Guitar Hero: Metallica (Xbox 360)
Posted by Kuang on Wed, 06 Jan 2010.
The Guitar Hero franchise has been a runaway success since the first title launched on the Playstation 2, and the need to cover new ground has led to games based around individual bands rather than wide ranging collections of music. We’ve already had an Aerosmith title, which wasn’t exactly the most entertaining instalment of the series, and a Van Halen episode is on the way with rumours of Green Day and Jimi Hendrix to follow. In the meantime we can take a look at the Metallica edition.
Judging by the menu screens it’s business as usual – nothing particularly new stands out, and because it’s based on the World Tour engine, it doesn’t have the ‘jump in’ style intro from GH5. You do get a brief cartoony animated montage of past album covers but that’s it. The usual career, quickplay, head to head and Xbox Live options are there, but practise is buried away in an option called ‘backstage’ for some reason along with the extras.
The career mode is split into a series of gigs representing venues Metallica have played in the past, although the setlist doesn’t match the chronological order –You’ll be playing a track from 1991’s ‘Black’ album on your first foray onto the stage, but you have to wait until the fifth gig before you get your hands on Whiplash from their ‘83 debut ‘Kill ‘Em All’. You’ll alternate between playing Metallica songs as the band, and playing as a support act playing songs from bands who have either toured with Metallica for real, who Metallica have covered tracks by, or in some cases that the band just seem to like.
As with any Guitar Hero game, success or failure is in the quality of the setlist, so how does GH: Metallica score here? It’s a mixed bag to be honest – you only get 28 Metallica tracks and 21 from the support bands, for 45 in total, which is poor compared to the 85 tracks available in GH5. You also only get one track from their most recent album ‘Death Magnetic’, and buying the rest as DLC will cost you another £15 or so in MS points. Clearly the influence of the Metallica money machine is strong in this one..
The rest of the Metallica tracks cover most of their career, which means they unfortunately chose to include one from the truly awful ‘St Anger’ album... but at least it’s only one, although it’s still an ordeal to play though. You only get one track from ‘Load’, but you do get ‘No Leaf Clover’ as a bonus which was previously only available on the ‘S&M’ album. It’s not easy to choose a best of for Metallica, so overall they’ve not done a bad job but the later part of their career – i.e., the most commercially successful part – feels underrepresented. Financial decision? Who knows.
The cover acts range from very good (Corrosion of Conformity, Thin Lizzy, Alice in Chains) to not so good (The Sword, Michael Schenker Group, Suicidal Tendencies) but overall they’re more hit than miss. The savage adaptation of Slayer’s ‘War Ensemble’ has to be one of the toughest GH tracks to date and should be voted ‘most likely to result in a guitar controller going through your TV. Apart from that one the difficulty level is pitched quite well, although Kirk’s frequently out of tune and overly widdly solos from the very early days can get tiresome. The drummer may struggle if using a Rock Band kit rather than the official GH one, as the drum tracks really don’t fit well into four tracks instead of five, and some tunes feel as if they’re deliberately making life difficult. If you do use the official kit and want to buy a second kick pedal, you can unlock ‘Expert+’ mode for some tracks, which allows you to take on a lot of the faster double kickdrum work. You may be surprised to find that you can finish a career with only 35% or so of the tracks finished, which makes you feel short changed – if the intention was to open up the songs quickly for team play, why not unlock them from the start like GH5?
So overall a pretty good package, and a worthwhile addition to the GH canon? Hm..
The problem I have here is that for a band like Metallica you’d expect any product bearing their name to be spectacular and this just isn’t. Sure, the tracks are great if you’re a fan, but the support tunes can feel a bit filler-ish, and keeping the latest album as DLC – the one that new young fans are most likely to know – is cheap. Couple that with the short setlist , no extra presentation other than a few cartoons, cheap videos and some lyric sheets, and the lack of rhythm and lead guitar roles, and it feels like they’ve done the bare minimum possible to justify the license. The latter point completely kills the sense of getting your mates together and ‘being’ Metallica for the evening’ which is surely the point of a game focused around four well known personalities?
While we’re on that subject, the notable omission of Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted stings. Rumours suggest that this was to avoid upsetting new bassist Rob Trujillo, but he was happy to appear on stage with Jason at the Hall Of Fame awards so that seems a weak excuse. Looking through the photos dating back to the bushy hair and zits days of the 80s shows that Jason has been completely removed from the band history, not even meriting a mention in the band facts that appear from time to time. This smacks of a bad attitude, something that Metallica have been accused of in recent years with some justification. On the bright side, it means they don't mention Dave Mustaine either.. ;)
In summary, if you like Metallica , are prepared to overlook the omissions, and can get this title at a discount to reflect the lack of new content then there’s a lot of fun to be had and it doesn’t do a bad job of summarising the band’s career. Otherwise you may find it slightly underwhelming.