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Guitar Hero: Metallica

Score: 92%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft Entertainment
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4: 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Rhythm/ Online/ Party

Graphics & Sound:

One of the backstage sections of Guitar Hero: Metallica includes footage of a motion capture section for "Master of Puppets." You wouldn't think it, but the group is really into the session - probably more than any other GH-related motion capture session I've seen - something that really shows in the game.

Neversoft has really outdone themselves when it comes to presentation. The major draw with GH: Metallica, or really any GH game, is the music and GH: Metallica doesn't disappoint. Developer Neversoft obviously has a pretty good handle on the game's target audience and, in turn, has crafted a song list that goes right along with that group's tastes. Obviously, most of the soundtrack is composed of Metallica songs, though you'll also find offerings from groups like Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band ("Turn the Page"), Suicidal Tendencies ("War Inside my Head") and Alice in Chains ("No Excuses"). Nearly all of Metallica's big songs are included; there will undoubtedly be Metallica fans who will cry foul at the absence of one or two songs, but overall, the set list does a good job of catering to both the hardcore and casual Metallica fan. GH: Metallica doesn't support DLC, although the "Death Magnetic" DLC a few months back can be incorporated into the game.

GH: Metallica retains the series signature look; everything has an over-the-top "cartoon" look, but also retains a more true-to-life feel. I don't know if it is a side-effect of the license, or just a maturation of the series in general, but all of the characters feature a slightly harder edge that really works for the game's feel. Hopefully, this is something that will carry over into future games. The models for the individual band members are particularly impressive, especially when you take the time to really watch what they're doing on stage. A lot of the musicians' smaller mannerisms have been worked into the animations, adding a sense of authenticity and style.


Guitar Hero: Metallica follows a completely different approach than the first band-themed GH game, GH: Aerosmith. Whereas the first featured interviews with the group and more or less followed their career from Nipmuc Junior High all the way to the Super Bowl, GH: Metallica plays more like a straightforward GH game, only with a metal twist. This approach works, resulting in a strong, better experience.

Career mode can be played as either a Solo or Band tour and loosely follows Metallica's career. You still play as one of the series' cadre of musicians, though only when playing through the handful of non-Metallica songs. The rest of the time, you'll play as band members in some of their bigger venues. Even when playing as the group, you'll earn money that you can use to purchase new outfits for your normal character or even some new looks for the group. The only thing I didn't like about Career Mode was the insistence of inserting short animated vignettes following a Metallica tribute band as they try to get a shot at an audition with the group. The story isn't entertaining and, in the end, really doesn't matter other than to give you a few minutes to catch your breath and rest your arms. The "story" isn't about that group, it's about your experience and I hope that in future installments, Neversoft will start looking at that model rather than that continuing with the animated shorts.

Although it doesn't follow the group in quite the same way as GH: Aerosmith, GH: Metallica still manages to include a lot of background info on the group. The Backstage vault includes Tour Videos and the aforementioned motion-capture sessions and, once you've cleared a song in Career, you can pull up a lyrics list, album information and "Metallifacts," where you see the in-game songs playing while facts pop-in every few seconds with information about the band and the song.

All of the offline play modes, which include Quickplay and Head-to-Head, can also be played online.


I'm more of a Medium-to-Hard Guitar Hero player and can usually get through even songs I've never heard without much trouble. With Guitar Hero: Metallica, however, I found myself dropping into the Practice Mode more than any other game. With the exception of Beginner, all of the difficulty modes will give players a run for their money. The note charts for every song, on every instrument, feature a number of tricky areas that will test your abilities. For guitarists, there are a lot of mutli-finger and quick-changing chords, while drummers will have to really stay focused and use nearly every pad on the set. Even vocalists will find themselves challenged.

Even though nailing note charts requires a certain level of skill, most of the songs are about endurance. There are few "short" songs included and the game ramps up pretty quickly. Beginners will have a harder time, but vets shouldn't have much of a problem and at worst, may need to drop down a difficulty level to get their chops up to par.

Completing Career Mode in GH: Metallica is a little less challenging. I was able to "beat" the game after completing a little over half the songs. Obviously the game offers a lot of incentives to go back and keep playing, though having everything unlock as quickly as it did took away some of the reward for overcoming some of the more complicated songs.

Game Mechanics:

Guitar Hero: Metallica doesn't stray too far away from the gameplay model found in Guitar Hero: World Tour. The game supports all of the World Tour instruments, so there's full guitar, bass, drum and vocal support. Of the four, bass and drum see the most benefits. The bass parts are slightly more complicated than the ones found in previous games, giving bass players more to do than tap out the same few chords. Though they never get as complicated as the lead guitar, there's enough of an improvement that I actually found myself willingly taking up the bass in Band Mode rather than taking up the part to be a nice guy.

Drummers get to see one of the game's few major additions, Expert +. The extra difficulty level challenges players to match Lars' playing style almost beat-for-beat. Not only are the note charts incredibly complicated, but the Mode also requires the use of a second bass pedal.

GH: Aerosmith was a great entry for the series, but it fell a bit flat when it came to offering an experience that would keep you coming back for more. GH: Metallica, on the other hand, offers an experience that can easily match World Tour and even stand beside it as an equal rather than an expansion. Guitar Hero: Metallica is easily the most fun I've had with a GH game since Guitar Hero II, and is something every GH fan, metal-head or not, should have in their collection.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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