Reviewed: June 29, 2008
Released: June 29, 2008
Iíve spent the better part of the last three days doing nothing but playing Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, and it was a very revealing experience for me. First, let me say that Iím a huge fan of Aerosmith; they are one of my top five favorites bands and Toys in the Attic was the second record I ever purchased Ė AC/DC Back in Black was the first for those who are curious about my musical taste and my age. And thanks to having gone to high school with Axl and Izzy from Guns & Roses, I even got to meet Aerosmith backstage in the late 80ís when they played together in Indianapolis. And no, I wasnít worthy, and yes, it was very much like Wayneís World, only Heather Locklear wasnít there.
My first revelation was when I saw the intro video snippet of the actual band and saw just how old these rockers have become. Music is timeless and whenever I hear Uncle Salty on the radio Iím transported back a few decades, but seeing the various band members reminisce about their legendary career made me feel as old as they looked. And sadly, once I started to play the actual game, I realized just how old Guitar Hero has become, and all before the ripe young age of 3.
To put Guitar Hero: Aerosmith into proper context, we have to think of this game as an expansion pack rather than a full release. Sure, itís standalone and itís even shipping with guitar bundles, but the narrow focus of music and a track list that is only half the size of a full game makes this the 2008 equivalent of Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80ísď. Plus the fact that Guitar Hero III already offers track downloads via Xbox Live I canít help but think this entire effort would have been better received as an online offering. The simple fact is that if you arenít a huge fan of Aerosmith the remaining 12 tracks from other bands (some even covers) arenít going to be enough incentive to plunk down another $60.
Guitar Hero: Aerosmith rides in on the Guitar Hero III engine, and with a few visual exceptions is relatively unchanged from the original. Even the drawn out tutorial features those same bickering good and evil deities offering advice on shredding, which seems slightly out of place in this release. Menu art is spruced up with Aerosmith-centric visuals and there is a fun opening animation, but again, there is nothing really new other than the musical content and some performance art.
This latest installment of Guitar Hero eases up on the difficulty factor considerably while restricting your career path by trickling down one new song at a time leaving you with few options. The career mode is divided into six venues that take you from Aerosmithís humble beginnings at Nipmuc High School to their Super Bowl half-time show in 2001 to their Hall of Fame induction ceremony. In each new location you first must play two non-Aerosmith titles to warm up the crowd who will then starting chanting for the feature act. You then get to play two Aerosmith songs and ultimately a final encore Aerosmith number.
Solo rockers can enjoy the career and quickplay modes in all the various difficulty levels, while two rockers can go at it locally or online in Face Off, Pro Face Off, Cooperative, and Battle modes. Battle Mode returns, but this time itís primarily a multiplayer experience. The solo career only offers up one battle against Joe Perry very near the end of the game, and thatís it.
As I mentioned earlier, the difficulty factor is far easier than the original Legends of Rock game. I consider myself a slightly above-average player. I can usually get 100% regularly on Medium and I struggle with Hard and I seldom attempt Expert, but just for kicks I gave Expert a try and was able to finish several of the songs Ė a first in nearly three years of Guitar Hero. Aerosmithís music, while classic in style and lyrics, isnít technically challenging and lends it self to repetitive riffs that can actually get a bit boring and even stressful at times.
Again, nothing much has changed since you booted up Guitar Hero III. Aside from some strikingly familiar faces from actual Aerosmith band members and a guest appearance from Run DMC, youíll see all the same rockers youíre used to. Venues are interesting as are the animated performances and stage shows with pyrotechnics, but as with all Guitar Hero games, players can seldom afford to look beyond the note streams.
The ďvaultĒ is home to what seems like an endless supply of guitars, guitar skins, and character-specific costumes. What really annoyed me was that regardless of the character, guitar, and skin you choose, you only see those customizations for two songs in each venue. Once Aerosmith takes the stage you are locked into a default neck design, which quite frankly is very distracting and makes it hard to see the yellow note at times.
As with Guitar Hero III, the game supports all the HD video modes but the HUD still resides in the 4:3 aspect ratio. How hard is it to detect a widescreen mode and move the HUD elements to the borders of the screen rather than having them hover in the middle?
The video snippets are mostly non-HD content so HD gamers can expect some black bars on the sides or these interviews. As for informational value of these snippets, I found them entirely lacking. Steven Tyler is about as coherent as Ozzy, and the editing style of the interviews allows each member to speak one (maybe two) sentences before they cut to the next random thought.
In case you didnít pick up on the sub-title for this game, the target audience is Aerosmith fans, so if you donít care for their music then you should probably move alongÖnothing to see here. The short list of non-Aerosmith music is good stuff, but not enough to pry $60 out of your pocket.
Here is the complete list of all 41 tracks including unlockables from the vault.
Tier 1: "Getting the Band Together" (Nipmuc High School)
Tier 2: "First Taste of Success" (Max's Kansas City)
Tier 3: "The Triumphant Return" (The Orpheum)
Tier 4: "International Superstars" (Moscow)
Tier 5: "The Great American Band" (Half Time Show)
Tier 6: "Rock N Roll Legends" (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame)
Bonus Songs (The Vault)
Technically speaking, the Dolby Digital mix isn't as impressive as past Guitar Hero games and in many instances the mix was just plain off. Even when playing alone the left front channel seemed louder than the other channels. I know in two-player modes each channel gets assigned to a player but I wasn't sure why this was happening in solo career mode. The surround channels didn't get a lot of use, especially for the larger locations like the Half Time show, which should have surrounded me with thunderous crowd noises. And I am still annoyed at the Star Power effect which only amps the volume and adds some unnatural and distracting reverb to the chanting and clapping crowds.
Sadly, the overall value of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is a bit lacking. You essentially have an expansion pack priced as a full release or what works out to be about $1.50 per song, or .75 cents a song if you want to consider the fact that each song can be played as lead as well as bass/rhythm. The multiplayer modes are as fun and appealing as they are in Legends of Rock, so that will give the game a bit of added shelf life.
There are 49 Achievements, 20 of which youíll get without even trying. Then you have some particularly evil objectives like buying out the vault. Considering that characters cost 15000 and that the number of guitars and skins are off the charts, it could takes months of tedious gameplay to purchase everything in the vault.
The game is a locked package, so there will be no downloadable content, nor can you play any existing downloads you may have already obtained for Legends of Rock. You can purchase the game separately or as part of a bundle with a guitar that includes a custom Aerosmith face place - cool!
During my first hour with Guitar Hero: Aerosmith I felt like I was ďback in the saddle againĒ but after I had finished my first pass through the career mode and realized my favorite song was not even an Aerosmith number, but actually Ted Nugentís Cat Scratch Fever, I couldnít help but think somebody missed the point with this release.
As an average Guitar Hero player I did enjoy the more relaxed note streams, easier gameplay, and the substantial ego boost of actually finishing a half-dozen songs on Expert level. And as a huge Aerosmith fan, I certainly enjoyed having most of my favorite songs compiled into a single game, but ultimately this game is nothing more than a tribute to Aerosmith and you had better be a big fan if you want to play, otherwise, save your cash and spend it on song downloads you really like.