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Just when I thought Iíd had enough of note-tracking and plastic instruments, Guitar Hero Metallica arrived to give me the most polished rhythm game experience Iíve had. Since Neversoft took over development of the franchise Iíve been a little disappointed at the technical deficiencies of the game. But by focusing on one of the most iconic bands of rock music, theyíve finally hit their stride and delivered a truly polished experience.
I can't overstate how important that praise is in today's Guitar Hero / Rock Band climate. Iíve noticed in the past year that Iíd been getting tired with the whole rhythm game genre. Although the quality of the titles has steadily improved since the early days thereís only so much finger-bashing and faux-posturing a wannabe rock-star can do.
But then Guitar Hero: Metallica dropped through my door and despite my initial apathy I found that Neversoft hit this one out of the park. Part of the success is down to the choice of band. Metallica sparked my interest in rock music from an early age and I even managed to convince my parents to buy me a real guitar to learn. It soon became painfully obvious that becoming a real musician was way beyond my talent and I'd have to be content with just listening to them.
As there's no doubt in my mind that this is the best Guitar Hero game yet. From the stellar track list to the polished presentation, this version is loaded with interesting content and immersive gameplay.
If only I had Guitar Hero Metallica at that time. As there's no doubt in my mind that this is the best Guitar Hero game yet. From the stellar track list to the polished presentation, this version is loaded with interesting content and immersive gameplay.
The range of tracks was an impressive feature from the start. Having 28 songs from across Metallica's back-catalog was a smart move. I love this band and I love having that catalog of hits to play from. Even though the game includes some songs I don't like - All Nightmare Long from Death Magnetic being one - it became a different matter once I started playing them. I found that the range of styles the game represented was far more important to me than just sticking to one particular era of the band.The supporting acts were also a good addition, with many tracks from the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Motorhead feeling right at home.
The core of the game is centered on the career mode and it began by replicating a live Metallica concert, with the modern intro of "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" kicking everything off in dramatic fashion.
What I really liked about the older Guitar Hero's was the career story. As flimsy as this mechanic has been in the past it made the experience of playing the songs much more personal - this is what Metallica delivers in spades.
Having the game take this stance in the opening moments gave me goosebumps. Not just because this was Metallica but because it encapsulated everything I wanted from a rhythm game. The open nature of World Tour and Rock Band is good for parties or just rocking out, but what I really liked about the older Guitar Hero's was the career story. As flimsy as this mechanic has been in the past it made the experience of playing the songs much more personal - this is what Metallica delivers in spades.
Once the introduction is over and I played through the first few tracks the game kicked me into the story mode, setting up a tribute band to Metallica. From there it was a simple matter of going through the songs in a list form, unlocking them as I went. It sounds far less appealing than it actually is thanks to the variety of locations I found myself visiting. These stages aren't the same as the ones in the usual Guitar Hero games and itís their authenticity which makes the difference along with the career vignettes and documentaries. This isn't a generic Spinal Tap style presentation anymore - itís a bit more serious than that and I felt it suited Metallica perfectly.
All this slick presentation wouldn't mean very much if it wasn't for how the music translated into play. And there seems to be something about Metallica's music which lends itself to a rhythm game better than most others. There are some acts and songs that, although favourites of mine, just don't feel quite right when played. The note-tracking is a bit off or playing the lead or drums arenít what I thought it would be. Not so with Metallica. The multi-layered approach of their work feels like it was made for this type of experience and started to work even better as I turned the difficulty up. I guess I'm one of those freaky people who loves the longer tracks - getting into a rhythm or a 'zone' whilst playing is what I enjoy most about Guitar Hero and Metallica's music fits into this superbly.
What made this game so much better than the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith effort of last year is the amount of behind-the-scenes footage and documentary material I got to watch.
What made this game so much better than the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith effort of last year is the amount of behind-the-scenes footage and documentary material I got to watch. This is dotted around the gameplay in 'Metallicaquotes' which appear in the replay's to songs I just 5-starred. But it also has a ton of footage presented in simple featurette form - nothing too lengthy, just quick burst of fan service that I was happy to take in.
It feels a little odd saying that Guitar Hero: Metallica is the best Guitar Hero or Rock Band game yet - the idea a single, standalone version should outdo the main product seems a little wrong to me. But the way the game was structured and the sheer enjoyment I got out of it means I really hope Neversoft continue this trend into the next Guitar Hero iteration.
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