Epic heavy metal band Metallica and the Guitar Hero franchise both share a lot of similarities. People tend to either love or hate them, not leaving much room for gray in between. Both have had members of their teams split off and form their own successful projects, like Harmonix to Rock Band and Dave Mustaine to Megadeth. Fans claim that though they still love them, the earlier stuff was better (pre-Guitar Hero: World Tour, pre-Black Album). Both have been accused of being greedy money grubbers with Activision’s brand saturation, and Metallica’s famous Napster trials. Now Metallica and the Guitar Hero franchise share another thing in common, each other. The two juggernauts have crossed paths and are now one, but is the whole greater than the sum of its parts, or are these rockers past their prime?
The concept of Guitar Hero: Metallica is a simple one. Take one part Guitar Hero, one part Metallica, sprinkle in some influential musicians, and stir. The Guitar Hero look has been renovated with Metallica markings from logos to album cover art. All the classic Guitar Hero characters have had metal makeovers, too. Titmouse Inc. has also returned to provide fresh cartoonified versions of Metallica to flesh out the game’s nearly invisible story via cutscenes.
Just like in World Tour, you can be a solo shredder or a group of grinders in your conquest of career mode. The awkward set list structure of World Tour has been scrapped for a new method of progression. New songs and venues are now unlocked by earning a specific quota of stars by playing songs. You are free to challenge blistering tunes in advance, or sneak past them for the easier ones. One major drawback to this format is the sense of accomplishment has been diminished, and feels more like you’re paging through the quickplay menu than building to a climax. Speaking of quickplay, all the songs are unlocked from the get go, so feel free to invite your friends right away.
The song challenge has greatly increased since the barrel-o-fish shoot that was World Tour. Don’t expect the final tier songs to each be “Through the Fire and Flame,” but prepare to take time in practice mode ironing out challenging riffs and solos. Later down the set list the balance of challenge is wonky, and you’ll be breezing through some songs while hitting roadblocks in others. Particularly nasty showings are Slayer’s “War Ensemble,” and Metallica’s “Fight Fire with Fire.”
The selection of songs for Guitar Hero: Metallica will make any metal fan hyperventilate in excitement. Bands like Alice in Chains, System of a Down, Mercyful Fate, and Queen are scattered throughout the piles of great Metallica tunes. Unless you’ve downloaded Metallica’s most recent album, “Death Magnetic,” only two songs appear from the band’s last two albums. This is good news for anyone that prefers the older songs like “Master of Puppets,” “Battery,” “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, and the instrumental “Orion.” You can even rock out along side the San Francisco Symphony for the monumentally melodic “No Leaf Clover.”
Though vocals, guitar, and bass haven’t changed since World Tour, you’re in for a treat if you’re a drummer. In the new “Expert +” drum mode, the devastating double-bass lines of the most intense songs have been fully realized. With an extra bass pedal and splitter, you can wear out your knees while trying to fill the shoes of professional percussionists. Good luck.
The staple song creation features of World Tour all make their return to Guitar Hero: Metallica. The versatile yet intimidating recording studio remains unchanged, as has GHtunes. Unfortunately, any songs you’ve created or downloaded for World Tour aren’t playable with the Metallica disc.
The Guitar Hero graphical style remains intact. The Guitar Hero: World Tour custom character creator is back and more metal than ever. You’ll get to play as your created character whenever you’re rocking any non-Metallica tunes. The polygonal personas of Metallica look decent overall, but Lars Ulrich and James Heltfield’s models both seems a little “off.” However, the onstage band performance is spot on, as Metallica did custom motion capture for each song in the game. Another change in the presentation is the welcome addition of a star meter that accurately displays your progression towards earning five stars.
The musical mayhem takes place in memorable concert venues from Metallica’s past. You’ll jam on Metallica’s classic “snake pit” stage and even at the Tushino Airfield, surrounded by Russian military. The locales of Guitar Hero: Metallica stand out as some of the most unique in the franchise’s history. The final venue in the game will send chills down your spine.
If you’re a die hard Metallica fan, and even remotely enjoy Guitar Hero, you’re probably already playing this game. If you’re looking for handful a fun, new, harder edged songs to play with your friends, Guitar Hero: Metallica has a lot to offer. Even if you’re not a fan of the band, the superb note tracks and energy that these songs carry will have you banging your head in time. Don’t “Hit the Lights” on the latest entry in the Guitar Hero series.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
Let’s face it, you aren’t playing Guitar Hero to look at the characters. However, when you aren’t staring at the waterfall of notes, the game looks decent.
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This is the tried and true Guitar Hero formula. Don’t expect any big changes. The challenge dial has been cranked up to 11, however.
The songs are all by the original artists, either master tracks or rerecordings. Everything sounds spot on save for the cheesy way Hetfield talks to the crowd before some songs.
The challenge of Expert mode will have you trying songs over and over again, especially if you’re attempting Expert + on drums. This is one of the most fun fake instrument games I’ve ever played with a group of friends.
A solid entry in the Guitar Hero series, but it doesn’t feel entirely like a brand new game. The “pop up video” like Metallifacts feature is neat, but feels a bit tacked on. This game is a good addition to your library of rhythm games if you frequently play them with friends.