GAMER Rhythm games are a mixed bag, but the good ones are great. Games like Karaoke Revolution, Dance Dance Revolution, and now Guitar Hero (PS2) set the standard. This game is so much fun it makes jerks explode.
The controller is shaped like a guitar — a Gibson SG to be exact — and it features five colored buttons on the fret board, a whammy bar, and a little flicker lever where the strings would be. The SG, for those who don't know, is the guitar Angus Young from AC/DC and Mick Barr from Orthrelm play — it is attractive. Guitar Hero features 30 famous guitar-heavy rock songs, most of which were originally recorded by longhairs.
The game has several difficulty levels, and the hard setting is too difficult to begin with, even for guitar lords. A well-designed tutorial will get you started and show you the ropes. You watch colored notes float down the screen, then have to hit the corresponding buttons on the fret board and strum the flicker button on beat to get points and hit all the notes. Star Points can be earned by playing the star-shaped notes when they appear. When you've filled your Star meter, you can engage Star Power and get double points! To engage Star Power, point the guitar toward the sky and continue shredding.
A career mode moves you through the game nicely and eases players from easy to medium to difficult songs. The easy setting only asks you to hit three fret buttons — songs get progressively more intricate and even demand that you use real guitar techniques like hammer-ons and pull-offs. If you miss a note, you'll hear a realistic muted pluck — just like when you miss a note on a real guitar. A quick-play mode allows you to jump in and play any of the 30 songs (more songs can be unlocked), and a two-player mode enables you and a friend to trade solos. You'll need a second guitar controller for the two-player mode to be mega, but the game can be played with a standard controller. Devo would probably have liked a controller-shaped guitar.
While most rhythm games focus on game play and ignore graphics, Guitar Hero comes correctly with solid game play and impressive graphics. The backing band is legit, environments like the stadium and the basement look great, and the game includes a giant Viking as well as songs by Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Franz Ferdinand, Sum 41, David Bowie, Queen, and Pantera. Guitar Hero is terrific and worth buying. (Nate Denver)