Wednesday, January 24, 2007

PS2 review: Guitar Hero II (9/10)

Okay, I couldn't wait any longer (and as mentioned before, it's a good thing, with the 360 version delayed over a month so far), and as you can tell, I like the game. Here's my official review.

What's different:
  • +++ Practice. (We talkin' 'bout practice?) You can now practice parts of a song at different speeds so you can figure out how to handle the difficult parts.
  • ++ Perfection. In addition to the three- to five-star rating system, the set list now marks songs that you've played perfectly with solid stars, as opposed to outlined stars for the normal ratings.
  • ++ Encores. Starting with Medium difficulty, instead of simply adding a song to the set when you get to that level, you have to complete the set first (3 of 4 songs). Once you do, the crowd asks for an encore, which happens to be the new song in the set. (Kansas and Guns 'N Roses - great tunes.)
  • +++ Complementary two-player mode. Instead of splitting the melody, one person can play lead and one can play bass. (Haven't tried this yet. I have only one guitar at home.
  • - Songs. There seems to be more emphasis on modern songs and on speed songs, rather than on classic rock and technique songs. Eh. (On the other hand, one advantage of speed songs, especially those with repetitive notes, is that you build up points a lot faster. The only song I've completed on Expert on GH I is I Wanna Be Sedated, precisely for that reason.)
  • + More obvious unlockables. You unlock guitars by beating a difficulty level and by getting five-star ratings on all songs within that level. (There may be similar things in GH I, but it's hard to tell.) On the other hand, unlockables really don't make that much difference.

One thing that didn't change, sadly, was the list of songs you can buy. Hey, it's great that this game was developed by guys who also play guitar, but you know what? When you play cover tunes, you generally want to know the songs you're covering. I guess I'm thankful they didn't make us play their music and unlock well-known songs, but still, there's not much point in having unlockables that people don't want to unlock or purchase. I really didn't care much for any of the songs you can buy in GH I, and I didn't see anything in GH II that I really wanted either. (One nice touch would have been to add bonus songs related to songs that you perfected, even if you did it on a set-by-set basis. For example, if you perfected all of the set 2 songs on Medium, including Strutter, then it would unlock Detroit Rock City.)

(Note: the Wikipedia entry says that RedOctane won't be using Harmonix for Guitar Hero III, which hopefully means no more developer songs to unlock.)

It uses the same guitar controllers, which means you have the same issues: there are little things about the guitar that aren't quite right. I saw one reviewer on Amazon who suggested that the fret buttons should have been angled toward the top of the guitar, more in line with the curvature of your hand (and also more like a real guitar - you don't have to press straight down on a string). There seem to be some times when you don't get credit for a note because you're not pressing quite right on the buttons.

Overall, I like the improvements, and I suspect I'll really like the multiplayer improvements. Guess I better get working on Medium so I can unlock Pro Face-Off mode for us. :)

Update: Deduction of one point for no longer showing a cumulative score for a difficulty level. Honestly, I don't know how these things happen. Did they really think that we wouldn't miss it? They realized we wanted to tell the difference between a perfect performance and an imperfect five-star performance. Why wouldn't we want to know our total score for that difficulty level? BOO!

zlionsfan's rating: 9 groupies out of 10.

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