Game review: ‘Guitar Hero: Van Halen’ strikes out (VIDEO) – Colorado Daily

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“Guitar Hero’s” previous single-band releases, devoted to Aerosmith and Metallica, were already of questionable quality before “Rock Band” kicked the bar out of the atmosphere with “The Beatles: Rock Band.”
Though a perfectly tenable game for reasons to be detailed later, “Guitar Hero: Van Halen” doesn’t brighten the picture. Depending on your opinion of Val Halen’s present-day relevance and your tolerance for “Guitar Hero” releases in the span of a single year, it might even constitute a leap backward.
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and Playstation 2
Publisher: Neversoft/Activision
Rating: Teen (mild lyrics, mild suggestive themes)
Per convention, Van Halen’s visual fingerprints are all over the box and interface, and the band’s likenesses come to life in typical semi-cartoony fashion. This time, though, politics and squabbling have left former bassist Michael Anthony and former lead singers Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone off the bill.
Consequently, none of the band’s Hagar- and Cherone-fronted catalog appears, either.
Whether the loss of that music and iconography is a big deal will vary from fan to fan, but there’s no arguing it doesn’t splinter whatever hope “GH:VH” had for documenting its subject matter the way “Beatles” did.
Then again, Neversoft’s inability to learn from “Beatles” — or the failings of its own single-band games — torpedoed that hope without the band’s help.
“GH:VH’s” 47-song track list is, like those other games, significantly smaller than the numbered (but same-priced) “Guitar Hero” game. But the real issue comes from 19 of those songs being either Eddie Van Halen guitar solos or the product of bands other than Van Halen.
The game claims the other music has some stylistic connection to Van Halen’s music, but one look at the track list (Fountains of Wayne? Third Eye Blind? Weezer?) suggests otherwise.
Whatever effort would have been necessary to kiss and make up with Hagar, if not everyone from Van Halen’s past, would more than have been worth it if it resulted in a coherent, complete tribute to the band’s catalog. This, by contrast, feels like a track pack tucked inside a full-priced game with some extra filler to justify the price.
On that note, it comes down to whether the tracks, which would cost nearly $80 if totaled up as downloadable content for “Guitar Hero 5,” justify the purchase. “GH:VH” at least does things — namely, a new career mode and a new suite of achievements/trophies in the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions — a track pack alone cannot.
But do you want to buy something Activision seems reluctant to sell? The company gave the game away to anyone who purchased “GH5” earlier in the year, and it waited two months to sneak it onto shelves after most people’s holiday shopping had concluded.
Pushing the game out the door at full price after previously giving it away seems like a move made for the half-hearted heck of it, which seems to have been “GH:VH’s” artistic approach as well.
Watching a publisher practically wash its hand of a product doesn’t affect the quality of the product itself, but it’s hard to get excited about a game when the people who made it seem not to care.
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