Guitar Hero 2
Written by John Yan
on 4/20/2007 for
Finally, the phenomenon known as Guitar Hero II has hit the big white Microsoft box. The two PlayStation 2 games were a blast to play and now the folks with the 360 can experience it as well. So how does the port to the 360 stand out? It's as fun as ever with some great additions.
If you've played Guitar Hero II on the PlayStation 2, then you'll be in for the same on the Xbox 360. For the few that don't know about the series it's a musical rhythm game with interaction via a toy sized guitar. On the guitar are five fret buttons, a strum bar and a whammy bar. For the Xbox 360 version, Red Octane added a D-Pad and Xbox 360 button on the front. A pedal connection port is also there that might be used in the future. On screen, a note line scrolls downward towards you and you have to match the same colored notes when they cross the line and strum the bar at the right moment. Besides having different notes come across, there are also chords where you hold down one or more fret buttons and also multiple notes crossing the linesimultaneously . As you correctly match the notes with your playing, the music plays correctly through the speaker. Any misstep and you'll hear the out of tune note. The more notes you get consecutively, the better you score and the bigger the multiplier you will receive.
On the bottom right, there's an indicator to let you know how well you are doing. You can use this along with the crowd reaction to judge how well you are playing. The indicator swings from red to yellow to green when you are doing well. Get too far down in the red and you'll be done before the song finishes. At the end you'll be judged at how well you played the song with a score and a star rating. Five stars is the maximum you can get for each song.
Notes that are star shaped when played successfully will increase a star power bar. After a certain amount of star power is built up, you can activate it by tilting the guitar up. Star power will double your current multiplier enabling you to get mad scores. It will also help you bring the crowd quickly back into your favor should you find yourself teetering in the red. If a star note consists of a long note, you can build up your star power quicker by using the whammy bar on those notes. A good strategy is to get the 4X multiplier and then activate the star power for a total of 8Xmulti-player to maximize your scoring potential.
Guitar Hero II features a wide range of musical selections. For the Xbox 360 version, a brand new song was added to each set. There should be enough of a selection that everyone should find a few songs they enjoy listening to and playing. You might not like every single one but the variety offered gives you some great tunes to experience. A new addition to the 360 version is the ability to download new songs from Xbox Live Marketplace. As of this writing, a few Guitar Hero 1 songs have appeared in the Marketplace. This is a great way to increase the longevity of the game and will keep the game from getting stale with the same ole songs.
Guitar Hero 2 has some new characters and guitars with some returning favorites such as the Grim Reaper. The store is back to purchase new guitars, songs, finishes, and characters. You earn cash through the single player mode with more money in hand the better you do of course. Using the money in the store will increase the content available in the game just like in the original.
The guitar is what really makes this game fun to play. It's too bad Red Octane didn't release a wireless guitar with the 360 version though. There are a few PlayStation 2 wireless guitars but alas the included guitar is a USB wired one. Disappointing yes, but not a deal breaker of course. Now, there are some problems with some early versions where the whammy bar wouldn't work correctly or was loose. My copy of the game suffered such a fate as the whammy bar would just hang down and not stay at the position I have set like on the PlayStation 2 guitars. Red Octane's suggesting you take the guitar back to the store you bought them and exchange them for a new one while those that bought the game online can RMA them in. A recent software update was pushed to fix the lag. It's a good thing Red Octane recognized the problem quickly and offered to replace them if youdidn't get the game from the store.
The 360 guitar's a different shape than the PlayStation 2 ones and it's completely white. You can decorate the guitar with the included stickers to make it more your own. For the 360 version, there's two new plugs that are not on the PlayStation 2 guitar. First off is the headset connector so if you want to chat with some of your friends while you are playing, just plug a wired headset into the guitar. A second pedal port is also available for future use. Nothing's currently announced yet that will take advantage of the port but let's hope we hear something about it in the near future.
Improved graphics are also in this port for the Xbox 360. The various graphics look cleaner and brighter and as with most Xbox 360 games, presented in wide-screen format. While graphics aren't really a selling point of this game, the 360 version does look a better than the PlayStation 2 version.
As for the rest of the features, those on that are on the PlayStation 2 version show up here including practice sessions, a training mode, co-op play, easier hammer ons and pull offs, and three button chords. Having played the PlayStation 2 version a lot, I was pretty familiar with when I fired up the Xbox 360 version and was able to get through it the game pretty easily.
If you've played any 360 game while connected to the Internet, you know that any of your friends that sign on will show up at the bottom of the screen. Well, this can get in the way when you're playing since the notes stroll down the bottom half of the screen. Thankfully, those responsible for the conversion took that into account and moved the friends indicator to the top of the screen where it won't interfere with gameplay. Smart move and one that avoids frustration if you have a good number of friends in your list and they happen to sign on in a short amount of time.
What's missing from this game though, and something that's not in the PlayStation 2 version anyways, is the ability to play with a friend online. I would've loved to have been able to play with a friend without having to be in the same room as them but hopefully there will be an update to add that in orwe'll have to wait until Rock Band is released for this feature.
The Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II is a real winner and offers some improvements over the PlayStation 2 version that will add value to the game later on down the road. The improved graphics, downloadable content, and new songs makes this port a must pickup for the 360. You don't have to be a guitar player or musically inclined to enjoy this game. If you have two guitars it's even more fun to play with someone else. Guitar Hero II will no doubt be a big seller on the Xbox 360 and deservedly so. A great port of a great game, Guitar Hero II is a solid title that one should pick up to include in their library of Xbox 360 games.
Downloadable content, cleaned up graphics, and new songs makes this a nice buy for Xbox 360 owners.
Rating: 9 Excellent
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.
I'm married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.