

I can't help but think the research was carried out on people with more money than sense if that was the case. I do think however that if the right songs are chosen they will get enough sales for them to feel that the price is indeed right.

Over time this feature could prove extremely fulfilling, so long as Redoctane choose the songs carefully. Leadership boards are also available over XBL providing tables for career scores and individual songs.

Summary

Overall GH2 is a blast, the improved sound and graphics are nice, the added tracks welcome. Guitar Hero games are fun - fun on your own and fun at a party, you really can't go wrong with them. With Xbox Live, the potential is there to fill the gap until GH3 is released with online multi-player (yes it is official) and Harmonix' rather ambitious Rock Band title. Yes it is rather expensive for a game, but what's £65 to become a rock star?

The bottom line
9.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Fun
  • Fun
  • Did I mention Fun?
  • Downloadable tracks from XBL

Not so good stuff

  • Expensive
  • No multiplayer over XBL
  • Downloadable tracks are expensive


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