I wanna rock 'n' roll, no matter how long it is to the top!
Tue, 28 November 2006
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This may come as a shock, Buttonholers but I am, as always, telling the truth: Not all of my friends/acquaintances are as geeky as me. In fact, a few of them wouldn't even qualify as geeks at all. Some of them rarely, if ever, even play videogames! I don't know what is wrong with them, but I guess nobody is perfect. However, occasionally there have been games that not only enthral me - and my 'hardcore gamer' brothers & sisters - but also manage to capture the attention and affection of my generally 'non-gaming' mates. Guitar Hero 2 is just such a game.
These occurrences are unusual, which makes them all the more thrilling to witness. Another of Activision's properties - the Tony Hawk game series - have often managed pretty wide spread appeal. I've seen Mr. Hawk's titles convert many a 'casual' player into an obsessive gamer (at least for a while). I also fondly remember Crazy Taxi on Dreamcast casting quite a spell on most everybody I watched give it a go. Going further back, I recall a period where most parties I attended would involve groups of intoxicated folks indulging in some SNES Mario Kart and NBA Jam high jinks.
It takes skill to make a game that enthusiasts of a certain style will adore. Like Dragon Quest on PS2 being a wonderful title for old school console RPG lovers, such as myself. Creating something - like, for example, Sony's Eye Toy stuff- that holds appeal to a more mainstream audience certainly requires clever thinking too. Nintendo have opened this kind of thing up a bit more with their DS and we'll likely be seeing even more of that with the Wii. But a gaming product that appeals equally to any kind of audience is, thus far, still extremely rare.
One good way of doing it is to make the control input in a form more people are familiar with. It makes sense to play a gun game with a gun, a dancing game with a dance mat, a singing game with a microphone and so forth. This way, people who don't usually play games are able grasp the gist of the concept right away and find it less daunting than having to learn a series of complex button combinations, using a control pad or keyboard.
Guitar Hero 2 is the latest, and perhaps greatest, example of this. This is a game that not only provides fun and challenge for any gaming veteran, but will also convert anyone who tries it into a fan. And I do mean literally anyone!
Since I never owned, or played, the first instalment of Guitar Hero, this 'guitar device' controlled mayhem is all new to me. I can now say that the guitar controller used for the game works amazingly well and the extent to which it mimics playing a real musical instrument is quite extraordinary.
|I believe this is how Yngwie Malmsteen learned to play |
As I said, most people, whether they play games often or not, can grasp the fact that you are playing this one along to music. Because you are doing it by using a device shaped like a guitar, everything just makes sense and clicks right away. Personally, I don't think I've ever witnessed a game garner such joyful reactions, in such a short amount of time, from every single person who tries it as this one. Guitar Hero 2 is a game that is extremely fun and hilarious for anyone, no matter what tastes they might have.
Thanks to the game's exceptionally well designed tutorial modes, anyone can pick the basics up quickly enough to have fun. Mum, Dad, your wife, the dog (okay, I haven't had any luck teaching the dog to play it yet - but that's really the only exception) will soon be able to play along with the songs quite well, particularly on the game's easier settings. In that sense, Guitar Hero 2 is like any other well made game; great fun to start with and it feels very rewarding indeed, as your skill with it improves. The longer you play, the better you get and the better you get, the more enjoyable it becomes.
There are certain little itches most humans have and Guitar Hero 2 scratches them most expertly. Have you ever wanted to feel like a rock star, at least for a while? Or at least be somehow creatively skilled and/or recognised, musically or otherwise? Anybody that tells me they've never had the desire to experience either of those things is probably a liar. Something this game does so very well is to, almost right away, make you feel that you really are playing a musical instrument and providing your part to the songs. You become increasingly convinced of this as your skills improve and the level of interactive complexity increases.
Something else I love about this game, which adds even more to its wide ranging appeal, is the great sense of humour it has. Guitar Hero 2 is one of the most utterly hilarious games I have ever seen or played. Just as it is with playing any real musical instrument, every bum note you hit is embarrassingly audible. You always know if you are doing a poor job of things, thanks to the horrible sounds that emanate due to your shonky performance. If you were playing guitar in a real band, screwing the song up - especially during a live show - might be rather stressful and humiliating. But here, it is just plain funny.
Because this is, after all, just a game; to play at your own chosen pace, as a form of amusement and/or challenge. Much like if you crash your vehicle in a racing game you can just start over, whereas doing so in real life would not end so kindly. Guitar Hero 2 leaves you free to screw things up as many times as you may. It doesn't matter, just try again. No harm can come of it, because you are still safely at home (or wherever you're playing it) at all times. When you f*#k a song up in Guitar Hero 2, it definitely still makes you feel like a tool - but it seems more endearing than humiliating. Basically it just causes you laugh at yourself, in a very healthy way. It also makes you keen to keep trying the song again, until you can nail it.
There's more humour to be found thanks to the game's excellent presentation. You get to choose from different characters to play as and a variety of venues. It makes little overall difference to the game itself, but it is fun using them all since they are very amusingly designed and animated. Pretty much every clichéd rock image you could imagine is present and accounted for.
There is a fantastic mix of song types in Guitar Hero 2, both old and new. Quite an eclectic & varied mix of genres are on offer as well, ensuring most everyone should be able to find a favourite song or two. Many of the tunes are very cool and others provide an excellent challenge, just by being darned tricky to play. Then there are the songs included mainly for tongue in cheek factor; very funny to hear and play. Cherry Pie - which is, as far as I know, the only hit song by the super cheesy 'hair metal' band Warrant - fits into that category (sorry if there are any Warrant lovers reading who take offence to me considering their favourite band laughable).
You unlock new tracks by clearing songs in the career mode, which provides plenty of additional incentive to keep progressing. When you nail a tune, you'll often unlock a new song to be played as an encore, to meet the demands of your now adoring audience. I laughed out loud for about a minute straight when this lead to the following scenario: I played a song really well and got an encore. It turned out to be the classic Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight by the legendary musical geniuses Spinal Tap. I got through that one pretty well, being most familiar with the tune. At the conclusion of the song, as the audience cheered, my band's drummer exploded (my fellow Spinal Tap fans would appreciate this little in-joke and likely find it just as piss funny as I did).
Guitar Hero 2 is even a highly enjoyable game to just watch. Not only can you laugh at, or cheer on, your mates as they rock out with their cock out (not literally, unless you are into that)- but it is only while doing this that you get to really appreciate the game's graphics. When you are personally playing, you are concentrating on hitting the right notes - so you don't really get the chance to check out how the band looks while playing, the audience reactions and the different background details. While not really a graphical masterpiece (that's not what it is about), Guitar Hero 2 is certainly a fine looking PS2 game that offers an abundance of visual charm.
|Doctor G Shok uses the "beer can slide" technique...using the wrong hand! |
You also have the option getting into some two player simultaneous action. There are a multitude of different multi-player modes to try, which apparently are brand new to this sequel. I don't yet have two guitar units, but I fully intend to purchase a second one very soon. I think that would be utterly awesome and absolutely worth the extra cost. The amount of potential fun to be had with two guitars means it should soon pay for itself. You won't need to go out anywhere with your friends, just grab get a few beers, turn on the game console and you'll have a nice night in.
Guitar Hero 2 is truly the ultimate party game. Whack this sucker on in a room full of people and mayhem is sure to ensue. It'll soon result in people laughing at themselves and each other, yelling out compliments or insults, singing along to the songs and a variety of other boisterous displays of enthusiasm.
There are hours and hour's worth of good times to be had with this game, even when playing it all by your lonesome. It has well over 50 different songs to try and master and allows you to play the guitar parts in Rhythm, Lead or Bass (which should please our 'real life' bass playing Buttonholers - Fazz and Mugwai).
Another little thing I dig about the guitar device itself is that it includes a whammy bar and you can crank the bastard to your heart's content, without having to worry about needing to tune the thing afterwards. My last guitar would go out of tune any time I messed around with the whammy. I wound up giving that guitar to Mugwai as a birthday gift, incidentally - I pretty much never played it and he has plenty of legitimate musical ability.
After raving on and on about something like this, usually I'd also mention some weaknesses, or faults I found with the product. But I can't really think of a single bad thing to say about Guitar Hero 2. Honestly, it is just that good! Oh how I love it when that happens - it makes my job extra easy. This one is spot on at doing everything it attempts to do and offers anything you could hope for from a game of its kind. I simply can't imagine anything one could wish for, that would improve this "most excellent" (as Bill and Ted would no doubt call it) guitar game. Well, other than Activision supplying a few groupies to go with it, I suppose - but that request just might be a wee bit unrealistic.
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It has amazingly wide ranging appeal and is one the most humorous and outright fun games I have ever experienced. This is utterly wonderful in every possible way and I love it to death. I reckon Guitar Hero 2 is truly a game that everybody should own!