Guitar Hero: Rock the 80s PS2 Review

Okay, you already know how Guitar Hero works don’t you? First, you consume enough alcohol so you don’t feel stupid holding a plastic guitar, but not too much that you might believe the five different colour dots racing towards the screen are attacking you. You then lift said guitar and try and match up as many of said dots with your aching fingers as you can, and then, for whatever reason, feel proud that you managed to do it. Okay, good… now we got that sorted out, let’s get on with the review.

Now, if you are anything like me then you’ve seen the upcoming Rock Band and Guitar Hero III videos, were awed by them, and have no doubt watched them again and again. Both games, particularly Rock Band will be the pinnacle of what the genre has to offer in the future, and come Christmas time Jingle Bells will be a long forgotten memory as you lose your inhabitations to the likes of Suffragette City, grin as your fingers strain to hammer out the opening driving bass riff of Barracuda and rock the f%@k out as you work your way through the seminal chorus of Enter Sandman. Yes, that is the future, and what a future it will be, but for now we have Guitar Hero: Rocks The 80s, and, while not great, it is all honesty it ain’t half bad either.

So, without getting any further in to this review I will admit that no, Rock the 80s is not a patch on what’s to come in the future, and yes, a better ’80s soundtrack could have been cobbled together. Oh, and no, it is not worth the £30 price of admission, but that not to say it is a bad game, in fact far from it. Obviously, the main draw of any rhythm title is that the tracks contained within are fun to play, and thankfully a good portion of the songs on show, regardless of how memorable they are, are entertaining to strum along to. Interestingly, even though I lived through six years of the ’80s, I knew very little of any of these song before I played the game. In fact, beyond Turning Japanese, I Ran (So Far Away) and I Wanna Rock the rest of the 27 songs on show were a bit of mystery for me.

However, after playing the game I found myself both realising that well over half the songs are of a good quality, and, even better, a few more than that are fun to play. Top of the pack for me was .38 Special’s “Hold On Loosely”, Dio’s “Holy Diver”, Scandal’s “The Warrior”, Krokus’ “Ballroom Blitz” and Billy Squier’s “Lonely is the Night”. Interestingly, many of my favourites this time ended up being the songs which offered a selection of changing two note cords throughout the song rather than those with furious fret work and ever changing notes. The fast songs were still there though with Oingo Boingo’s “Only a Lad, “Electric Eye” by Judas Priest and “Seventeen” by Winger being the standouts. Still, the game has it’s fair share of stinkers with Faster Pussycat’s “Bathroom Wall” and “Radar Love” by White Lion being the biggest offenders, making you struggle to get through them even once. Finally, there is last song in the game, which is “Play With Me” by Extreme. The beginning of the song seems really influenced by Mozart and Bach, and it’s sort of in between those. It’s like a Mach piece, and it is arguably harder than both Freebird and Bark at the Moon when played on Expert, for those that like a challenge.

Outside of the ’80s songlist, the games overall image does not make you believe you are really part of the decade that gave us Rubik’s Cube, TMNT, VHS (poor Betamax!), ET, and the first Apple Mac. In fact, not only has the games image not changed to a great extent, it actually contains less venues than before (goodbye Stonehenge), only one set of ’80s inspired costumes for each character, no unlockable songs, and what looks to be the same selection of guitars and finishes you already unlocked in GHII last year. Also, in terms of modes nothing new has been added either, with the similar practice mode to cooperative modes available that was there before.

All in all, while the game may be a let down from the series highs of last year, Rock the 80s is far from a failure. In fact, if anything, it is really more of a stopgap measure for Activision to keep the Guitar Hero name in people’s mind for the rhythm battle royal that will happen come year end. So, when all is said and done, even though the game is definitely worth picking up, it is probably best to wait till some stores mark the price down a bit, your wallet will thank you in the end.

Not really the encore most were expecting

7 out of 10
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