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Guitar Hero: Van Halen Review
Review Score:

JUMP! For this game

Oh no, not another Guitar Hero game. I bet you my weekly wage packet that the very utterance of my opening line reverberated around many households and game stores upon announcement and visualisation of it hitting retailers. In fact, as I write this Red Octane will be shutting down and even Activision themselves, may have admitted that this long standing successful brand maybe losing its appeal. Then there is the ethical factor of Guitar Hero games, 90% of the time they are re-packaged with the same mechanics and sold on again at £40.00 a whack. So it’s understandable that people are starting to loathe the franchise a little. However, these games still have their place in the market and with the rate of releases slowing down they have an equal chance of gaining better sales.

I’ll be honest even I was getting sick of the franchise. My bursting point was Guitar Hero World Tour. Despite it introducing a drum kit and microphone to the fray its set list was weak and throw in the odd Tool set list to play and that was the final nail in the coffin. So it’s with Guitar Hero Van Halen that I return to the series and a new developer too. At the helm of this release were, Underground Development. So it would be interesting to see what changes, if any we’d expect this time round. So we strapped on our second generation GH guitar and hopped on the world of late 70’s early 80’s rock gods.

Firstly let me allay fears that because this game is Van Halen it doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. In fact myself, and I’d imagine many others whom have stumbled upon this game weren’t very sure about the music they made and are now, thanks to playing this game are now fans. Well, in case you still don’t know they made the classic tracks such as Jump and Panama to name just two of an impressive 25 track set list that features on the game. There are also 19 other artists included which include Tenacious D, Queens of the Stoneage and Lenny Kravitz. For me, the most important element of the Guitar Hero games are the set lists and myself am, not a big fan of hording DLC onto my hard drive, so when it comes buying retail discs the set list has to be spot on and I’m very happy to report that it is. In fact oddly, Guitar Hero Van Halen is arguably the strongest and dynamic set list the series has ever offered. Every track compliments itself with other tracks in the set list and whilst playing tracks outside the Van Halen roster aren’t perhaps visually as engrossing, the music is. For those wondering whether you can import your DLC purchases into the game, I can also confirm this is the case.

Long haired music makers, always sounds better.

There are two things that I absolutely love about the game, firstly you don’t have to play through the whole damn career mode to access the majority of the tracks that game has. Having the quick play option with access to a flurry of Van Halen’s greatest is a master stroke move that I really appreciated. Some may argue this takes the life out of the career mode itself, but I disagree. You still have achievements and unlockable character customisation content to open up and for that alone, it’s enough to keep you playing. The second thing I love about this game is playing the Van Halen tracks. You have the band faithfully re-created in realistic graphics and when you mould this with pyrotechnics and band camaraderie it makes for a visceral experience. Seeing Eddie and his band mates enjoying playing to the crowd gives the game the belief and authenticity that just isn’t found when you create your own band.

The game isn’t all about playing through on Guitar and Bass, you can also use your microphone and drum kit for certain tracks. Vocals are finally made easier due to having a lyric sheet which you can learn the songs before taking them to the stage, phew. This was not in World Tour and it rendered the singing element of the game useless until you had unlocked everything the game had to offer. In terms of other elements of the game, you’ll find it contains pretty much everything found in Guitar Hero 5. You can make your own tracks (if not a little simple and uninspiring) download additional content from the store take your guitar battles locally and online. All of this works without problem. Everything sounds great with this game doesn’t it? Well, I’m glad to let you know that there isn’t anything that you can really takeaway from this game other than the fact that it’s generally more of the same and that the price point still entered at around the £40-45 mark.

Guitar gods at work

What Guitar Hero: Van Halen doesn’t do is what MTV embraced with Rock Band: The Beatles. There has been no legacy, no back story to the game at all. Nor do you get to progress through the various albums and imagery of Van Halen’s progression through underground to MTV status and for those that are major fans of the band, that will disappoint you. If you are looking to generally expand your roster, get a genuine feel that you’re playing with Van Halen when they are on the stage then this game is great. As a result, despite the strong set list Activision hasn’t gone above and beyond to push the series into a whole new level of immersion and that definitely shows on our score.

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Guitar Hero: Van Halen Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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