Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is exactly what you think it is. It's a standard Guitar Hero game with an emphasis on a certain Boston-based rock band fronted by Steven Tyler. It looks like a Guitar Hero game, it plays like a Guitar Hero game and it sounds like a Guitar Hero game ... only this time around it's overflowing with Aerosmith music. If you're a fan of this long-running band's music then you'll be in virtual heaven, but those not excited by three decades of Aerosmith music will probably hate every second of this game.
Unfortunately I find myself in the latter category. While I can appreciate a few of Aerosmith's songs, I've never been that excited about Steven Tyler's voice or Joe Perry's guitar work. That's not to say that they are a bad fit for a Guitar Hero game, but it's hard to get excited about a product that is full of songs you could care less about.
Then again, the name Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is somewhat misleading. Sure there are a lot of Aerosmith songs, but there are also a handful of high quality songs from other top tier bands. You get All the Young Dudes by Mott the Hoople, Always on the Run by Lenny Kravitz, Cat Scratch Fever by Ted Nugent, Dream Police by Cheap Trick and even King of Rock by Run DMC. In all 12 of the 31 main songs are from bands other than Aerosmith, which certainly goes a long way to improve the variety of the tracks.
But let's not oversell these other songs, the real meat and potatoes of this game are the Aerosmith songs. Fans of the Steven Tyler led band definitely have something to get excited about, because there's a wonderful mix of old school and newish tracks. You get genuine classics like Sweet Emotion, Toys in the Attic, Rag Doll and Dream On. You also get second tier hits like Living on the Edge and Love in an Elevator. And if that's not enough Aerosmith for you, there's also a rousing rendition of Walk This Way performed by both the band and Run DMC.
The game itself plays exactly like Guitar Hero III, down to the character graphics and battle mode. In fact, I was taken aback when I saw how similar this game is to Guitar Hero III. It's as if all they needed to do was add an Aerosmith skin, some new songs and a new load screen and they called it a day. Then again, that's pretty much all you have to do when making a band-specific Guitar Hero game, so who am I to criticize?
If you've played any of the other Guitar Hero games (including the recently released Guitar Hero: On Tour game for the Nintendo DS) then you already know how to play this game. You grab your fake plastic guitar (which you can get with the game or separately) and get ready to strum your way to victory. Like all Guitar Hero games, this title features a note highway that tells you what notes and chords you are supposed to hit and when , ultimately giving you the sensation that you're actually playing a real guitar. Along with hitting the notes, you can also perform harmmer-ons and pull-offs (where you don't need to strum), as well as unleash your star power (which adds a multiplier to your score). It's all exactly the same as it was in Guitar Hero III, which is probably the place to start if you have somehow missed the guitar game sub-genre up until now.
The nice thing about Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is that it manages to use interview footage to fill in an interesting story about a band that came from nothing and quickly became an international sensation. Obviously these short cinemas are meant to further the story, but I can see fans of the band getting a kick out of this brand new footage. It also does a good job of putting the various Aerosmith-themed locations into context. This implementation is not perfect, but it's easy to see the potential of what they were trying to pull off. Then again, I may be singing a different song if this was a band that I was madly in love with.
The big problem with this game isn't the gameplay or presentation, but rather the high asking price and lack of diversity. In a lot of ways this feels like an expansion pack to Guitar Hero III, but the price tag ($59.99) gives off the impression that this is a full game. Unfortunately there aren't nearly enough songs to warrant the high price. Guitar Hero III featured a stunning 73 songs, yet Guitar Hero: Aerosmith only gives you 42 songs. Based on my math you're paying the exact same price for 31 fewer tracks, which certainly doesn't sound like a good deal to me.
Even if you're a huge Aerosmith fan you have to be a little disappointed by the song selection. Sure the main Aerosmith songs do a good job of mixing both classics hits with obscure favorites, but the bonus songs range from bad to terrible. Was there really somebody out there demanding a Guitar Hero version of Pink, Aerosmith's 1998 "hit" single? And why are there so many solo Joe Perry songs? Seriously, who was asking for this much Joe Perry?Thankfully Guitar Hero is still a lot of fun to play, even when you're playing songs you wouldn't normally listen to. That can't be said about all tracks, but most of the song charts are exciting and challenging. Better yet, the note charts don't seem as crazy as what we saw in Guitar Hero III. I consider myself to be a seasoned fake plastic guitar expert, but the hardest difficulty in Guitar Hero III was way more difficult than need be. Thankfully the difficulties have been toned down a bit. Now when I play hard or expert I don't feel like the game is punishing me; I actually have fun playing through these songs.
Like I said, the graphics are straight out of Guitar Hero III. Heck, even the character models are straight from last year's super popular guitar game. Thankfully you will be able to buy some Aerosmith specific characters (including band members, one of the guys from Run DMC and more), so at least that gives it a slightly different flavor. I still feel that the graphics are a bit too over exaggerated for my tastes, I would much prefer a slightly more realistic look, especially when it comes to the Aerosmith guys. Then again, the virtual Steven Tyler does look mighty funny as a Guitar Hero character. Sure, he manages to keep all of his stage moves and bravado, but there's no getting around how silly he looks.
On top of the short story mode, aspiring guitar virtuosos will also be able to play the game with a friend in both co-op and competitive modes. The co-op mode gives the second player the chance to either play as a bass guitarist or try out a secondary guitar part (such as the rhythm guitar track). Head to head is a little more basic, you two of you basically play the same song and are judged by your ultimate score. Like Guitar Hero III and Guitar Hero: On Tour, this Aerosmith game features a battle mode that has you sabotaging the other player. The concept is simple, you you play the song and earn various attacks (such as making him retune a string, fix the whammy bar, increase the difficulty, etc.) in hopes of screwing up the other person so much that they lose. In theory it sounds like fun, but I find myself more interesting in just playing the normal song than turning it into a fighting game.
Guitar Hero: Aerosmith would have made a lot of sense as a $30 or $40 expansion pack that you download off of the internet. But $60 seems a bit steep for a puny track list and a complete lack of diversity. Even if Aerosmith is your favorite band, it's hard to justify paying full price for something like this. Still, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is a fun game that will appeal to a lot of classic rock fans. The band may not be my cup of tea, but that doesn't mean you can't have a lot of fun while rocking out to Uncle Salty or Train Kept A Rollin'. Who knows, maybe if this band-specific release is popular enough we'll see one that would excite me, like Guitar Hero: Sigur Ros or Guitar Hero: Pavement. Or maybe we won't.