The Train Keeps a Rollin’
Aerosmith has been rocking the world over for 35 years. They’ve seen musicians and trends come and go but have somehow remained a constant force. Their longevity and wild popularity is due to loads of talent and an ability to adapt their style of rock over the decades. As usual, Aerosmith is on the cutting edge of the latest musical trend: music gaming. Guitar Hero: Aerosmith includes 25 Aerosmith master tracks along with 16 songs from other groups (and Joe Perry) that are some of the band’s favorites. All in all, there are just over 40 songs for living room axe-slingers to blaze through, as they follow the band’s meteoric rise to Rock ‘N Roll royalty.
When the title was first announced, I was a little skeptical. How was one band going to be able to pull off a Guitar Hero title by itself? Later, I learned that other bands were going to be included, and it started to make more sense. A band-centric, rather than band-specific title, could work as long as innovative features and a deep song list were included. For the most part, Guitar Hero Aerosmith delivers. There are great multiplayer options including two types of Face-Offs, Co-op play, and a nerve-racking Battle mode that take the fun of Guitar Hero from the living room and allow you to challenge the world in more ways than just leaderboards.
On the downside, the set list in GH: Aerosmith is decidedly lop-sided and not particularly deep; my initial fears were somewhat realized in that regard. Nevertheless, it was surprising just how fun the title actually is. Furthermore, if you are a serious Aerosmith fan, then you’ll be smitten by the inclusion of deep cuts as well as a varied collection of Aerosmith’s greatest hits. Their master tracks include classic hits such as Dream On, Sweet Emotion, Walk This Way (Twice), Back in the Saddle, and Rag Doll, while more obscure titles include Uncle Salty, Movin’ Out, and Toys in the Attic.
Single-player gameplay has seen almost no innovations over previous editions. The one thing most players will readily notice is that difficulty in GH: Aerosmith has been toned down a bit compared to GH III. That’s mostly due to the guitar style of Joe Perry (Aerosmith’s lead guitarist). Players will rarely have to deal with tendon-straining chord progressions and will only have to contend with lightning-fast riffs. As a result, GH: Aerosmith makes players that ordinarily struggle to play Medium and Hard difficulty levels feel like champs! However, for the Guitar Hero elite (i.e. Stan Mars and Kyle Broflovski) there won’t be the challenge you’re used to.
In the Career mode players will be given the task of playing as both the opening acts as well as Aerosmith. Opening acts include Stone Temple Pilots, Run DMC, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Cheap Trick, The Kinks, The Clash, and Ted Nugent among others. In each new venue, you will play a couple of tunes from these groups and then will finish off the tour stop by playing a few more Aerosmith songs. Between each act, there are band interviews that give players a bit of insight into the triumphs and trials of Aerosmith as a musical group. Of course, a dreaded boss battle is also included. Mercifully, there is only one, and it’s against Joe Perry. On the whole, I found Career mode to be very engaging for a quick run through. Sadly, the lack of song variety doesn’t allow for much replayability.
That’s where the multiplayer side of the title significantly picks up the slack. Playing Face-Offs, Pro Face-Offs, Co-op, and Battle should keep players busy for a lot longer. Face-Off pits two players against each other while alternating between sections of a given song like dueling banjos. Pro Face-Off more accurately quantifies player skill by having both competitors play the exact same notes through the entire song. Additionally, both Face-Off modes allow for handicapping via difficulty selection. That means gamers of vastly different skills can still vie for bragging rights.
Co-op mode still lets you shred with a partner, while dividing the song into bass and lead guitar portions. Battle, on the other hand, allows players to go at each other by providing them with tricky implements rather than Star Power. The Battle Attacks include Difficulty Up, Broken String, The Lefty/Righty Flip, Power-Up Steal, and even Death Drain for Sudden Death battles, as well as others. Most players will be familiar with this set up and power-up usage, while novices should know that using attacks in Battle will simply allow you to gain an advantage over your opponent by throwing them off their game.
The best news of all is that these multiplayer modes are now available via Xbox LIVE or PSN. That means you’ll always have someone to challenge whether you have friends over or not. During online play, we found there to be no lag and felt it was quite addictive. Plus, players of all skill levels will find similar competition. Face-off, Pro Face-off, and Battle modes are all available online as well. You can choose to play just one song or amp it up with a “best of 3, 5, or 7” series. In addition, there’s the option to play co-op online with other players.
GH: Aerosmith can be purchased either as a bundle or as the game alone. The bundle includes a wireless Les Paul controller, a sweet red and white Aerosmith faceplate, and commemorative Tour Book for about $100. The game itself retails for nearly $60. True fans of Aerosmith will be happy to know that the game implements all the best features of Guitar Hero, while being centered on their favorite band. For everyone else, it seems a little pricey for a title with such limited song variety. That said, it is still a very enjoyable title and is executed remarkably well. Furthermore, other band-specific Guitar Hero titles are on the horizon. So, if you’re not enamored by Aerosmith, it may be a better idea to hold off for now and wait for other editions more to your liking.
The visuals in GH: Aerosmith are classic. The cartoon likenesses of the band members and the faithful reproduction of important venues are almost scary (especially Steven Tyler). Because the crew at Neversoft was able to use master tracks for the songs, Aerosmith really comes to life. The vocals, percussion, and bass all seem to be nicely balanced, while still focusing on the importance of lead guitar. Both visuals and sounds are nicely rendered in GH: Aerosmith.
All in all, I was impressed by just how accessible Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is. The addition of a number of online multiplayer features really help to add much needed replayability to a title that focuses on a single band. Nonetheless, this is a title that will appeal more to fans of Aerosmith than to anyone else. Thankfully, the inclusion of master tracks and a slick menu interface means that this title sounds and plays exactly how it ought to. Look for the band-specific formula to become a steady performer for Activision, as these titles will be must-buys for true fans.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
The simple Guitar Hero visuals remarkably recreate band member likenesses and key venues. 4.8 Control
The Red Octane controllers are as solid as ever. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The use of master tracks does a great job of bringing the sound of Aerosmith home. 3.5 Play Value
Guitar Hero is fun no matter what, but GH: Aerosmith is definitely better suited to true fans of the band. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.