Guitar Hero 2 PS2 Review

Guitar Hero was the pinnacle of rhythm games when it arrived last year (or this year if you poor saps didn’t get to play it till the PAL release). Some would even go to say that it was the best rhythm game ever created for mankind. Without further ado the sequel is finally here. It’s a godsend for all those people who have been waiting for it (mainly the masters of Bark at the Moon) hoping that it will come jam-packed with more excellent songs and features. The good news is that Guitar Hero II packs more of everything you all loved about the original. New modes are incorporated like co-op mode, where one player plays guitar and the other plays bass or rhythm. A totally needed training system and a difficulty that is sure to please the finishers of the first game. The sequel is just bigger, badder and damn harder than ever before. You thought Bark at the Moon was a nightmare? Then you have a new hellish dream by the name of “Free bird.”

Just like the prequel, Guitar Hero II lets you play the game with the RedOctane Gibson Guitar controller. To be honest it’s the only way you should play this game. Using a dual shock controller just isn’t a choice, EVER. If you are the proud owner of the first game then you can buy the game separately from the guitar peripheral, although this time the game comes with a red cherry SG guitar, rather than a white one. Playing the first game also means you will be highly familiar with how the game works, it’s pretty identical to the last. As the coloured notes travel down to the bottom of the screen, the player must hold the identical colour on the guitar controller and get ready to strum the strum bar as the colour passes through the strum circle. It’s really easy to get to grips with but to master it is a completely different story. To pass a song the player is required to keep the rock metre up. To do this is to consistently hit the notes to gain points, keep going and you’ll earn multipliers to really bump up the score. Failing to do this makes the rock metre fall into red and get ever so close to the crowd giving you a bottle in the face.

After the first game arrived there were so many rock fans out there complaining about “Where’s this song? Where’s that song?” It’s something that certainly isn’t going to go away no matter how many Guitar Hero games come out. Harmonix have however stuck more grand guitar songs for all to play. The soundtrack is excellent, almost certainly better than the original game, so that says something. This time around the game features 40 licensed songs and 24 bonus songs (just to let you know the original had 30 licensed and 15 bonus). The music spans through decades of time and brings artists such as Rage Against the Machine, Avenged Sevenfold, Dick Dale, The Police, Nirvana, Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses and of course Lynyrd Skynyrd, (FREEBIIIRRD!)

Speaking on the subject of the soundtrack, people with good hearing might have heard that Harmonix had managed to get a few non-cover license songs for the sequel. This is somewhat true but it’s a disappointing two bands. Yes the only two songs that aren’t covers are “Stop” by Jane’s Addiction and “John the Fisherman” by Primus. It’s not like the covers are really bad, on the contrary most of them are pretty good, especially in the guitar department. It’s certainly noticeable on older songs where the guitar just seems to stand out a lot more. It’s always good to have the real thing though. It’s something that maybe the next instalment will have more of. There’s still some big names missing like Metallica, but that will come in a future sequel no doubt.

Something that you might notice while you play through the game are tunes you probably never thought you’d like, but just end up being a lot of fun to play. I found myself enjoying “Who Was in My Room Last Night?” by Butthole Surfers and “Psychobilly Freak-out” by The Reverend Horton Heat. It’s easy to say that there is a song for every type of rock fan in this game.

Career mode is exactly the same as the first game. Starting by naming your band and choosing a character you are then on your way to become a rock god. This is the main mode of the game and also where you unlock all the bonus content. They are yet again four difficulty settings to choose from. Easy and Normal are pretty easy to play through. The game picks up though when you hit hard. For newcomers this will feel like a good challenge, certainly when you hit the last group of songs and notes are flying everywhere at you. Expert is where it’s at though. This will give a fierce challenge to every type of Guitar Hero player. The challenge seems to come from songs that are insanely fast, ripping out lengthy speedy solos to make your fingers cripple. That isn’t just the only thing that makes it harder. Harmonix came up with the idea to implement three button cords (those son of a bitches!) so now not only are you playing with speed, you’ve also got to switch between two and three buttons. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Techniques like hammer-ons and pull-offs are a lot easier to do now. The timing is much more forgiving. The game features a lot more stat information than before too. When finishing the song in career or quick play the game will inform you how well you played on parts of the song. It also tells you how many notes you’ve hit and the average multiplier.

Now that the game has some crazy arse solos to pass you can make use the new practice mode. In the first game to practice you could only go on quick play. This time around you can play through songs without having to worry about failing. What’s even better is that you can select parts of the song that you think you need to work on the most. Stuck on the four minute solo in Free Bird? Easy just select them and work away. The game even lets you slow down the notes so you can easily see what you have to press. You can then gradually work your way up to full speed. This was something that was missing from the first game and it was highly needed, just like how a rock star needs drugs, you will need training mode.

Another area that has also received a vast improvement is multiplayer. Co-op is now featured. While only one can play the lead guitar, you do have the choice to play rhythm or bass depending on the song. Most of the bass stuff is pretty simple and somewhat boring, unless you play a heavy bass song, say like “John the Fisherman”. Rhythm on the other hand can be a joy, as sometimes there are plenty of things to do, even more so than the lead guitarist. The rock metre and star power are linked together as well, so you really do have to look out for your partner in rock. Both of you even have to tilt your guitars together to activate the star power. If you don’t have a friend who is an experienced Guitar Hero player, you can change the difficulty for their side of things. This means there aren’t any problems when you are playing with a Guitar Loser. Co-op is limited to this mode only, there’s no career co-op so if you want to play multiplayer in that, who knows it might be included in the third game? Face-off mode returns too. It’s got the same mode as the original and also a pro mode. This mode is where the players will both play the whole song, rather than just sections between them. It’s a lot more for the people who want to see who the best rocker of them all is.

A game like this doesn’t need fancy graphics. Guitar Hero looked decent and featured great little things that happened in the background. The same can be said for the sequel too. The character models seem more detailed, the backgrounds are more colourful and there seems to be more action going on in the arenas. They are giant flames, flashing lights and fancy models all doing actions. The camera will move to different angles throughout the song. There are parts that zoom right into the guitar and you can see what cords the guitarist is playing. The band on stage plays quite close to how the song would be played. It is great details like this that people only really notice when you are the one watching the game being played. The game’s art style adds to the stereotypical rock characters. You’ve got your kiss style rocker, a punk, a metal head and of course the Grim Reaper makes a return with awesome horns to boot.

Guitar Hero II is Guitar Hero on steroids. It takes every formula that made the original a classic and pumps it up full of goodies. All the new features are a welcome addition, especially training mode. The increase in difficulty is sure to please hardcore fans and co-op mode can be a lot of fun. It may course some arguments between who is going to play lead, although that can be easily sorted by playing Pro Face-Off to see who is worthy of the position. Guitar Hero just became even better and new fans are surely to enjoy what has become one of the best rhythm games in the history of video games. Rock on with this must buy Playstation 2 game.

Guitar Hero II is a must own title. It improves on the formula, is more challenging and packed with features to make it the best rhythm game since Guitar Hero.

9.2 out of 10

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