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Guitar Hero 2

Jon Wood Posted:
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Beyond the MMORPG: Guitar Hero 2

This week in Beyond the MMORPG, Jon Wood takes a look at Guitar Hero 2, a simple game that offers great challenges.

After kicking off our Beyond the MMORPG column last week, I have been wracking my brain to come up with the next game to highlight. Some of the obvious choices sprung to mind… I could have talked about Neverwinter Nights 2. That’s a game that resembles an MMO. I could have talked about Halo 3, after all, it launched at midnight last night. This week though, I wanted to take a look at a game that has had, for me, the same addictive quality that you get from a good MMO. It’s a game that I’ve spent entire days playing and even more impressively, it’s a game that I’ve spent numerous hours on my feet playing. Any game that can get me standing up for hours on end deserves a little bit of attention. The game I’m talking about is Guitar Hero 2 for the Xbox 360. Yup, that’s right, we’re talking about a console game here at MMORPG.com (although we should probably all get used to that, as it’s the wave of the future). Guitar Hero was developed by the aptly named company, Harmonix and published by Red Octane and Activision. The original game was available only for the Playstation 2, but the franchise has expanded to the point that when Guitar Hero 3 launches, it will launch on not only the PS2 and 3, but also on the Xbox 360 and the Wii. Long story short is that if you’re a console person, no matter your poison, you will be able to get your hands on this game. Ok, let’s not waste any more time with a History lesson. Instead, let’s talk about the game itself: I think what impressed me the most about Guitar Hero II, when I finally got my hands on it, was the fact that it was really such a simple idea. People like music. People like games. Lots of people like the idea of being able to play an instrument, but never learned how. I know! Let’s make a video game where we let Joe Anybody play lead guitar on some of the most famous and popular songs of all time! For those of you who have been living under rocks for the last few years, the premise of the game has you (the player) playing lead guitar for a band trying to make it to the big time. You start off playing relatively simple songs in tiny halls, and you move across the United States to progressively larger venues and even travel to the mythical Stonehenge to perform. No memorizing chords and practicing until calluses form on our hands for us (although I’ve heard legends of this happening). No sir. Instead, our musical ability comes in the form of colored tabs coming toward you on the screen to represent notes and chords while you deftly (but more often then not frantically) try to press the button that corresponds to the color. You then have to strum the note at the appropriate time. It’s a hand – eye coordination kind of thing. Throw in a little sense of rhythm and you’re golden.  As you play through the single player Career Mode, songs get progressively more difficult as you advance. Part of the genius and simplicity of this game’s design is that simply progressing through the game serves as a tutorial for the game. What this means is that the more you play, the better you get and the more prepared you are for the stage ahead of you. Honestly, I think that’s really at the core of good design. If you take World of Warcraft as an example, one of the successful aspects of that game is the fact that it doesn’t use a direct tutorial. Instead, players learn how to play by completing early quests that are designed to teach you what you need to know.  Getting back to the topic at hand, players accumulate points for each note or combination of notes that they hit. Every time that the player manages to hit ten notes in a row, they gain a multiplier to their score which is lost when a note is missed, but increase if another ten notes are hit. After 10 notes, players get a X2 multiplier at 20 a X3 and at 30 a X4. These scores are doubled if players have “star power”, a special ability that is unlocked when a player hits a specifically designated string of notes. Careful though, the other side of the coin has players As players advance through the story and play “gigs”, they are paid based on their performance. This money can be used to unlock guitars, characters, clothes, songs and the like. In a nutshell, that’s how the game works. However, I’m going to say something now that I don’t think I could ever really say about an MMORPG:  In Guitar Hero II, the gameplay is second only in importance to the music. Guitar Hero II sports an impressive array of highly recognizable songs and while a good number of them are covers of famous songs by famous people, there are a few originals, and those that are covers are done well more often than not. Just so that you can get a sense of what I’m talking about when I say recognizable songs, I’m going to use the end of this article to print a list of tracks (not counting songs purchased in-game or downloaded through Xbox Live). If you’re going to buy this game, you really need to invest in at least one of the custom controllers that have been created for this game. Normally, I don’t go in for the whole game-specific peripherals kind of thing. I’ve never liked the idea of paying for the game and then paying for something that lets you play the game. That being said, these custom controllers are essentially guitars. The color-coded keys are on the guitar’s neck (filling the place of chords and such) and there’s a bar in the center for strumming. Honestly, I can imagine the fun in playing this game without one. First of all, the game was clearly designed to use them. You can’t really get away from that. Second, it really helps to make you feel like you’re a part of the game. Solo isn’t the only way to play this game. You can also play head-to-head, comparing scores to find a winner, or co-operatively with one player on lead guitar and the other on either Bass or Rhythm Guitar. It’s a good game to play by yourself, but it’s way more fun to play with a group of people. For me, this game was a release. It was a departure from every other game that I usually play, and it allowed me to get out that urge to be musical. I would recommend this game to anyone to at least try out (try your local Best Buy, they’ve often got ‘em on display). I found it to be challenging but not too frustrating (not saying I wasn’t tempted to have a rock-star tantrum once or twice), engaging but not complicated. Is it worth the money for the game? Yes. Is it work shelling out the extra bones for the guitar controller? Absolutely. If you do get this game though, I warn you. You will start hearing songs from the list blow more often than you would expect. On the radio, in restaurants, in the mall… Everywhere. It’s creepy.

Anyway, as promised, here's the song list:      "Surrender" – Cheap Trick      "Possum Kingdom" – Toadies      "Heart-Shaped Box" – Nirvana      "Salvation" – Rancid      "Strutter" – Kiss      "Shout at the Devil" – Mötley Crüe      "Mother" – Danzig      "Life Wasted" – Pearl Jam      "Cherry Pie" – Warrant      "Woman" – Wolfmother      "You Really Got Me" – Van Halen      "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" – Spinal Tap      "Carry on Wayward Son" – Kansas      "Search and Destroy" – Iggy Pop and the Stooges      "Message in a Bottle" – The Police      "Billion Dollar Babies" – Alice Cooper      "Them Bones" – Alice in Chains      "War Pigs" – Black Sabbath      "Monkey Wrench" – Foo Fighters      "Hush" – Deep Purple      "Girlfriend" – Matthew Sweet      "Who Was in My Room Last Night?" – The Butthole Surfers      "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'" – The Rolling Stones      "Sweet Child o' Mine" – Guns N' Roses      "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo" – Rick Derringer      "Tattooed Love Boys" – The Pretenders      "John the Fisherman" – Primus      "Jessica" – The Allman Brothers Band      "Bad Reputation" – Thin Lizzy      "Last Child" – Aerosmith      "Crazy on You" – Heart      "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart" – Stone Temple Pilots      "Dead!" – My Chemical Romance      "Killing in the Name" – Rage Against the Machine      "Freya" – The Sword      "Stop" – Jane's Addiction      "Madhouse" – Anthrax      "The Trooper" – Iron Maiden      "Rock This Town" – Stray Cats      "Laid to Rest" – Lamb of God      "Psychobilly Freakout" – Reverend Horton Heat      "YYZ" – Rush      "Beast and the Harlot" – Avenged Sevenfold      "Carry Me Home" – The Living End      "Institutionalized" – Suicidal Tendencies      "Misirlou" – Dick Dale      "Hangar 18" – Megadeth      "Free Bird" – Lynyrd Skynyrd


Jon Wood