I’d never really played a Guitar Hero game before, so when I was invited to visit Activision’s secret bunker and try out a preview version of Guitar Hero: Metallica, I was more than a little apprehensive. Not wanting to look a fool, I locked myself away for a couple of days with a copy of Guitar Hero: World Tour. Oh, how we suffer for our art at Game Console!
Once you get over the fact that you are standing there like an idiot pressing buttons on a plastic guitar, Guitar Hero rewards you with an immensely satisfying experience that can be enjoyed by anyone with a passing appreciation for rock music. It is deceptively hard to master, especially if you are as ham-fisted as I am. My time with Guitar Hero: World Tour turned me into a fan overnight and I was desperate to have a go on Guitar Hero: Metallica.
Heavy metal icons, Metallica, have lent their name, their likenesses and, if the publisher’s blurb is to be believed, have been involved all the way through the game’s development. The career mode is apparently inspired by a real group of fans who followed the band’s tour in the 1990s.
It would be easy for me to write off Guitar Hero: Metallica as no more that a glorified content pack, better suited as a downloadable add-on for Guitar Hero: World Tour. We have, after all, already had Metallica’s album, Death Magnetic as downloadable content – why not this as well? I don’t think Activision is cynically screwing the fans at all; I think they have a clever plan and this title is part of that plan.
Guitar Hero: Metallica is a different beast from Guitar Hero: World Tour; the art design definitely sets out to serve a more discerning audience. There is less of that parent-friendly, rock clichéd feel of the game’s predecessors. The camera moves and video filters create a style that suits the more feral nature of a heavy metal concert. The Metallica tracks are accompanied by recognisable and very well animated motion-captured character models of the band members.
Guitar Hero: Metallica sends the message that it’s much more than just a game played with a pretend plastic guitar; it’s another way to enjoy the music that you love. Guitar Hero is vying for legitimacy amongst unconvinced rock fans and “serious” gamers alike.
Guitar Hero: Metallica is fully compatible with Guitar Hero: World Tour instruments, supporting lead and bass guitar, drums and vocals. A notable addition is the Expert+ mode, for drummers only, which uses an extra pedal to generate double bass drum notes and recreate the signature Metallica beat.
As well as being loaded with songs from Metallica’s back catalogue, the game also includes tracks from over 20 bands that they have collaborated with or been inspired by, such as Mötorhead, Foo Fighters, Queen, Thin Lizzy and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Whilst the music may not be to everybody’s taste, the thrash metal tracks included are sure to melt the fingers of even the most hardcore Guitar Hero fan. The commitment to the title shown by the band and slick presentation set it apart. I’m not a heavy metal fan, but I went away smiling. It looks good and feels right. I’m looking forward to playing the finished game and from what I’ve seen, so should you. In the meantime, I suggest that you get some practice in, as Guitar Hero: Metallica will command you to play it hard and loud.