Guitar Hero: Smash Hits Hands-On Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3 | Wii | PS2
Guitar Hero: Smash Hits box art
System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Beenox Studios 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Activision / RedOctane 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: June 16, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-8 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Top 48
by Jonathan Marx

April 17, 2009 - The vast majority of music and rhythm gamers cut their teeth (and callused their fingertips) on the Guitar Hero franchise. Setting itself apart from other genre leaders such as Dance Dance Revolution and Singstar, Guitar Hero employed a plastic, guitar-like peripheral that was so engaging it sparked a worldwide gaming phenomenon. Of course, success breeds competition. Soon Activision found itself losing a massive amount of market share to the upstart Rock Band franchise, which touted full band support. Something drastic had to be done, and so Guitar Hero ditched its guitar-centric gameplay for that of the now-standard four-piece band with the release of Guitar Hero: World Tour.

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits screenshot

Naturally, the large backlog of songs already released for the first four entries in the series (Guitar Hero, GH II, GH Encore: Rocks the 80s, and GH III: Legends of Rock) were not compatible with the expanded band peripherals. What's more, the Guitar Hero franchise, having been the pioneer, initially had to make do with a lot of cover tunes instead of master tracks. This combination of factors has led Activision to put together a compilation of the greatest songs from the original four releases that are 100% master recordings and that are fully compatible with all band accessories. Moreover, updated guitar peripherals and new difficulty levels introduced with World Tour and Guitar Hero: Metallica have led to completely revamped note tracks in Guitar Hero: Smash Hits.

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Guitar Hero: Smash Hits is set to hit store shelves on June 16, 2009. Activision was kind enough to send us preview code of the upcoming game. Included with this build were eight "famous and infamous" songs from the first Guitar Hero games. Songs included were "Killer Queen" - Queen and "I love Rock N Roll" - Joan Jett and The Blackhearts (GH), "Them Bones" - Alice in Chains and "Killing in the Name" - Rage Against The Machine (GH II), "I Wanna Rock" - Twisted Sister and "Nothin' But A Good Time" - Poison (GH Encore: Rocks the 80s), and "Barracuda" - Heart and "Through the Fire and Flames" - DragonForce (GH III: Legends of Rock). All the songs were wonderfully crisp - a real pleasure to play along to. What was most noticeable was how much better each of these songs played. The revamped note tracks not only incorporate new difficulty and peripherals (the addition of the slide bar controls make soloing and note distortion a real treat), they are actually far tighter; seemingly more realistic. This sentiment holds true for both low and high levels of difficulty. In other words, the new note layouts make you feel more like a rock star than they ever did.

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits screenshot

Certainly, the addition of lyrics and drums is also going to be a great boon for these old favorites, and I can't wait to get together with my boss (a pretty insane virtual drummer) and try the Expert+ difficulty. Other than the revamped tracks, the game will also sport all the online and creative modes developed over the years and introduced with World Tour. Options such as the Music Studio, GHTunes, and the Rock Star Creator are all going to be available. Also, eight new venues will be included with Smash Hits, including stages in the jungles of the Amazon and in the rocky Grand Canyon. These new venues look awesome. In fact, the game looks great in general. All your favorite Guitar Hero avatars are back, and their look is somewhat darker. After all, they're all a bit morose due to their star status, having conquered the world with their musical stylings. The new challenge found in Smash Hits will bring them out of retirement, though. This brings me to the new cartoon cinematics, which look solid, can be collected for later viewing, and will spin a humorous tale of stardom.

In addition to the eight tracks already mentioned, 40 others will be included with the game. At the time of this writing (4/17/2009), the complete set list from Guitar Hero had been revealed, but the lists from the other games are still a mystery. However, every Thursday, players can head on over to the official Smash Hits Website and find out the next revealed game's set of songs. In fact, fans can even vote for which game they want the tracks to be revealed from. Confirmed songs from Guitar Hero (not previously listed) that made the Smash Hits cut include: "Bark At The Moon" - Ozzy Osbourne, "Cowboys From Hell (Live)" - Pantera, "Take Me Out" - Franz Ferdinand, "No One Knows" - Queens Of The Stone Age, "More Than A Feeling" - Boston, "Thunder Kiss '65" - White Zombie, "Godzilla" - Blue Oyster Cult, "Unsung (Live)" - Helmet, "Stellar" - Incubus, "Bark At The Moon" - Ozzy Osbourne, "Smoke On The Water" - Deep Purple, "Take It Off" - The Donnas, and "Hey You" - The Exies. Also, a few other titles have been confirmed through teaser trailers including "Message In A Bottle" - The Police, "Carry On Wayward Son" - Kansas, and "Free Bird" - Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits screenshot

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits looks like it's shaping up to be a highly polished, must-have addition to the Guitar Hero family. If you're a long-time Guitar Hero fan and are worried about purchasing songs you already own, there is definitely going to be enough new here, i.e. 100% master recordings, tweaked note tracks, and full band support, to make purchasing the game a no-brainer. Stay tuned to CheatCC for updates to the song list when it's fully confirmed and for the full review of the game when it releases on June 16, 2009 for the Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, and Wii.

By Jonathan Marx
CCC Editor / News Director


Game Features:

  • Guitar Hero's Fan-Favorite Tracks: Play alone or as a full band and rock out to 48 of some of the hottest fan-favorite tracks from Guitar Hero's original guitar-centric games: Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
  • I'm With the Band: Video game fanatics can expand to full band and for the first time ever strum, drum and belt out some of their favorite Guitar Hero songs as master tracks on all gaming systems as they jam along to updated note tracks and all-new gameplay for the drum kit controller and microphone.
  • A Setlist Featuring the Greatest Hits of Guitar Hero: Features the most memorable songs from Guitar Hero games together in one epic setlist, comprised of all master recordings including, Queen's "Killer Queen," "Them Bones" by Alice in Chains, "Nothin' But A Good Time" by Poison, Rage Against The Machine's "Killing in the Name," "I Wanna Rock" by Twisted Sister, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts' "I Love Rock N Roll," Heart's "Barracuda" and Guitar Hero III favorite DragonForce's "Through the Fire and Flames."
  • Discover the Spirit of Rock, All around the World: Rock through fantastic locations with Guitar Hero favorites and play at eight new venues based on wonders of the world, including the Amazon, Polar Ice Caps and the Grand Canyon.
  • Create, Customize and Share: Guitar Hero Smash Hits features the Music Studio, GHTunes and the Rock Star Creator first made famous in Guitar Hero World Tour. Create your own hits in Music Studio, share them online with GHTunes and watch your created superstar shred and drum to your soon-to-be breakout hit. With difficulty levels ranging from "Beginner" mode, introduced in Guitar Hero World Tour to the difficult-to-master "Expert+" mode first seen in Guitar Hero® Metallica®, Guitar Hero Smash Hits is accessible for all players.
  • Up to 1080p (Full HD).


  • Screenshots / Images
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