Guitar Hero: MetallicaESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
1-2 Players Online
Nintendo Wi-Fi Network
I am truly amazed how far the Guitar Hero franchise has come along. I admit that I was an early naysayer who believed that the game would never fly. The whole concept of playing a plastic guitar seemed goofy and I could not fathom grown adults doing such. Boy was I wrong. The Guitar Hero franchise is everywhere; even available on the DS. Activision has also released band-centric Guitar Hero games. Last year we saw the release of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith which was a game that focused on the Boston based band. It was well received and paved the way for the franchise's latest band-centric release titled Guitar Hero: Metallica. I was tasked to review the Wii version of the game and after some time with it I would have to say that fans of the Guitar Hero series, and well as Metallica fans alike, should be very pleased.
Visually, it comes as no surprise the Wii version is the weakest of all the ‘next-gen’ versions out there. This is to be expected given some of the limitations of the hardware. When you compare the Xbox 360 version of the game to the Wii there is a significant difference. That being said, Guitar Hero: Metallica is a decent looking game on the Wii and the band members, including all their on stage mannerisms, are accurately portrayed on screen. Lars, James, Robert and Kirk all look fantastic and are easily recognizable. The characters models are well done and you can tell a significant amount of time was spent in motion capture sessions with the band. In fact, the game even includes some behind-the-scenes footage of the band in the 'mo-cap' sessions. When compared to Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, it appears some gains have been made as the characters do not appear as 'stiff' this time around and seemingly move much more realistically.
Overall, the presentation is very good and the characters, as I mentioned above, are nicely portrayed. On the other hand some of the menus and in-game lyrics appear a tad muddy. In some instances I found the lyrics hard to read. This is not a problem with the Xbox 360 version which is likely due to the high definition video output; however the developers could have compensated for the Wii's shortcomings and made bigger and easier to read lyrics. There were also some evident 'jaggies' as this game runs in a lower resolution then the 360 or PS3 version. It doesn’t hurt the game though, it just is somewhat noticeable.
In terms of the venues, although they are modeled to reflect that of the places where Metallica has played in the past, and they all have that distinct Guitar Hero feel to them. The look and feel to the game is unmistakably Guitar Hero like. The integrity of the franchise is kept well in tact despite being a Metallica themed game.
As with the games visuals, the limitations of the Wii's hardware holds the game back from being stellar in the audio department. For starters, the Wii version of Guitar Hero: Metallica suffers from a lack of Dolby Digital support. For those who exclusively own a Wii, the sound will not bother you, but for those multi-console owners or home theatre buffs the sound will undoubtedly disappoint as the game just does not sound as good as it does in 5.1 surround sound. The music content on the other hand is great and set list is fantastic. The majority of the tunes cover Metallica's career from the early days and up to their most recent album release. There are other tracks by other artists that are also included in the game, but the focus is clearly on the legendary band.
The following is a list of songs included in Guitar Hero: Metallica's setlist:
• “All Nightmare Long”
• “Creeping Death”
• “Disposable Heroes”
• “Dyers Eve”
• “Enter Sandman”
• “Fade To Black”
• “Fight Fire With Fire”
• “For Whom The Bell Tolls”
• “Hit The Lights”
• “King Nothing”
• “Master of Puppets”
• “Mercyful Fate”
• “No Leaf Clover”
• “Nothing Else Matters”
• “Sad But True”
• “Seek And Destroy”
• “The Memory Remains”
• “The Shortest Straw”
• “The Thing That Should Not Be”
• “The Unforgiven”
• “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”
• “Wherever I May Roam”
In addition to the above noted Metallica tracks, the band personally chose other artists to be featured in the set list. These songs include:
• Alice In Chains - “No Excuses”
• Bob Seger - “Turn The Page (Live)”
• Corrosion of Conformity - “Albatross”
• Diamond Head - “Am I Evil?”
• Foo Fighters - “Stacked Actors”
• Judas Priest - “Hell Bent For Leather”
• Kyuss - “Demon Cleaner”
• Lynyrd Skynyrd - “Tuesdays Gone”
• Machine Head - “Beautiful Mourning”
• Mastodon - “Blood And Thunder”
• Mercyful Fate - “Evil”
• Michael Schenker Group - “Armed and Ready”
• Motörhead - “Ace of Spades”
• Queen - “Stone Cold Crazy”
• Samhain - “Mother of Mercy”
• Slayer - “War Ensemble”
• Social Distortion - “Mommy's Little Monster (Live)”
• Suicidal Tendencies - “War Inside My Head”
• System of a Down - “Toxicity”
• The Sword - “Black River”
• Thin Lizzy - “The Boys Are Back in Town”
Overall the set list is great and has more than enough to wet any Metallica fans appetite. Granted, there are some notable omissions and some hardcore fans may be disappointed that some of their own favourite songs may not be included on the game disc. Nevertheless, their biggest hits are incorporated and who is to say we won't see more obscure Metallica songs in one form or another sometime in the future.
Guitar Hero: Metallica is identical to previous versions of any Guitar Hero game and was designed to be played with all the Guitar Hero World Tour instruments. So yes, you can belt out lyrics like James does or bang on the drums like only Lars can. Unlike Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, this game goes beyond the core guitar-based gameplay by including the ability to play the drums, with a second kick pedal which I will explain further below, and a microphone. Additionally, Guitar Hero: Metallica supports the ability for up to four players to play together in a virtual Metallica-like band.
On that note I recognize some of you may be new to the franchise so I should give you a quick summary of what it is about. The Guitar Hero Series, Metallica included, is a rhythm based game where you hit falling notes that are represented on-screen as coloured discs. When playing with the guitar you must hold down the corresponding coloured fret buttons in timing with the coloured discs while strumming to beat. As you manage to hit successive notes you increase your bonus multiplier and rack up your score. Similarly with the drums, as the on-screen coloured disks drop you need to bang on the corresponding coloured drum or cymbal with your drum sticks or push the foot pedal for the kick drum. The microphone works similar to other rhythm based games such as SingStar and Rock Band as it uses a system which gauges your pitch. The pitch level you are required to sing is displayed via horizontal bars and these bars correspond with the lyrics of the song. Your pitch is compared to the pitch of the artists singing the song. The better your singing abilities (e.g. the better your pitch and timing) the better your score. Everything that I just described is the essence of Guitar Hero in a nutshell.
As I mentioned above, Guitar Hero: Metallica features the ability to drum just like Lars, which includes a second bass pedal compatible with the Guitar Hero World Tour drum kit controller. Unfortunately the second pedal does not come with the game. I have to admit I did not spend much time playing with the second pedal and frankly I suck ass on drums. Besides, the all-new “Expert” difficulty level is where the second pedal really comes into play. The Expert + difficulty gives gamers access to the double bass drum note track which offers the authentic Lars drumming experience with a note-for-note translation of many tracks appearing in-game.
Guitar Hero: Metallica offers up a typical career mode which is where I spent the bulk of my time. The career mode is much more forgiving this time around as you do not have to ‘beat’ every song in order to progress in the game. Similar to Guitar Hero 2, Guitar Hero: Metallica offers up a tier based system where it’s all about how many stars you rack up which allow you to move forward along the set list. Gone are the days of having to plod through each song one by one or getting stuck on a ridiculously hard song. Instead it is more of a performance based system where essentially you could complete the game without having played through half the songs available. Despite this, I found that I wanted to play through all the tunes. I think that the new performance based system is tailored for all types of people including those looking to race through the game, unlock some stuff, and check out all the various venues. It is sure to please many.
The career mode in Guitar Hero: Metallica is truly a great ride and the songs are an absolute blast to play. All the Metallica songs are master tracks which is truly treat. I am amazed that the developers managed to actually obtain the masters from those earlier days. In any event, the master recordings sound great and they certainly add to the authenticity of the game. It also comes as no surprise that the tunes present a great challenge to complete. I had to do a number of tunes a few times over. So on that note, hardcore Guitar Hero gamers will enjoy the challenge the game presents. On the other hand, rookies will appreciate the forgiving progression system and still be able to complete the game at their leisure.
Similar to Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, Guitar Hero: Metallica presents songs from Metallica's history in a somewhat chronological order. Real-life venues are used in the game, including The Stone nightclub in San Francisco, the Hammersmith Odeon, Tushino Airfield, and The Forum in Los Angeles. Once again, the authenticity is there and you truly get the feeling you are playing with the band every step of the way.
In addition to the single player and band career modes, you can immerse yourself in themed Battle Mode attacks. These attacks include blacking out your fellow rocker’s note track or modifying the amp overload to include the signature Metallica lightening. Additionally, Guitar Hero: Metallica includes Metallica trivia info. More specifically, after completing a song, you can test your Metallica know-how by replaying the song with trivia pop-ups. The on-screen display gives you information about the song being played, and with guest artist songs information about how the band is tied to Metallica will be displayed along with details such as band history and lyrics. All in all pretty cool stuff here.
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