Guitar Hero II Review
Guitar Hero II box art
System: X360 Review Rating Legend
Dev: RedOctane 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Harmonix Music, Activision 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: April 3, 2007 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Armchair Rocker

by Jonathan Marx

The Guitar Hero series is one of the most inventive and enjoyable to date. The creativity and sheer playability of these titles cannot be disputed. Everyone who sits down (or stands-up) to play these games, even the most ardent critics, will be hard-pressed not to thoroughly enjoy themselves. I think humans are just naturally hard wired to rock, and Guitar Hero II sates that primal desire in spades. Moving over to the 360 was a bold and wonderful move for Activision, RedOctane, and Harmonix. The addition of a leaderboard and the prospect of ever-expanding set lists through Xbox Live downloads has got armchair rockers everywhere giddy.

Guitar Hero II screenshot

For those of you who have been living under, rather than getting on with, your rock allow me to explain what you've been missing. Guitar Hero II, like its predecessor, has you rocking along to memorable guitar anthems via a controller that replicates the look and feel of an actual guitar. You must click the strum button and depress the appropriate fret key in time to the passing color coded notes. The game's basic structure is much like Nintendo's Donkey Konga series or even Konami's Dance Dance Revolution. If done so successfully, your onscreen persona and band will rock flawlessly along to some of your favorite tunes. If you can't quite blister through the solos, then you're going to hear a lot of unsatisfying feedback. You will amass points by hitting the notes in time and by stringing together error-free combos. As an added bonus, you'll be able to really leverage your scoring power by accumulating star power and then activating it by filling the meter and tilting the guitar upright to get your jam on. This is a great device as it doubles your current multiplier and brings the player further into character by way of the tilt sensor. All in all, this game will have you truly rocking and rolling; it is inevitable. For those who don't know how to jam on a real guitar this is a nice substitute

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The gameplay in this title is phenomenal. You won't find a more well-crafted title in terms of playability. There is a significant learning curve, but you will get the hang of it. In fact, you may even find the easy level a stretch at first. Do not get discouraged, it's all part of the challenge. You will build up your chops and be adding the fourth and fifth fret buttons while executing "hammer-ons," "pull-offs," and advanced chord progressions in a matter of hours. To help ease your induction period, a brief tutorial will guide you through the basics of the game. If you really want to improve your skills, use the excellent practice mode that has been provided. Here you will be able to play any of the songs you have unlocked. You can drastically slow down their tempo and even choose which part of the song you want to practice. For example, if you're having trouble getting a five star rating because the second guitar solo of War Pigs is killing you, just cue up Solo II in the practice mode, slow it down, and get your muscle memory sharp. Soon you'll be hammering through the track like Tony Lommi himself.

Guitar Hero II screenshot

The graphic quality of this game is not a concern. You won't be buying this title for graphic realism. In fact, you will be completely transfixed upon the notes as they whiz past that you'll have no time to pay attention to anything else on screen. The menus are nicely crafted though and the overall setting is expertly contrived. Humor and creativity is apparent throughout the title and you will appreciate the edgy caricature of the rocker lifestyle. Additionally, everything looks crisp and fluid. The graphics nicely support the gameplay and thankfully play bass to its lead. The only criticism I could really come up with is that of fan repetition. If you actually look at the crowd you'll notice that there are only about five different character models, all doing nearly the same action: throwing up the sign of the beast. Again, this really has no bearing upon gameplay, and I only mention it because it is kind of cheesy.

Guitar Hero II screenshot

This game is all about the music. The set list is varied by both artist and genre. It's difficult to speak to song list quality due to the subjective nature of musical taste, but I think those of you that are thinking about picking up the game will not be disappointed. This particular version of Guitar Hero II has several extra tracks compared to its PS2 counterpart. In all, there are 74 songs to rock out to so there is bound to be a number of songs for anyone to enjoy. If you're still not convinced, then just think about the content that's going to come out for Xbox Live. The sound quality is tremendous. All of the songs have crystal clear sound quality reproduced in Dolby Digital 5.1. Some songs are better than others due to voiceover issues. Most songs are performed by the original artists, yet others are taken on by voice-a-likes. Usually, the soul of the song isn't too badly marred, but some songs can be difficult to listen to. One, in particular, which drove me crazy was Sweet Child of Mine by Guns n' Roses. I know it's tough for anyone to belt out notes like Axel Rose but, man, it really could have been better. Luckily, the entirety of the guitar riffs and solos are faithfully recreated and that is the crux of the game anyway. The voiceover work, all in all, is done quite well and only slightly hinders the overall experience. The menu sounds are great and really help to nail the setting. Moving from menu to menu keeps the player engaged by replicating amp sounds and reverb. The game sounds great and is real treat.

Screenshots / Images
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