Game Review: Guitar Hero – Metallica
Let’s put aside the Napster thing, the questionable quality of their latest release, the baffling attitude towards their fans, and the emotional breakdowns.
Whether you like it or not, Metallica is a pretty big deal.
Here’s my review of Guitar Hero: Metallica.
If you’ve been reading the site, you know I was more than a little disappointed with Guitar Hero: World Tour, and I’m a big fan of Rock Band. I’m going to do my best not to let that color this review, but hey… it’s full disclosure.
In my younger years, I followed Metallica. I even had the jean-jacket with the requisite sewn-on patches. It was the defacto uniform for the Parking Lot crew during my high school years.
Somewhere around the Black album, Metallica just kind of faded for me.
That being said, the set list for GH:M had me excited. There’s a lot of material from their early catalog, some great special guests, and the newer songs are at least tunes that don’t make me gag. One very odd thing about the song selection: About half of the special guest songs are tunes that Metallica has covered (recorded their own version), but performed by the original artist. Not sure how I feel about that, but definitely noteworthy. Songs like ‘Am I Evil’ were made famous by Metallica, but originally performed by other artists (in this case Diamond Head). I’m just not sure how many Metallica fans are going to be thrilled by playing the Bob Seger version of ‘Turn The Page’.
On the surface GH:M isn’t that different from World Tour. It’s a full band game and has online play. Oh yeah… then there’s that useless studio feature. The graphics are essentially the same as previous games, but the animations are motion captured and much more realistic. I hope the character models for the band aren’t that realistic, cuz if they are, the real band is made up of some seriously fugly guys with bloated faces.
I played this title on a PS3 and when it came down to it, I was taking a little bit of a risk. If I had gone with the XBox version I would be forced to use the stock Rock Band 2 drum kit and guitar, or I would have to buy even MORE plastic instruments. My living room is already full, thank you.
GH:WT for PS3 was notoriously finicky about synching instruments, bad note detection, and third-party hardware incompatibility. By playing the PS3 version I was able to test the game with a variety of equipment, including the Official Guitar Hero: World Tour drum set, so I thought it was a better option. When you hear some of the things I discovered, I think you’ll agree.
Initially I used the in-game calibration system, and true to it’s predecessor, GH:M failed miserably. After four attempts to get the calibration tight enough to make the game playable, I gave up. Note to Neversoft: have Red Octane build an auto-calibrating peripheral… PLEASE!
I wound up slipping in my copy of Rock Band 2 (which had been calibrated using their auto-sensing STOCK guitar), looking at the settings for calibration, returning to GH and manually entering the values there. Metal Be Praised! Calibration was spot-on.
With that little chore out of the way, I played through the entire Career Mode on guitar. I bounced between difficulties to see what differences were there, and honestly… I’m pleased. Hammer-ons and Pull-offs still don’t track quite right, but it’s not game breaking like it was in GHIII.
The lower difficulty settings seem appropriate for newer players, while the later songs on Hard and Expert are not only challenging, but sometimes can only be described as brutal. Try playing Suicidal Tendencies ‘War Inside My Head’ on Expert, and tell me this doesn’t have a difficulty for everybody, including super-mutants.
The set list begins rather easy (even on Expert) but ramps nicely up to insanely difficult. There aren’t any jarring leaps in the learning curve. Again, I’m pleased.
Getting away from the ‘gig based’ gameplay of World Tour, this title goes back to the tiers and levels of earlier Guitar Hero games. You can unlock new levels of songs by meeting minimum ‘star rating’ levels. Somewhere around 75 stars, and you’ll open everything. Beat the final song and you beat Career Mode. You can realistically finish a Career by only playing 35%-40% of the songs. Good deal… much easier to open all the tracks.
I attempted a few vocal tracks and found it almost identical to World Tour. Essentially it’s Singstar. While I prefer the interface for Rock Band, there’s nothing WRONG with the vocal setup in Guitar Hero games… it’s just my preference. We’ll leave it at that.
On to playing bass… see my notes on guitar playing. The ‘open note’ strum is kinda cool though.
You’re all probably wondering about the drums, huh? Especially since I blasted the drum hardware and note charting in the last game.
I tried to play with the GH:WT drums, but quickly realized that not only is the kit an uncomfortable piece of s#!t, of dubious ergonomic design, but I once again had a problem with sensitivity. To recap earlier articles on the subject, my red pad isn’t sensitive enough, and my orange cymbal is too sensitive. If I hit the red pad hard to get a note to register, it sets off my cymbal. To fix the problem requires hooking the drum set up to both your console AND a PC running a calibration program that Activision makes available for free.
The annoying thing is, it saves the sensitivity setting with the game, not on the console. I really didn’t feel like dragging everything together and going to the bother. I muddled through half a dozen songs with the GH drums, then (literally) kicked them out of the way. If I never have to use them again, it will be too soon… alas, if I want to try the tutorials (there’s a Trophy/Achievement for finishing them) then I HAVE to use the Official drum kit.
It won’t even let you attempt the tutorials unless you’re using ‘Official’ equipment.
So, there’s an Achievement/Trophy that you can’t get unless you buy THEIR gear. Sweet action! (that’s sarcasm, folks)
Switching to the ION Premium Drum Kit, I got another nasty surprise: it doesn’t work.
While the pads, d-pad, PS Button, and all other functions appear to work, once I entered into a song… nothing responded anymore. I was frightened that my ION kit had died, so I fired up Rock Band. Everything was fine. Back to GH. Once a song started, nothing. It didn’t even say it was disconnected until I pulled the USB cable. Plugging it back it after that STILL didn’t get it to work.
Thanks a pantload for the support Activision.
Switching drum kits again, I went for a stock Rock Band 2 drum set with the 3 Cymbal Expansion. It worked… mostly.
Hit a cymbal and the controller disconnects. Hit the PS Button and you’re in business… until you hit a cymbal. Then it disconnects again.
So I played a LOT of drums on a four pad Rock Band set, with no cymbals. At this point I was annoyed enough that I didn’t even hook up my dual kick pedals.
All of that aside, the note charts for drums are VASTLY improved, and for the first time in a Guitar Hero game, I ENJOYED PLAYING THE DRUMS.
I guess if you like the World Tour kit, or don’t mind playing with a bare bones Rock Band kit, you’re in for a treat.
Last note on drums: this game has a Super-Duper Hard difficulty setting for drums called ‘Expert+’. It’s essentially Expert with FULL kick pedal note charting. It’s meant to be played with two kick pedals (a separate purchase), but at least the lower-tiered songs CAN be finished with a single pedal… it’s just a little painful. Guaranteed, your leg will hate you for attempting it, but it’s possible. It’s not nearly as scary as it sounds.
Overall, if you’re into rhythm games, already have plastic instruments lying around, and you’re remotely interested in Metallica… go BUY IT. It’s the most fun I’ve had with a Guitar Hero branded game since Guitar Hero II.
If you’re just starting with rhythm games, are going to need to buy instruments, and this isn’t really your kind of music… go buy Rock Band 2 instead.