Here's What I Think (Guitar Hero)
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Hereís what I think: The world needs more games like Guitar Hero. I know, I know, jumping on the Guitar Hero bandwagon is all the rage these days; but thereís a reason for it. In a world where weíre subjected to an endless stream of generic and uninspired slop from publishers, any game that does something new and does it well deserves to be praised.
Yes, Konamiís Guitar Freaks, which is strikingly similar to Guitar Hero has been around for years, but Konami never released it in the United States. You canít really blame Konami for being cautious. Itís always a risky proposition to release a niche game that is totally reliant on an expensive peripheral. Youíve also got to be sure youíve got a good game on your hands. The discounted copies of Taiko Drum Master (and Donkey Konga before it) I see sitting around everywhere show the risks of releasing an average, unconventional game.
Harmonix and Red Octane deserve credit for what theyíve accomplished with Guitar Hero. Theyíve got a game that appeals to nearly everyone. Itís accessible to beginners, and itís a wicked challenge for even the most experienced gamers. With so many games taking the cheap way out by taking away health packs or ammo, the way Guitar Hero gets more difficult, slowly adding buttons and then chords into the mix, is refreshing. Lest I forget the guitar controller Ė it works great. The whammy bar is a nice touch, and the ability to tilt the guitar to ďrock outĒ is brilliant.
The Karaoke Revolution series has always struggled to provide an eclectic mix that the majority will enjoy, partially because guys donít like singing female parts, but Guitar Heroís soundtrack is a masterpiece; again appealing to nearly everyone. As I played through the game, I was thinking to myself that it really needed some Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Clapton. 30 minutes later my prayers had been answered on all three counts. Even the original tunes by unknown artists are easy to listen to and enjoyable to play. Sure there are a couple stinkers in the game, but for the most part, the tunes are phenomenal.
Guitar Hero also proves that a small developer thatís willing to take a risk and try something innovative can succeed. You would never know it looking at store shelves, but people want new experiences. Granted, Iím in a different position than many of you because I play a ton of games, 80% of which I would never touch if I werenít reviewing them, but I think you guys are just as sick of licensed movie crap as I am. Again, Iím not saying the game is groundbreaking, but when was the last time such a niche product had such success on consoles?
This paragraph was originally about the things I wanted to see in the sequel, but it seems with this week's announcement of Guitar Hero 2, Harmonix is set to address some of, if not all of my points. I was hoping to see some sort of create-a-player mode and even the ability to create your own guitar, a better training mode, and the ability to practice difficult passages - and it looks like they are going to deliver. While Iím at it, I might as well get greedy and ask for Pearl Jamís Alive, Even Flow or Porch to be a part of the soundtrack.
Iíve been gushing about the game so long I almost forgot the point of this editorial Ė oh yeah, I was saying that we need more games like Guitar Hero. They donít have to be music games and they donít have to feature a wacky controller, but whatever you developers do, challenge us. Gamers are getting older and believe it or not, we're getting tired of the same crap over and over. I'd like to make a formal request for you to please stop with the following:
STOP with the exploding crates: Knock it off. Seriously. I'm 29 years old, I used to work in a warehouse and I haven't seen .01% as many crates in real life as I have in games. FYI, none of them have ever exploded around me. Not one.
STOP making me storm the beach: Yep, after seeing Saving Private Ryan and doing it in at least a dozen games I'm good with the beach storming. Just because your beach isn't Normandy Beach, that doesn't make it different.
STOP giving me brain dead people to protect or fight with: Everyone on the planet hates escort missions. I'm not going to waste my time explaining why. Here's a tip for all you tactical simulation people: if you're going to make me have idiotic squad mates, at least give me the option to kill them.
STOP making 100 first-person-shooters a year. There should be a sign-up list on January 1st and only the first ten groups to sign up should get to make a fps.
STOP with platforming games. I understand some development studios are talentless or need to practice or something, but scooping up a third-rate movie license and then releasing a game where I have to collect 100 whozits and whatsits is going to make me go postal at some point.
STOP releasing games with broken cameras. Just because you've come to grips with your sorry ass camera over the course developing the game, it doesn't mean the rest of us are interested in making managing your camera a full-time job.
I could go on forever with this list, but nobody is going to listen, so I'll stop. Why there are countless companies with the resources to take a chance, yet refuse to do so is beyond me. Save your money on that movie licensing deal and give it to someone with an idea. Not all innovative games are rewarded with great sales numbers, but gamers have long memories and we'll fondly remember your efforts. Long live Samba De Amigo!
4/20/2006 Aaron Thomas