the Horn Farm Paste Mob

Guitar Hero II (PS2)

– More songs.
– Three-finger chords are now occasionally used.
– Training Mode lets you practice just the hard parts of songs.
– The levels are now divided into four regular songs and an ‘encore’, a fifth song you can only play once you’ve beaten the others. This adds a little drama.
– Two-player mode is now fun; you can play different parts (lead, rhythm, bass) and/or play at different difficulty levels.

– Almost nothing else has changed. This feels like an expansion pack, not a sequel.
– Freed by success (credibility? money?) to license the songs they wanted, the makers used a bunch of grunge and hair metal, killing most of the variety that made the original Guitar Hero fun to play even if you didn’t like the music. The first game’s hardest songs included some very fast strumming, some hard chord-jumping, some solos, and some finger-twisting blues noodling; Guitar Hero II only really cares about speed. And doing scales. When I realized how much of the game consisted of playing virtual scales as fast as possible, I was reminded of all those alarmists warning that video games would train a generation to enjoy drudge work as long as they got their blinky lights in return.
– It’s too easy. Playing at the highest difficulty, I got the top rating (5 stars) on about half the songs my first time through. Yeah, I’m pretty good at video games, but you know what? I’m not that good. More to the point, anyone else who played all the way through the first game is starting out about as good as I am. I got 100% on one of the bonus tracks the first time I played it. Come on.
– Within a given song, even if you like the song, even if you enjoy the particular skills being tested, the repetition can become mind-numbing. I’m currently stuck on the final boss, which happens to be far and away the dullest song in the game. And the longest, I think.

I have a lot less spare time for video games than I used to, so it may be for the best that this was fun for a few days but has very little chance of holding my interest longer than that, unless there’s a secret fifth difficulty level on which the game becomes a true challenge.

And yet: darn you, Harmonix! The original Guitar Hero, in addition to being entertaining, drew my attention to guitar parts in a way that I doubt anything non-interactive could have done; even now, I hear guitar-heavy music differently than I used to. Having once been irritated by the whole idea of a guitar solo (and being in a position where an inability to engage with whole segments of pop music actually makes me sad), I consider this awesome. Guitar Hero II, on the other hand, has only made me suspect that being a radio metal guitarist in the 80s was like having to play “Chopsticks” over and over again while somebody howled dopey things about girls into a microphone nearby.


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