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y now, you’ve either played Guitar Hero, heard about it from a friend, or read us raving about it for the last year. I don’t have a lot to add to the conversation about this game, but I did want to relate a brief anecdote that I think illustrates why this game has been so successful.

This past New Year’s Eve, Andy had a party. A large group was down in the basement, where he has his games setup, and inevitably a game of Guitar Hero got started. While the people from GI in attendance were already converts, what really interested me was the way that this game draws new people under its spell. I’d say that at least half of the people there were not avid game players, some not gamers at all. Still, after an hour, there were constant lines of partygoers who – after having just played a few songs – were working their way through the first batch of tunes and not-so-patiently yearning for another turn. Suddenly, the line for Guitar Hero was longer than the line for booze, which is saying something. It’s pretty rare for a game to have this effect, and I think it’s a testament to Harmonix development expertise that Guitar Hero is addictive and inviting for everyone from the most novice player to the most hardcore.

Guitar Hero II, as you likely already know, improved on the original by adding a great guitar/bass duet mode, more real-world gear endorsements, encores, and “Freebird.” I heard some complaints from people that felt the soundtrack could have used more “hits,” but I honestly liked having a few more dark horses in the race. Those whiners should be happy that quite a few of the 10 new songs are well-known songs by the likes Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Rick Derringer, Rancid, and Toadies. Also, I couldn’t fail to mention just how crucial the inclusion of “The Trooper” is – Maiden’s scorching leads have no peer in the world of metal.

I have few complaints about this package. It’s not dramatically better than the PlayStation 2 version, but it’s great that a whole new audience is going to have the opportunity to play Guitar Hero II. I’m glad they included some new songs, and am excited at the prospect of downloading future tracks on Xbox Live, but a little disappointed that it wasn’t possible to include online multiplayer, a feature that would have taken the GH experience to the next level. Also, I have a problem with the placement of the Xbox 360 Guide, start, and select buttons, which I frequently found myself hitting by mistake – pausing the game – with the palm of my picking hand. To be fair, I was the only one in the office who had serious complaints about this, so maybe it’s just my own overly zealous strumming style that’s the culprit.

These slight quibbles aside, Guitar Hero II is a fantastic game. If you haven’t already, go out and buy it. It’s just that simple.



The first time I heard that Guitar Hero was coming to Xbox 360, I had the following reaction: “Yes! They’ll have downloadable songs, online rock-offs, and a tasty wireless guitar controller.” Unfortunately, GH II only has one of these features and, as of press time, there’s still no word from RedOctane on the nature and frequency of the downloads. However, all of the Guitar Hero action players are accustomed to is perfectly captured here in high-def (not that that’s a huge deal for this type of game). The eight new licensed tracks help to beef up the career mode and most of them are top-notch. I particularly enjoyed “Possum Kingdom,” “Dead!,” and “Hush.” For me, I don’t think I’m ready to leave behind the $160 I spent on the PS2 versions and then blow $90 on another setup for a few new songs. But if you own a 360 and have held out on buying any form of Guitar Hero so far, this is definitely a must buy.
An enhanced 360 port of the PS2 classic with a new Gibson Explorer-style ax and hot new tracks
Some nice enhancements, but I never have time to pay attention to the graphics
Ten new tracks, including “Hush” by Deep Purple and “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden
Smooth as silk gameplay, although I don’t like the placement of the start and select buttons
It’s simply one of the most purely fun games of the last few years; Xbox owners need to check this out
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