Guitar Hero: Ready to Hit the Road With Aerosmith?

July 28, 2008


Aerosmith, a band better known by today’s discerning tastes as “those dudes that did the song with Run DMC,” is no stranger to the realm of videogames as the band was kidnapped in the early ‘90s shooter Revolution X. Most, though, would rather pretend that it never happened. The band’s giving it another go with Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. It’s carefully tailored to the Aerosmith experience like one of Steven Tyler’s spandex jumpsuits, but is that enough to make it worth a purchase for non-fans?

Much like the ‘80s-themed spin-off before it, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith isn’t so much a renovation of the series as it is a refurnishing. In this case, the core gameplay of Guitar Hero III meets the musical stylings of Aerosmith with the two finding the most overlap in the game’s revamped career mode. Reworked into a rockumentary of sorts, players that advance through the game’s song tiers are treated to video intermissions of Aerosmith reminiscing about the road to superstardom.

Though the band’s running commentary oddly makes little mention of sex and drugs, there’s a fair amount of rock and roll to be found in the game’s 41-song set list with outside acts like Ted Nugent, The Clash, and Stone Temple Pilots rounding out Aerosmith’s presence in the game.

Musically, Joe Perry’s tablatures translate into some interesting songs to play, but they don’t provide much of a challenge compared to the difficulty curve present in Guitar Hero III. Less obsessive players, however, are likely to be unfazed and will still derive a considerable amount of enjoyment from the game’s more melodic tracks like “Love in an Elevator” and “Train Kept a Rollin.”

Aerosmith-related songs, characters, and unlockables aside, the game features pretty much the same exact features of the original Guitar Hero III including practice, versus, and online modes. But one feature that didn’t make the stage this time around is the download option to append new songs to the game’s existing track list. With only 41 tracks present, a fraction of Guitar Hero III’s 73, even indiscriminate Aerosmith fans will find themselves hard pressed to pay full price for a game with half the content and no option to add more.

Seasoned rockers who’ve followed the Guitar Hero series up to now will know just what to expect from Guitar Hero: Aerosmith in terms of gameplay. As a marquee of colored notes flood the screen, it’ll be up to the player to put their best hand-eye coordination to the test by strumming, hammering, and whammying along with the series’ signature guitar peripheral. Once players are on a roll, they can unleash the power of the almighty star power to rack up the points.

Guitar duels, a competitive multiplayer mode introduced in Guitar Hero III, also makes a return here and operate basically the same way. In place of harnessing star power, players rely on an assortment of power-ups like note reversals, difficulty scalers, and amp overloads in an attempt to get the other player to fail the song. The only boss you’ll face is Joe Perry, which is also a step down from Guitar Hero III.

Outside of new songs and an Aerosmith-themed title screen, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is pretty much par for the course in terms of gameplay features. Innovation isn’t a part of the equation, but we’re not surprised, either.

To make up for it, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith goes to town with a considerable number of Aerosmith songs drawing from the band’s extensive catalog. The selection is up and down. While tracks like “Rag Doll” and “Walk This Way” are included, strangely enough, some of the band’s more popular records like “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “Dude Looks Like a Lady” are absent. With no option for downloadable content and no new features, you would think all their hits would be accounted for on the disc.

As with its content, the visuals in Guitar Hero: Aerosmith experience more of a makeover than a total renovation in appearance. The slack-jawed lead singer of III has now been replaced by the equally majestic mandibles of a digital Steven Tyler and bandmates Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Brad Whitford, and Joey Kramer. Though you’re unlikely to take notice while shredding your way through a song, the band’s mo-capped performances still look far too similar to the puppet-like movements of the models in Guitar Hero III.

The environments in the game take the form of cartoony re-imaginings of venues that Aerosmith has played at over the years from the band’s Bostonian beginnings at Nipmuc High School to their eventual gig at L.A.’s Orpheum Theater. The stages come alive from set to set, but it’s the game’s audio package that really sets things off. With an impressive collection of master recordings the audio fidelity that many have come to expect from the Guitar Hero series doesn’t falter.

Though Guitar Hero: Aerosmith plays heavily on the notion that it’s a must-buy for fans, even they will be ultimately disappointed with what they’re getting. The lack of downloadable content gives it a relatively short shelf life, while the lack of notable hits will strike a negative chord with anyone that wanted the game just to play “Amazin.” If these faults strike you more as nuisances than deal-breakers, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is a hard rock pit stop worth checking out.