Fans clamored, Activision budged, and now, Guitar Hero is finally making sweet, sweet music with the reigning gods of metal in Guitar Hero: Metallica. Toting a roster of hits and an intriguing new use of your left foot, this electrically-charged spinoff is looking to be the one to kill 'em all.
Guitar Hero: Metallica strikes a chord in the series as the second game centered exclusively on a band. But unlike its spandex-suited predecessors, Metallica is the first to make use of World Tour's template, bringing back the feature-rich studio mode as well as four-player band sessions.
In terms of going stag on the stage, plowing through each gig in career mode still takes top billing. Only now the belt has loosened up a bit on advancement; instead of having to clean out each individual set, you'll only have to meet a quota of stars earned through each successful play, allowing players to tiptoe past daunting tracks and choose the path they wish.
This less stringent advancement structure wisely gives the career mode a more approachable feel, all while maintaining a sense of accomplishment with unlockable bonuses, song facts, and rock ranks.
And if you wanna shred with some pals, the ever-popular quickplay mode is also now more accessible than ever. Every single song is unlocked from the get-go, eliminating the need for career progression or codes for those spur-of-the-moment living room jams.
Going hand in hand with this is a neat little feature that the game likes to call drum-over, which essentially lets you play any percussive track the way you want with tom, snare, bass, and cymbal samples taken straight from the song. In casual play, it's every bit as fun as it sounds, and something of a small wonder as to why it wasn't included in World Tour from the start.
Boasting 49 songs split between guest acts and the metal mavens themselves, Guitar Hero: Metallica's catalog is a bona fide who's who in the world of metal. The band leaves no stone unturned; classics from LPs like Master of Puppets and the Black Album make their requisite appearances, along with some unexpected B-sides spanning their entire career. The selection of guest songs here isn't quite as varied as past installments, but the consistency of these distortion-laced tracks are appreciable enough for any serious metal-head to dig into.
Guitar Hero: Metallica pulls double duty as a game that smartly caters to its fans as well as being accessible enough for nearly anyone to enjoy. A few snags come in the form of neutered online and DLC options. Returning features from World Tour also haven't seen much of a makeover. But by now, the series knows exactly what it's working with, and Metallica merely runs with it.
As you might imagine, Metallica's taste for thrash translates into some pretty intimidating gameplay. Waterfalls of power chords gush without mercy, and the murderous guitar solos will genuinely test your endurance. At lower difficulties, the complexity tapers off to a comfortable level, but once you kick things up you'll definitely find out if your chops are up to snuff with what the game throws at you--especially with the incomprehensibly severe expert plus mode for drummers. Slap on an extra bass pedal, and kiss your shins goodbye. It's incredibly difficult and physically taxing.
Undoubtedly, Guitar Hero: Metallica finds a niche for itself as one of the franchise's most challenging set lists to date-albeit one that's a fraction the size of World Tour and costs just as much. Like Aerosmith, measuring its worth falls on a scale of personal taste; but with the added draw of blistering difficulty, Metallica certainly has some added bass behind it.
If you've had problems getting through the expert difficulty in past games, you might want to rent first. The double bass will test just about everyone's skills as will the guitar note charts. Just don't expect any other upgrades on the gameplay front.
Like just about everything else, Guitar Hero: Metallica's visuals are also largely based on Guitar Hero World Tour's. There are no noticeable leaps in detail or quality, but it does sport a cleaner managed interface with re-arranged indicators, as well as a comprehensive index of motion capture meticulously modeled by Metallica themselves. The various band gestures and animations are among the series' most convincing to date, and the stage choreography going along with each song is noticeably more authentic.
Series regular Titmouse Inc. provides their playful pencilwork on the career mode's upbeat cartoon cutscenes, and the game's cascade of fantasy venues is as extravagant as ever.
And as to be expected from the series, Guitar Hero: Metallica's sound suite boasts masters for all of Metallica's mixes, a large majority of the guest tracks, and even a handful of re-recordings explicitly for the game-like Motorhead's adrenaline-packed anthem, Ace of Spades. Everything looks, feels, and sounds just as it should for a game all about Metallica.
For all the time that Metallica has been MIA from the series, the band has made it back in one electrified feat sure to please metal heads and Guitar Hero fan alike. Even if the master of puppets doesn't pull your strings, the sheer breadth of challenge offered by the game's sadistic setlist is yet another ace up its sleeve.