Content Test 3

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Guitar Hero: Van Halen
Graphics: 6.5
Gameplay: 6.5
Sound: 9
Control: 9.2
Replay Value: 6
Rating: 6.9

So let's pretend you're Activision. You've released a Guitar Hero game based on Aerosmith, as a means of testing the waters to see how the fans would react to a product like that. Then you green-light a full-scale game that's dedicated to the biggest name in the rock world, Metallica. How do you follow an act like Metallica? Well, in terms of popularity and sheer recognition, it's hard to. So you sit down and think of the closest examples, Queen was taken by Sony, The Beatles were secured by EA and MTV, but because Guitar Hero has always demonstrated the harder side of rock, Guitar Hero: Van Halen makes perfect sense for the franchise. 

I have to give it to Activision on this one, the free Guitar Hero: Van Halen promotion was a really good idea. Think about it, for the price of one game, you get two and that makes this particular entry a bit easier to enjoy. And yes, I'm aware that not everyone secured a free copy of the game, and for those thinking about actually dropping full-price ($60) on a game that offers half the features, think twice. Guitar Hero: Van Halen may pack a pretty good soundtrack, overall but why release a half-assed Van Halen game that only focuses on one era of the band's career?

By releasing a Roth Halen Guitar Hero, Activision has alienated an entirely separate and dedicated audience from ever purchasing the game. Why not release a full blown Van Halen game that boasts both eras? It would surely make for an interesting career mode, and I say that because this particular game has no career mode. Well, it has a mode called "Career", but unlike other GH games, this one is barren and devoid of anything. Story? No. How about a story board? No. Archived footage of the band? Negative. Some sort of footage? Nah. Band relative historic progression? Nope. So what do you do? Well, you just play through the songs, and that's about it. No challenges, either. Oh, and get this, the band you play with is the current lineup featuring Wolfgang on the bass, and once you complete the career, you'll unlock the classic costume set for the band. And yes, Wolfgang dawns Michael Anthony's classic suit once it's unlocked...which is weird.

There is no importing of songs, not even the non-Van Halen tracks. You can't buy songs from the GH Store, either. So what the hell? There is a total of 44 songs in the game, which is a far cry from what a fully loaded Guitar Hero game usually offers. At least with GH: Metallica it was extremely well done, but with GH Van Halen it's no wonder Activision was able to give away thousands of them for free like that, the game isn't worth $60. This is a $20-30 package, at best.

Then we get to the lifeless visuals. With GH: Metallica, Activision went and motion captured the guys to give the in-game Metallica life-like stage presence. While they mo-capped Van Halen, it feels as if they'd have been better off in taking creative control and animating them manually. Or at the very least, adding certain signature animations manually, like Roth's jumps. Stage presence is not a strong suit of the in-game band here, and while they're not totally motionless, I really wish Activision took some liberties here and gave us a band that animated like their 80s counterpart, and not the slurring, off-beat, lyric stumbling, son-at-the-bass-guitar modern counterpart. Plus, the lack of memorable venues really hurts this one.

Now, as you've realized from past entries, Guitar Hero games featuring solo acts also come loaded with a number of other songs to make the catalog that much more enticing. With GH: Van Halen, you get 25 Roth Halen songs, including three of Eddie Van Halen's most popular solos, and 19 guest acts ranging from Blink 182, Alter Bridge, Queens of the Stone Age, Judas Priest, Foo Fighters, Killswitch Engage, Queen, Weezer, The Offspring, and others.

Take a look at the list of tracks below. Remember, this is Roth Halen stuff only.

Van Halen:
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
And The Cradle Will Rock
Atomic Punk
Beautiful Girls
Cathedral (Solo)
Dance The Night Away
Eruption (Solo)
Everybody Wants Some!!
Feel Your Love Tonight
Hang ‘Em High
Hear About It Later
Hot For Teacher
I’m The One
Ice Cream Man
Jamie’s Cryin’
Little Guitars
Loss Of Control
Mean Street
Pretty Woman
Romeo Delight
Runnin’ With The Devil
So This Is Love?
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
Spanish Fly
You Really Got

Guest Acts:
Alter Bridge – Come To Life
Billy Idol – White Wedding
Blink-182 – First Date
The Clash – Safe European Home
Deep Purple – Space Truckin’
Foo Fighters – Best Of You
Foreigner – Double Vision
Fountains of Wayne – Stacy’s Mom
Jimmy Eat World – Pain
Judas Priest – Painkiller
Killswitch Engage – The End Of Heartache
Lenny Kravitz – Rock And Roll Is Dead
Queen – I Want It All
Queens of the Stone Age – Sick, Sick, Sick
Tenacious D – Master Exploder
The Offspring – Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)
Third Eye Blind – Semi-Charmed Life
Weezer – Dope Nose
Yellowcard – The Takedown

I was really excited about Guitar Hero: Van Halen, but all of that excitement washed away when I actually played it. Granted, the first 20 minutes with the game were a ton of fun, mostly because of the songs from Queen, Judas Priest, Queens of the Stone Age, Killswitch Engage, and Alter Bridge, but once I started actually diving in, I began to notice just how barebones this is. And even though I get this stuff for free, I never forget the value to the gamer who spends his/her hard earned money. A full-priced game this is not. But if you happen to see it cheap somewhere, snag it. It's fun, but not feature filled.

1/10/2010   Arnold Katayev