The Guitar Hero franchise is quickly becoming synonymous with music-based games and Activision is certainly cashing in on the phenomenon. Ever since the gigantic success of GH 3 the company has announced four new iterations of the franchise including two band-specific titles, one portable outing (which we reviewed recently) and of course the end all, be all answer to Harmonix’s Rock Band complete with drums and vocals. The latest release GH: Aerosmith is exactly what it sounds like – the same great game you have come to know and love – but focused on one specific band. The bottom line here is if you like Aerosmith this game is definitely for you. For everyone else it will be hard to justify the full price tag for what is essentially a glorified set of downloadable content.
The layout of GH: Aerosmith should be familiar to anyone who has played the previous games. The career mode is broken down into four difficulties and sets of tiers. The twist for this incarnation is that each tier opens with two opening bands (usually artists inspired by or who have toured with Aerosmith) and once you complete those the crowd begins to chant for the featured band and they come out for two jams and an encore. While this premise is neat it does little to differentiate itself from the previous games and once again, as the name implies, if you do not like Aerosmith this game will likely not be your cup of tea, but alas if you were not a fan then there would also be little reason for you to care enough about the game to continue reading, so I digress.
The selection of opening bands is actually admirable. Ranging from well-known classics such as ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ by Ted Nugent to more contemporary bands such as Stone Temple Pilots the set list is diverse enough to keep things fresh. The catalog of Aerosmith songs is also very well chosen outside of a few criminal omissions. Career mode consists of 31 total songs of which 19 are by the headlining band and all are actually fun to play thanks to some sweetly designed new note charts and of course a careful selection. This will also be the rise (or fall) of the game. Veterans of the series will notice something right out of the gate and that is that GH: Aerosmith has been toned down significantly in the difficulty category.
Those of you out there who five-starred ‘Through the Fire and the Flames’ on expert last time around will find little challenge here. In an effort to bring the game back to the masses the team at Neversoft made a conscious decision to tone down the difficulty of GH: Aerosmith, and it was a wise decision. The note charts found here are far more streamlined and easy to read and the hammer-ons and pull-offs are simpler to perform, which goes a long way for those of us who simply hit a brick wall in Guitar Hero III due to the insane amount of chords and notes thrown at you in the final tiers. Veteran players will be able to blast through the expert difficulty on their first try and those new to the series will enjoy a much more progressive difficulty scaling than the previous games. It feels like Neversoft has finally grasped what makes this series so great, which is delivering the feeling of being a rock star without having to memorize a ridiculous amount of chords.
Of course the biggest draw in any music game is the song selection and Aerosmith is no exception; even if it does focus on only one band. Fans will find plenty of recognizable tracks scattered throughout the play list including hits like ‘Dream On’ and ‘Toys in the Attic’ to even more recent hits such as ‘Pink’ and ‘Beyond Beautiful’. There is also the inclusion of the song most people credit to the resurgence of the band: the duet of ‘Walk This Way’ with famed rap group Run DMC. What is disappointing though is the omission of certain tracks that are synonymous with the group itself such as ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’ and the tear inducing anthem from the film Armageddon ‘Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’.
The rest of the setlist is comprised of a few tracks from Joe Perry’s solo project (which are simply not that much fun to play) to a collection of tunes from other well known bands such as The Cult, The Black Crowes and Lenny Kravitz. The biggest problem with GH: Aerosmith though is that what is here is all you will ever get. The game does not support downloadable content, which is entirely disappointing with a band that has thirty years of material that would likely sell like hotcakes on either system.
Outside of the career there are also a plethora of multi-player modes to keep the party going including co-op, face-off and the dreaded return of battle mode where players throw power-ups at each other in order to win. Co-op mode is nice, but much like the guitar facet of the game the bass parts are ridiculously easy, even on expert, so don’t hold your breath for much of a challenge for player two. The face-off mode remains the most popular as it allows players to test their skills at different songs against other players. The battle mode makes a return against the wishes of the fans and doesn’t add much to the formula. Thankfully there is only one boss battle in the game and it is not required to finish career mode.
Visually the game sports the same goofy character models as the previous outing with a few exceptions. Venues are much more intricate sporting some nice touches reflecting places the band has performed such as the half-time show and even some dank clubs from the early years. Character models, while improved, still sport some truly peculiar visuals, but it nice to see band interaction such as Steven Tyler walking over to Joe Perry as they belt out a harmony together. Much like the rest of the game the visuals will be cool for fans of Aerosmith while everyone else will likely say it look like just another Guitar Hero. On a side note the ugly singer from the original game makes a return to give Steven Tyler a run for his money.
With a lack of downloadable content and a disappointing short set list GH: Aerosmith certainly isn’t for everyone. Being a huge fan of the series it was great to see Neversoft finally tweak some of the more annoying aspects of GH III, but as I mentioned if you are not a fan of Aerosmith there is little here to entice you into shelling out sixty bucks. However, if you are in the mood to rock out ‘Get a Grip’ style this latest manifestation of the revered franchise is a solid title to add to your collection. Band specific games are a great idea, but they may be better off sent through the pipeline as additional downloadable content for an existing platform.