|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Harmonix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: RedOctane (Activision)||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 24, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Nimer
Over the past couple of years, only a handful of games I would consider to be "classics" have appeared. Ninja Gaiden Black on the Xbox, Twilight Princess and Resident Evil 4 on the Wii, and even the overhyped but underappreciated PS2 gem Okami would be on my short list of games I'll remember twenty years from now. Late last year, I added another game to that list - Guitar Hero II.
For quite some time I listened politely as people gushed over the game, but I never thought I would enjoy the premise enough to warrant purchasing the prohibitively expensive guitar controller/game two-pack. After months of success on the PS2, Guitar Hero II was released for the Xbox 360 last year and I decided to bite the bullet and buy the game. Months later, I still play the game daily. I even went so far as to buy a refurbished PS2, simply so I could play the first Guitar Hero game and have access to a slightly different guitar controller. Essentially, Guitar Hero is what every good video game should be - challenging, addicting, and most of all, fun.
Fans of the first two Guitar Hero games are currently waiting with baited breath on the game's follow-ups, Guitar Hero III and Rock Band. Chances are you've already heard about the splintering of the original GH team into two different entities working with other developers for two equally anticipated "sort-of" sequels, but if not, Wikipedia can explain it better than I could ever hope to. Before these two huge releases smash America with the Goblet of Rock this fall, developer Red Octane has given us one last taste of what GH used to be and what it may never be again with the PS2 release Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80's.
Rather than droning on about what nearly everyone already knows, I'll just hit the high points. Guitar Hero is a music game where players use an ingenious guitar shaped controller to mimic the chords and notes of various popular (and not so popular) guitar-heavy songs. The game's difficulty ranges from laughably easy to insurmountably difficult and some have even achieved Internet stardom by plowing perfectly through some of the game's most punishing songs. If you don't believe me, search YouTube for Guitar Hero and marvel at the elementary school kids flying effortlessly through solos that have had you shouting obscenities at your television and cursing your fingers for days on end.
With that out of the way, we can get to Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80's in particular. Essentially, this is an add-on to an already great game. For between 40 and 50 dollars, you're getting a carbon copy of a game you already love. The game offers new outfits for the Guitar Hero crew and around 30 new songs to play, but for the most part, it is the same old Guitar Hero. This isn't a bad thing at all; in fact, most GH fans will agree that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Sadly, there are a few problems that keep this encore from getting you to raise your Bic lighter and sing along with the crowd.
The first major complaint with Rocks the 80's is that it appears only on the PS2. The PS2 Guitar Hero controller was a great idea, but the design wasn't perfected until the Xbox 360 redesign. Pair that with the PS2's woefully outdated graphics (not that the graphics matter much in a game like this ) and lack of a coherent online component, and Rocks the 80's seems like it could have been so much more on the 360. The whole package has a, for lack of a better word, "lazy" feel to it. The only way to describe the feeling of Rocks the 80's is to imagine if the World of Warcraft expansion, The Burning Crusade, was released as an offline only set of extra features with N64-era graphics and sub-par controls. The PS2 controller is a step backward, the graphics are a step backward heck, even the music is a step backward (though an intentional one it is called Rocks the 80's after all); it all adds up to a woefully inadequate addition to an already classic game.