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Guitar Hero: Smash Hits

Score: 78%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Rhythm/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits is more of an expansion than a full franchise release, making it ideal for people who either don't download songs from the XBL Marketplace or are looking for a disc full of new songs when bringing the show on the road to a friend's house.

Smash Hits takes 48 songs from past Guitar Hero games (everything from GH 1 to GH: Aerosmith) and upgrades them to work with the full band experience introduced in World Tour. All are master tracks, so I'm sure licensing issues had some impact on the final list, but a quick look at the list won't inspire much excitement. There are a number of top-notch groups like Foo Fighters, Aerosmith and Nirvana, but even then some of the track selections are odd ("Back in the Saddle"? Really?) The good news is that the songs are a lot of fun to play with a group - so there are some redeeming factors.

The visual style is similar to past games. Beenox, who took over development for Smash Hits, does a good enough job at keeping the status quo. Everything is more inline with World Tour than GH: Metallica, so the gritty "realism" isn't as prevalent in the style. Granted, you won't notice most of this while playing, so there's nothing to get worked up about.


Guitar Hero: Smash Hits builds off the GH: Metallica setup. Rather than follow World Tour's Career setup, you instead tackle songs at venues, unlocking new ones after clearing a certain number of songs at each. It's a slightly better setup if you want to go through Career with friends. There are always one or two songs that no one wants to play, which can restrict progression. It's good to have options. Career supports full band, as well as single-player paths for vocals, guitar, bass and drums.

As usual, stars are earned for completing songs, which play into the requirements for unlocking new venues as well as in-game money. The better you do, the more money you'll get (though there is a bit of a cap depending on your difficulty level). Money is used to purchase new instruments and costumes for characters.

Also following GH: Metallica's lead, all songs are open from the start in Quickplay. Again, this is great when playing with friends. Head-to-head modes are available, as well as full-blown Band vs. Band competitions online.

Smash Hits doesn't support songs downloaded from the XBL Marketplace, which is a major letdown. You can, however, download songs from the GH Song Creator. It's an okay addition, but no substitute for the real thing. However, I don't think people with the ability to download DLC are Smash Hits's target audience.


I gave GH: Metallica flack for being too easy with progression, so it is good to see that Guitar Hero: Smash Hits ups the completion requirements. You'll need to complete more than 40% of the tracks to "beat" the game, so you'll need to work a little more to unlock everything. It's a good structure; you have to work to make it through the game, but songs you're no good at or just don't like won't hold back your progress.

Another carry-over from GH: Metallica is Expert+ mode. The mode is only for expert drummers and requires two bass pedals instead of one. It's only available in a few songs, but the ones that do will put you through the wringer.

Game Mechanics:

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits throws a bit of a loop at seasoned vets. Even if you've mastered all of the songs on the track list, you'll have to relearn them. The key tracks (note layout) have been overhauled for a majority of the included songs. For newcomers, this won't be a major deal - this is probably the first time you've seen most of these songs in-game - but it will throw off some vets. Most of the structures make sense, but some feel "off."

Part of the new structure includes World Tour's purple "slide" lines. Solos that were tricky are now a little easier. This will appeal to some players, but is sure to rile up vets. Songs that once held bragging rights for completion are now toothless. The change is appreciated, but sometimes "classic" is the way to go.

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits is a fun experience, especially if previous song lists have run their course at your parties. At the same time, the package feels a little too familiar. Even with band support and new key tracks, it is hard to shake the feeling that you've done all of this before.

In truth, Smash Hits would have made a better DLC pack (or packs) than retail release. At the same time, we sometimes forget that not everyone has the ability to download songs. This is the group Smash Hits is targeting. Still, the $60 price is a bit steep, but if you're desperate for new tracks and can't snag any DLC, it's worth the price.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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