Whenever a developer stumbles onto a gold mine, they usually start milking the franchise for all its worth. While Activision certainly falls into that camp with the Guitar Hero series, they’ve managed to maintain the quality of their titles from one installment to the next. While the latest entry in the Guitar Hero franchise certainly keeps in line with all that, it's at a huge advantage over the previous Aerosmith package because it puts the spotlight on the legendary metal band Metallica.
Guitar Hero: Metallica delivers in more ways than we could have ever imagined. For one, the track list is absolutely superb and the presentation values are through the roof. Instead of just being another Guitar Hero game with Metallica slapped onto the cover, Activision has gone out of their way to include a bunch new content for fans of the band to check out. It’s nowhere near the standards of the yearly numbered installments in the franchise, but it's excellent all the same.
Like last year’s Guitar Hero: World Tour, Guitar Hero: Metallica is a full-band game that includes support for both guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Rather than the gig-based progression from World Tour, you'll find something more along the lines of the first two titles where it's a tier-based system, but instead of having to complete each song in a set to progress, you need only meet a total star requirement. While there are plenty of reasons to attempt each song, players can still finish the game by not even trying out half of the songs.
When it comes to tracks though, the set list is absolutely stunning, not only in terms of song quality but also in respect to the amount of enjoyment you’ll have playing. For some reason, there’s just something about Metallica’s music that makes it the perfect fit for the Guitar Hero world. There are plenty of fast power cords, solos and melodic breaks that don't bore you to death.
Guitar Hero: Metallica does an amazing job of pulling pieces from Metallica’s career. There are a nice few tracks from the band’s earlier albums, with a couple from their more recent works. Not all of their greatest hits are found here, which is quite a shame seeing as the game solely hinges around their work. Still though, the track list is killer all-around, and nobody should walk away disappointed; obviously if you're not a fan of the metal genre then you might have some misgivings but we can't imagine there are many Guitar Hero fans out there that don't appreciate the work of this seminal band.
In case you aren’t aware, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions boast downloadable content, something that the Wii version of the game doesn't support. To make up for this it actually includes a couple more songs from the band's most recent album - cheerfully entitled 'Death Magnetic' - that the other versions lack. It’s certainly a downside that Wii owners are getting the short side of the stick, but at least they’re getting a little apology gift to make up for it.
With regards to the presentation side of things, a lot of effort was put into making this the perfect hardcore installment of the series. All of the band members look great, sporting realistic looks that have been seen in other games in the franchise. The band came in for a series of motion capture sessions and their movements have been transferred into the game quite well. Besides this, the stiff animations have been cut for a much more lifelike approach, which means the characters on stage actually look like a real band now.
There’s a ton of new content to explore in Guitar Hero: Metallica, such as behind-the-scenes footage of the band, fan-shot videos from tiny club gigs, a gallery containing piles of photos and tour notes from years past and song lyrics. And for those people who are obsessed with Metallica, there are also 'Metallifacts' and VH1 Pop-up Video-inspired sets that allow you to watch the game play a song while notes and info bits pop up on the lower part of the screen. It’s a little disappointing that this isn’t available for every song, but it’s a great addition, nevertheless.
Guitar Hero: Metallica doesn’t stray too far away from the pack in terms of gameplay mechanics, but there are a couple of neat little additions to the drums. One such addition is the Expert+ setting, which basically turns on every bass drum note. Usually on faster music like this the bass drum notes are scaled back so that you can actually play them with a single pedal, but Expert+ gives you the full deal so that you can attempt to mimic the drummer by playing with dual bass pedals.
Guitar Hero: Metallica is an excellent addition to the Activision's best-selling franchise. The fusion of game concept and band results in a match made in heaven and even if you're not a massive fan of Metallica's work, this update does a good job of catering to the needs of fans of the series.