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Guitar Hero II Review (PS2)

Guitar Hero Returns with More Face Melting Rock

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

By Jeremiah Chin

Guitar Hero II

Guitar Hero II

©Red Octane
RedOctane and Harmonix decided to follow up their award-winning, fan-pleasing hit Guitar Hero with a spectacular sequel that maintains the look and feel of the original, while adding new flavor and features. To the average consumer or the gamer on a tight budget, GH II’s price seems like a steep sacrifice at 80 dollars (if you don’t already own a special guitar controller or two from the first Guitar Hero), but is one of the best values one can find in a game these days.

“For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”

For those who didn’t have the joy to get their hands on the first edition of Guitar Hero, most of the fun and quality of GH II comes from the use of the Guitar Controller; specially designed for use with the Guitar Hero series. The Guitar has five fret buttons and a strum bar which the player uses to match notes that fall forward on the screen. It also has a start and select button, shaped like volume and tone knobs, and a whammy bar used to… uh. Whammy. After hitting enough notes, you can either tilt the guitar or press the select knob-button to activate "star-power" to double whatever bonus you are getting from your score multiplier in game. Getting used to the feel of the controller is simple enough for anyone who has ever secretly played air guitar, or just anyone who has seen a guitar held. Though as a disclaimer, Guitar Hero II will teach you to play the guitar just about as well as Final Fantasy teaches you how to use a sword, so don’t expect to transfer your guitar controller skills onto the real thing.

“Cum on Feel the Noize”

Guitar Hero II Screenshot

Guitar Hero II Screenshot

©Red Octane
The Songs selected for Guitar Hero II give you a great variation, choosing anywhere between extreme death metal in “Thunderhorse” by Deathklok, Electro-Rock of Freezepop’s “Less Talk More Rokk,” “Carry on my Wayward Son” by Kansas, or “Message in a Bottle” by the Police. The songs are broken into 4 song sets, with a fifth encore song unlockable after completing the first four. The new encore feature adds more to the concert feel of the game, but also adds a special visual change to the stage during the encore performance. For each song you beat, you get paid based on how many notes you hit and how high you got your score multiplier, and can use this cash to buy yourself bonus characters, more songs, more guitars, making-of videos and even costumes for your characters. The overall difficulty from the original Guitar Hero hasn’t changed and like any other beat based game, the more you play the better you get. The big change from the first game is the inclusion of three note chords which can get surprisingly difficult in those fast sections. But as hard as any song may get, the game’s new Practice mode allows you to slow down and replay any section of the song in order to get every note down just right.

“Body Language”

With the PlayStation 3 launch looming, the PS2’s graphics are about to be blown away. Yet the graphical quality isn’t the highest deciding factor in a beat game, since most of your focus will be on five notes. These notes look great mind you, but the graphics aren’t the game’s deciding factor. What makes these last generation graphics shine though is the style and tone they set in the game. The concert arenas carry their own sense of humor in the game, opening the game in a high school gym battle of the bands, but as your band becomes more famous through career mode, you can move above and beyond to New York, Detroit and even Stonehenge. The character selection is also improved over the first game, keeping some favorites like Axel Steel (Metal rocker) or Judy Nails (Alternative Rocker) while adding new characters like Lars Umlaut; a Norwegian metal rocker who looks like he ate kiss and put on their makeup.

“Party Hard”

Guitar Hero II Screenshot

Guitar Hero II Screenshot

©Red Octane
Yet above all where this game shines is in a group/party setting. The new co-operative feature allows one player to play lead guitar and the other to play base or rhythm, combining their efforts into a single score, making both players activate star power simultaneously and of course co-operation. If you miss the alternating-section style of play, there’s Face-off mode and if you beat the career mode on hard you can unlock pro-face-off mode which not only has the most hyphens in this sentence, but also allows both players to play the entire song on lead guitar note for note, head to head. But here’s the kicker, if you have played the first Guitar Hero to death and suddenly you’re with a group of friends who have never played the game before, each player can choose their own level of difficulty to suit their skills. As fun as career mode may be, the joys of playing Guitar Hero II with a group of friends are almost impossible to find in any other multiplayer game on the market right now.
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