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Guitar Hero: Aerosmith
Graphics: 7
Gameplay: 7
Sound: 9
Control: 8
Replay Value: 6.8
Rating: 7.1

Admittedly, with the advent of downloadable content, I didn't think we'd be seeing quasi-expansions of games like Guitar Hero, branded solely based on one band. In this instance, Aerosmith is the basis of this first, of many, expansions. We've been playing through it and we can't help but feel disappointed, as the end result feels like an attempt to cash in on the franchise before it goes RockBand-status and costs a lot more, thanks to the addition of extra instruments.

While the idea of a one-band 'Hero game sounds like a novel idea, it's actually quite flawed. My indifference for Aerosmith aside, a band I don't think has been relevant since the early 80s, I didn't find myself enjoying this Aerosmith branded Guitar Hero game. I haven't heard much of the songs in ages, and so remembering their rhythms took a while to figure out; so my initial trek started off very rough.

The concept's flaws come in when you notice the lack of diversity. I didn't like many of the songs in Guitar Hero III or even RockBand, but that didn't result in giving them poorer marks, because my tastes are different. But in the case of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, the game loses a lot of points because it targets one specific fanbase, which in turn hurts any shot of diversity the game could have. I don't mind an Aerosmith song here and there, especially anything from the first three albums, but an entire collection? And pricing it as a full game?

Even though we don't pay for these games, we still understand the concept of value, considering how many years of our lives we've spent buying games. And so, with that in mind, we have a hard time recommending Guitar Hero: Aerosmith at full price. The game's collection of songs (including non-Aerosmith tracks) ranges between 1964 and 2007, spanning some of the most memorable chapters of the band's career. There are 31 Aerosmith songs in total, broken down into six brackets throughout the career mode. There are 10 additional songs located in "The Vault", from bands that are loosely affiliated with Aerosmith, either having toured with them, or contributed to past recordings. The 10 additional songs include tracks by Joan Jett, Lenny Kravitz, The Kinks, Ted Nugent, The Clash, and more.

I really like the concept of The Vault, and I would've liked to see Activision expand on that collection of songs a bit more, as it moderately helps the game's diversity. Seeing as how Guitar Hero III features over 70 songs, GH: Aerosmith would have been worth the price of admission if it too offered such a playlist, and expanding the collection of songs in The Vault would've been the ideal way to do it. Once again, it's hard to recommend this game at full price, considering that it offers nearly half the value of GHIII.

If you're an enormous Aerosmith fan, then this title has no determined value, you'll buy it regardless. And if that is the case, I have no problem recommending GH: Aerosmith to fans of the band. But I can't recommend the game to fans of the Guitar Hero franchise.

If you're new to the Guitar Hero franchise, and this Aerosmith iteration has enticed you, allow me to explain how the games work. you have a guitar, and there are five buttons on it to use. There is a moving strum which simulates the picking, and a whammy bar for tremolos/vibratos. As opposed to just timing a button press, like Dance Dance Revolution, you have to pick and press the corresponding button simultaneously in order to pull it off.

Solid precision will land you power-ups that will help you boost your score, and then some. Once you get the hang of the game, it becomes pretty enjoyable, and if you have a friend nearby, it's even more enjoyable. And if you don't have a friend, take it online, which allows for the use of a headset, too. Multiplayer doesn't just have both of you playing the same notes, some songs will let you choose between rhythm and lead, while others guitar or bass.

Guitar Hero Aerosmith features a standard set of gameplay modes. You'll have to play the Career mode in order to unlock the game's songs, as well the boss characters. Then there are the Quickplay, Multiplayer, and Training modes. There is no Co-Op career, unlike GHIII, which is the other major downfall of the game. You'd think that if you're playing a game that is attempting to recreate the story of a band's career, you'd be able to play it with a buddy, as well.

I continue to dislike the guitar controller, as well. Spreading the notes across five buttons is a poor decision - largely because you're alienating the horde of people who have very poor control over their pinky. On top of that, button placement often makes it hard to tell what you're pressing on. Where as on a real guitar you memorize the layout largely based on the thickness of each fret, you can't do that in Guitar Hero because each button is the same in size.

And before I finish ranting, I have to urge gamers, both new and old, not to play Guitar Hero for extended periods of time, because the downward scrolling motion of the fretboard as it displays your notes can become extremely nauseating and cause disorientation. I don't understand why Neversoft doesn't offer a toggle to turn off the moving fretboard, while leaving the notes displayed, or at least alter the way that the notes scroll on the screen. Maybe something horizontal?

Visually, the game has very good presentation in how it brings out the career mode. The story unwraps using stylized cutscenes, marking the start of the band's career in 1970, when they first performed at Mendon Nipmuch High School, all the way to their inauguration to the ROck & Roll Hall of Fame. The same visualization used in the past Guitar Hero game returns for this one, but, of course, instead of generic looking rockers, you're in full control of Joe Perry, with the rest of the band around you. Moves of each member were motion captured to make their performances feel as realistic, as possible. But perhaps it's time for Activision to update the look of the games...they don't look very next-gen.

All in all, while certainly not a bad game, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith leaves a lot to be desired. It's cost doesn't justify the content, which is considerably less than what Guitar Hero III offered, thus making this a very hard purchase to recommend at $60. At $30, this game would've scored higher, at $60 you'd have to be an enormously huge Aerosmith fan to cough up the cash for this. Our advice, wait for Guitar Hero: World Tour or RockBand 2. 

7/30/2008   Arnold Katayev