Review: Guitar Hero Aerosmith (PS2)

Guitar Hero Aerosmith
Publisher: Activision
Developer: BudCat
Genre: Rhythm / Music
Release Date: 06/29/2008

Believe it or not, this is already the sixth game to be released under the Guitar Hero name. You’d think that maybe we’ve reached a point of saturation here, but demand is so huge, (Guitar Hero III outsold everything but Call of Duty 4 last year) that Activision can hire anybody to put a few songs on a disc, release it, and make millions. Nowhere was this more apparent than with Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80’s. It was a mediocre game with few songs and a hefty price tag of fifty bucks, yet it sold.

Here we have the next big spin off. Rather than chose a decade to steal songs from, Activison has teamed up with Aerosmith to create a game based entirely on the band. If you don’t think the band deserves it, consider this: they’ve been around for over thirty five years, and been relevant in four different decades. Their fan base is only growing as they get older. They have hundreds of songs and dozens of classics that you can hum on the street and find someone who’ll go “hey, I know that song!” Ever hear the song “Dream On”? Yeah, I thought so.

Of course, now that the game is out, it is time to find out whether any real effort was put into the game, or if it is just another steaming pile of suck with a celebrity endorsement.

Modes

Everything from Guitar Hero III is here. You’ve got career mode, which allows you to play through six set lists of five songs until you reach the end. The object here is to play well enough to earn enough cash to buy new guitars, designs, songs, videos, and characters to play with. You’ll start off each set with two “opening act” songs. They are not Aerosmith.

Instead, you play these two songs first, and then you get the crowd screaming for the headliners, much like an encore in previous titles. You then play one AS song before you head back to the menu to see that you’ve unlocked another as well. You play THAT, and then you get and Encore. Doesn’t that seem a bit redundant to you? They’ve worked it so that all but one song either leads to or is and encore. That first little song has got to feel so lonely.

At the beginning of each set, you’ll be treated to a short video of the band members introducing the next arena and why it is important to the band. These scenes don’t always fit the screen though, and the closed captioning (which you’ll need to understand Joe Perry half of the time) makes it annoying to watch. You can unlock longer versions that are far more interesting.

What bothers me is that you’ll unlock more Aerosmith songs by earning cash. Why couldn’t these have been put in the main career mode? Then, you could have all the songs by other bands put in as extras instead. You’ve got only twenty five AS songs here and the rest are all by bands that are supposedly admired by, inspired by, or inspirational to Aerosmith. I doubt there’s any way to back that up though.

You’ve also got your standard quick play, practice, and multiplayer options. These haven’t changed one bit from GHIII, and anyone who’s played that will be able to jump right in as if they’re still playing that rather than a new game.

All in all, there’s a lot to do here. For a game that always boils down to you strumming the guitar while pressing colored fret buttons, I’d say it’s solid.

Graphics

I’d call the character models ugly, but have you SEEN Steven Tyler or Joe Perry? Wow!

Still, the characters animate pretty well thanks to the extensive motion capture they had the band do for this. You’re going to see Aerosmith’s entire series of trademark moves on stage for sure. There are also a ton of cool moments where Steven and Joe will play back to back, or the camera will stay focuses on Steve’s face as he twirls around stage, giving you an amazing blur effect. They more than make up for the plastic dolls masquerading as rock legends.

Beyond that, you’ve got roughly the same graphical quality as the first game over three years ago. I mean, it is pretty hard to make a bunch of moving gems look particularly great. You’ve got good lighting, and you’ll never miss a note because you can’t see anything. In the end, that’s all that matters.

It’s a pretty decent looking game, which is all it needs to be.

Audio

One of the best things about getting a band to sign up for a game based on them is that you get full access to their master tracks. Every single Aerosmith song in this game is by the actual band. This is the deal maker for the game. If this had been nothing but covers, it would have been a bust, and I probably would have sent the game back to Activision along with a cease and desist order. Thankfully, this is not the case. If you don’t think having master tracks is important, go listen to “Dream On” or “Walk this Way” and try to tell me the song would be just as good with someone else playing. <

Unfortunately, not all of the songs are by Aerosmith. There are some pretty bad covers for the opening band songs. It’s a shame that Activison can’t get the master tracks for every song they want, especially with the amount of money this series is making them.

Not surprisingly, all of the other sound effects are ripped straight from Guitar Hero III. You get the amp feedback when you miss the note, a guitar riff when you choose a song, and the crowd cheering every time you activate star power. It suits the game.

One last thing I’d like to mention here. The crowd sings along with “Dream On.” Just by virtue of having that included, the song becomes the single best playing experience in the franchise. I hope they do more stuff like that in the future.

Gameplay

First off, this game is like every other guitar hero game we’ve known and loved. Colored gems come toward you on the screen. You’re required to hold the corresponding colored button on the guitar controller while flicking the strum in order to hit each note. The object here is to hit all the notes. Each note is worth points that build up your score, which determines how well you’ve done, and how much cash you unlock in career mode. You also have a rock meter, which is essentially your life bar. Miss too many notes, and the rock meter will slowly lower until you fail the song and are booted out of the arena. To save you, you can complete special strings of notes in order to build up a power meter, which when activated gives you a huge score boost.

We all knew this going in, but that’s all the game really is. It’s still a blast to play, and any GH fan is going to have some fun. That being said, there are a few issues I feel need to be brought up.

First off, as classic as Aerosmith is, a lot of their songs tend to drag on. This is fine if you’re just listening to it, but it can turn the game into to real bore. For instance, during “Make It”, there came a point where they just repeated the chorus over and over again for what seemed like a couple of minutes. The note pattern was only a few notes long and it didn’t change. I was playing the same few notes for so long that I nearly fell asleep. It’s not the first time this has happened during a GH game, but definitely the first time it happened when I was trying out a new song (Oh yeah, I got a perfect on it too).

The same kind of thing happens with a lot of the opening band tracks as well. It was nice to see D.M.C. show up on stage for “King of Rock”, but that was the only exciting thing about playing the song. Playing on expert didn’t help either. There are just some songs that don’t fit with the game because they go on for too long. I don’t see why they didn’t edit the songs a bit. They’ve done it before (To be clear, I’m not against long songs, but if they are constant bores, then the length becomes an issue).

All in all, the game controls as well as GH III and can be just as fun. Normally, I’d go into a bit more detail about the gameplay, but the most important thing here besides audio is the balance, which is coming up. Prepare for a doosie there.

Replayability

You’ve got forty-one songs with four different difficulties to jam through. Experts will jump right into the harder difficulties, while newcomers get that wonderful experience of working your way up the rock ladder. You can go back and play any song you like to max out your high score and try to go for a perfect.

You also have plenty of multiplayer options to go through. Face off allows you and your opponent to duel guitars to prove who is the best. In Pro Face Off, you’ll both play the same note pattern. Co-op allows one player to be the guitarist while the other plays bass, and battle mode pits you against each other with items to ruin your opponent. This game is always best with more people around. Half the fun is proving to your best friend that he can never match your fake plastic guitar prowess, even if he can play the real thing and you can’t.

Despite the fifty dollar price tag, you should have no problem getting your money’s worth out of this.

Balance

Here we hit a few snags.

While you’ll get a steady increase in difficulty as you go from easy to medium to hard to expert, the game on a whole feels a bit too easy. This is better than the overly difficult GH III, but when I can finish each song first try with four or more stars (most of them fives) while drunk and half asleep, you know the game just doesn’t have any challenge to it.

The battle mode is still a broken piece of crap. All of the items you get are random, so you might launch a double note attack on your opponent, but he can hit you with a broken string. You’re going to come out on the bottom of that encounter. If the other guy is on a lower difficulty than you, he has a huge advantage even if he sucks. He’ll have fewer notes, so he misses fewer notes, meaning his score takes a significantly smaller hit.

As far as career mode goes, there are some pitifully easy songs that made it through to late sets so they could appear to have some sort of theme. “Dream On” is great, but it’s the easiest song in the game and shouldn’t be the final track of the fifth set list. They moved up “King of Rock” to be in the same set as “Walk this Way” for obvious reasons, but the former is significantly easier than the latter. If the idea is songs get more challenging the further you go, than Guitar Hero Aerosmith missed the point.

Originality

There are a few nice touches to the game, such as the crowd singing along on one or two songs, and you playing a song during the credits, but the only “new” thing about Aerosmith is that the game is based around a single band.

Still, I can’t in good conscious give a good score here because the game features songs from other bands. Maybe if AS had done covers or something, things would be different, but this is just another Guitar Hero game.

Addictiveness

Remember those long drawn out songs I was talking about? They do more to hurt the addictiveness than anything I’ve seen in a while. I usually blaze through these games in one or two sessions, but this took me more like seven because I would start to get bored.

The only time I really got into it was when I realized I was getting close to “Dream On”. I know I’ve mentioned that song a bit too much, but it rocks. On a personal level, there are few songs that I would rather play.

Still, get a group of friends together, and the game can go a long time.

Appeal Factor

Are you kidding me? This is Guitar Hero people! One of the best selling franchises today! Activision’s wallets are going to fatten, and Aerosmith is going to get legions of new fans. The only people that won’t play this are the weird people who think Aerosmith isn’t hard enough.

Slayer is not the end all and be all of rock people.

Miscellaneous

The extra videos are really nice. It is just the band talking, so you don’t have any annoying narrator to deal with. You get a pretty good insight into the band, even if they skim over the messier parts of their history. (Also, Steven Tyler is nuts.)

You’ve got some great unlockables in the form of previous members of the band and D.M.C. You’ve also got the entire roster from GHIII in the game to play around with, which wouldn’t have caused them any problems to put them in, but it is still nice.

I love how every venue is based off of major places in their career. You’ve got their first gig at Nipmuc high school, the Superbowl, and even the Rock and Roll hall of fame.

They did a great job of making this feel like an Aerosmith game, even if Cheap Trick shows up once or twice.

The Scores

Modes: Good
Graphics: Decent
Audio: Great
Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Very Good
Balance: Very Poor
Originality: Very Poor
Addictiveness: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Great

FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME!!!!

Short Attention Span Summary

This isn’t the best entry in the Guitar Hero franchise, but any GH or Aerosmith fan shouldn’t hesitate one second in picking it up. It is no where near the disaster that Rocks the 80s was. There are some balancing issues here, and the game isn’t ever challenging, but it can still be a ton of fun and a surefire multiplayer blast. Guitar Hero Aerosmith rocks, plain and simple.

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