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Guitar Hero: Smash Hits

 

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Category: Miscellaneous
 
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7.5
 
Author:

Developer – Beenox Studios
Publisher - Activision

Features:

1-2 Players
1-2 Players Online
Guitar Peripheral
Nintendo Wi-Fi Network
Leaderboards

The Guitar Hero franchise has become a household name and a mega-hit for Activision. Guitar Hero games have been around since November 2005 and the franchise is not showing any signs of slowing down. The franchise is also on solid ground with Wii gamers as the series has been a mainstay on the Wii for the past couple of years. So it comes as no surprise we now have a greatest hits version called Guitar Hero: Smash Hits for the Wii. Granted it seems a little early for a greatest hits package for a franchise that has not even been around for 4-years, but for those who joined the party late, Smash Hits may be right up your alley as it gives you a chance to experience some of the tunes which made the franchise the best seller it is today. That being said, should hardcore Guitar Hero gamers pick this one up or how about those Wii casual gamers? Is Smash Hits worthy addition to your Wii library? Read on and find out.

Graphics

Overall Smash Hits looks good and stays true to the overall looks of the franchise. That being said, having recently played the Xbox 360 version of the game, the Wii version is clearly not as sharp. But this is to be expected given some of the limitations of the hardware. The Wii does not have high definition capabilities so you do have to scale back your expectations. Nevertheless, Smash Hits is a decent looking game on the Wii as the game’s colors are bright and the characters have more animations than ever before. The stages and concert venues are very sharp looking as is the overall presentation of the game. Granted I would have liked to see more than eight venues out of the box; however such in-game venues as the Amazon, Polar Ice Caps and Grand Canyon look very slick. When you first fire up the game the menus look very sharp and keep to that authentic Guitar Hero look. The scrolling discs/notes, that are staple for the Guitar Hero series, run quite smoothly which is critical in a game where timing is essential to how well you perform. Located just behind the scrolling notes is your band. The characters are easily recognizable as the likes of Axel Steel, Judy Nails, and Johnny Napalm are present from past Guitar Hero games. The game also has several new characters. Just like World Tour and Guitar Hero III for the Xbox 360, Smash Hits is a vibrant game and everything is certainly over-the-top with some of the crazy effects which occur just before the start of every encore

Sound

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: Smash Hits 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 out there, the sound will undoubtedly disappoint as the game just does not sound as good as it does in 5.1 surround sound. That being said, the game does features a stellar set list featuring some of the most famous and infamous tracks from some of the various Guitar Hero games released in the past.

The game comes with 48-songs; all of which are master tracks. I must say it was nice to play “Message in a Bottle” by The Police and not have to listen to some cover band like we had to endure a few years ago. On the downside, 48 songs does seem a tad skimpy when you consider World Tour has over 80. Nevertheless, the developers did a nice job picking some of my most memorable and enjoyable tunes from years past. For those wondering what songs they get to play I thought it would be prudent to make a list of some of the songs available breaking them into what version of Guitar Hero they originate from.

Track(s) from Guitar Hero:

- Blue Öyster Cult - "Godzilla"
- Boston - "More Than A Feeling"
- Deep Purple - "Smoke On The Water"
- Franz Ferdinand - "Take Me Out"
- Helmet - "Unsung (Live)"
- Incubus - "Stellar"
- Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - "I Love Rock N’ Roll"
- Ozzy Osbourne - "Bark At The Moon"
- Pantera - "Cowboys From Hell (Live)"
- Queen - "Killer Queen"
- Queens Of The Stone Age - "No One Knows"
- The Donnas - "Take It Off"
- The Exies - "Hey You"
- White Zombie - "Thunder Kiss ’65"

Track(s) from Guitar Hero II:

- Alice In Chains - "Them Bones"
- Avenged Sevenfold - "Beast And The Harlot"
- Danzig - "Mother"
- Foo Fighters - "Monkey Wrench"
- Iron Maiden - "The Trooper"
- Jane’s Addiction - "Stop!"
- Kansas - "Carry On Wayward Son"
- Lamb Of God - "Laid To Rest"
- Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Free Bird"
- Mötley Crüe- "Shout At The Devil"
- Nirvana - "Heart-Shaped Box"
- Rage Against The Machine - "Killing In The Name"
- Reverend Horton Heat - "Psychobilly Freakout"
- Rush - "YYZ"
- Stone Temple Pilots - "Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart"
- The Police - "Message In A Bottle"
- The Sword - "Freya"
- Warrant - "Cherry Pie"
- Wolfmother - "Woman"

Track(s) from Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s:

- Anthrax - "Caught In A Mosh"
- Extreme - "Play With Me"
- Judas Priest - "Electric Eye"
- Poison - "Nothin’ But A Good Time"
- Ratt - "Round and Round"
- Twisted Sister - "I Wanna Rock"

Track(s) from Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock:

- AFI - "Miss Murder"
- DragonForce - "Through The Fire And Flames"
- Heart - "Barracuda"
- Kiss - "Rock And Roll All Nite"
- Living Colour - "Cult Of Personality"
- Pat Benatar - "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"
- Priestess - "Lay Down"
- Slayer - "Raining Blood"

Track(s) from Guitar Hero: Aerosmith:

- Aerosmith - "Back In The Saddle

As you can see it is a pretty good set list and the master tracks make this one worth the purchase for some of those hardcore Guitar Hero gamers who may have long since traded in their old games. The overall sound is fantastic as well even on the Wii. All in all anyone will be happy with the whole audio package offered in Smash Hits, from the available music tracks to the crowds and the special effects (e.g. pyrotechnics on stage); it is all worth the price of admission.

Gameplay

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits is the fourth expansion game to the Guitar Hero series. Taking songs from Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, Smash Hits for the Wii allows gamers to experience the songs in their master track form and to play them with all the World Tour instruments. The core of the gameplay in Smash Hits remains unchanged from the other games in the franchise. This can be a good and a bad thing. The game does not feature any groundbreaking new features, so for those familiar to the franchise you won’t skip a beat. On the other hand, for the $59.99 price tag I expected a few more bells and whistles. But before I get ahead of myself I will just recap what the Guitar Hero game is all about for the few that are actually still living under a rock.

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits 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 time with the coloured discs while strumming to beat. As you manage to hit successive notes you increase your bonus multiplier and rack up the 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 stick 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 required is displayed via horizontal bars and these bars correspond with the lyrics of the song. Your pitch is compared to the pitch of the artist(s) singing the song and 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 Smash Hits in a nutshell.

As I mentioned earlier, Smash Hits does not come with many extra features or any significant new additions. Everything you were able to do in Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero: Metallica is also offered in Smash Hits. So if you are looking for something new and fresh, clearly you will have to wait for Guitar Hero 5 this fall.

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits offers up a typical career mode which is where I spent the bulk of my time. Simply put, the career mode is a challenge this time around. By the time you hit the third venue your hands will start cramping and getting a five-star rating becomes quite the challenge. For those familiar with some of the songs on the set list you will know exactly what I mean. So on that note, the career mode has been designed, to a certain extent, for the hardcore Guitar Hero fan as the mode offers up a degree of difficulty unlike we have seen in any previous version to date.

I should also mention you do not have to ‘beat’ every song in order to progress in the game. Similar to Guitar Hero: Metallica, Smash Hits offers up a tier based system where it’s all about how many stars you rack up which allows you to move forward in the set list. Gone are the days of having to plod through each song one by one with the chance that you may get 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 as getting to the encore songs is extremely rewarding. I think that the new performance based system is tailored for all types of people including those looking to race through the game, unlocking some stuff, and checking out all the various venues. It is sure to please many.

In addition to the career mode, Smash Hits features the Music Studio, GHTunes and the Rock Star Creator which was originated in Guitar Hero World Tour. Here you can create your own hits in the Music Studio, share them online with GHTunes, and watch your created character shred or drum to your soon-to-be breakout hit. It is a slick mode clearly designed for those Guitar Hero junkies out there as the Music Studio lets you express your musical creativity by giving you access to a full complement of tools to create digital music from scratch utilizing the redesigned touch-sensitive guitar controller and an authentic drum kit. You can then play your compositions in-game and share the recordings, as I mentioned, with the entire Guitar Hero community through GHTunes where other gamers from around the world will be able to download and play the original tracks. I have to say that by surfing the new GHTunes feature I was somewhat amazed with what people are doing with this music tools included in the game.

Smash Hits also includes an 8-player “Battle of the Bands” mode which allows two full bands to battle head to head online. I have to admit I did not spend much time in this mode; however this mode alone gives the game some much needed replay value. This brings me to my main ‘beef’ in this review. For those that have already played through the majority of the previous Guitar Hero games, it is hard to justify the 60 dollar price tag for a game which does not feature any new tunes. Many would argue the tunes should have been made available in the form of downloadable content. That being said, I also understand every gamer does not go online and they may be only playing the songs which come out of the box. Don’t get me wrong, the master tracks are a treat, but without any new features this should have been a game valued for half the price it is selling for.


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