With Rhythm games and fake instruments becoming as common place as First Person Shooters, the grand daddy of the plastic guitar comes back to the table with its first (supposedly of several) band themed Guitar Hero game. The aptly titled Guitar Hero Aerosmith focus on the quartet from Boston as they work their way up from small club venues to their eventual enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The stand-alone game is priced at $59.99, while the Special Edition bundle (with controller) comes in at $99. Unfortunately, the Special Edition only gets you the Guitar Hero III wireless Les Paul with an exclusive Aerosmith faceplate along with a collector's edition Aerosmith tour book. Not exactly worth $40 if you already have plenty of controllers on hand, but if you are a hardcore Aerosmith fan then it may be worth the money.
I’m going to skip the subtleties here as far as gameplay goes, as Guitar Hero Aerosmith is nothing more than Guitar Hero III with a flashy coat of Aerosmith pain. The raw gameplay remains virtually unchanged. The only notable difference is in Career mode which basically follows the band as it starts from their roots in Boston and progresses to a world-renown act. In addition, the band has been animated (along with Run DMC) and is integrated into the game on the stage while playing. It was kinda cool to see the stage from the Pump album, and the artists did a great job with Steven, Joe and the boys by making their cartoon alter-egos in the game spot on.
Working through career is not a big deal, as it follows the same basic concept for each venue. You start with two non-Aerosmith songs, a cover tune and a master recording. Then you play two Aerosmith songs, and finally an Aerosmith encore. So there are a total of five songs playable at each venue before you can unlock the next one. In addition, as you reach each new venue, a cut-scene starts with the band reminiscing and telling stories about the early years at this location and around that time frame. The odd thing is that the cut scenes have subtitles going on that list the band members name and the words they are speaking. That was one of those “WTF moments” when I first saw it, as you can understand all members of Aerosmith fine when they speak. It’s not like they were interviewing Keith Richards or Bob Dylan.
Aside from this being the usual GH formula, there are quite a few issues I have with this game. The first and most glaring is that the set list is one of the weakest I have experienced in a rhythm game yet. With DLC probably non-existent (there has been none at the time of this writing), you are left with a mix of covers, occasional classics and several Aerosmith non-radio songs. It took me until the 10th song of career mode before an Aerosmith song (Sweet Emotion) I recognized popped up. Missing are some of the best Aerosmith songs such as ‘Jaded’ and ‘Amazing’ which is a bit of a head-scratcher. Because we have yet to see any word on downloadable content, I doubt it will happen, as it seems like it will be awfully hard to add to a branded version of a game that pigeon holes the specific content. Maybe the missing Aerosmith tunes could be sent down the digital pipeline later….
Another major gripe I have comes with the fret board that is used during any Aerosmith performance. The design is a skull pattern that is a light yellow-brown in color for each of the skulls, which happens to be very close to the color of the yellow notes. On more than one occasion, the timing of the notes puts a yellow not squarely on top of the largest of the skulls as it passes under the yellow note line and "hides" the note because it blends right into the background color of the skull. This is a bit of nit-picking on my part, but I am an average guitar Hero player as it is, so missing notes (on many occasions) due to this doesn’t exactly boost the old score or my humor level. This is one of those fine details that seemed to get overlooked in games that are slapped together simply as a profit making vehicle.
If you are really good at Guitar Hero and are a bit of an achievement whore, you will love this game as a rental. It offers the chance to earn a quick 1000 points without breaking too much of a sweat. There are 49 achievements total, with about half picked up through local play on career mode. In addition, there are quite a few online and co-op achievements as well as 11 secret achievements. The one grinder is ‘Love Me Two Times’ where you get 40 points if you complete all the songs on the set list twice as the Bass/Rhythm guitarist. All in all, the achievement list is about what should be expected with a blend of all the modes and several objectives that need to be completed.
Guitar Hero Aerosmith looks like it will be a love it or hate it game with the masses. The hardcore Guitar Hero fans will be disappointed due to the lack of toughness of the songs, no real change in gameplay and the overall short length of the game. However, casual fans may appreciate the easier tracks, but these same players will probably be lamenting the fact that the game is missing many of Aerosmith’s “Radio Friendly” hits and includes too many non-popular songs. Having said that, those that worship Steven Tyler and his band mates will be eating up the chance to play most of their classic songs and get their hands on a good-looking Aerosmith faceplate for the Les Paul.
Unfortunately, the bottom line is that Guitar Hero: Aerosmith never should have been launched while the franchise was a guitar-only game. Aerosmith has been, and always will be, about the complete band and Steven Tyler’s vocals. With apologies to Joe Perry, he is barely a Top 50 Guitarist of all-time, let alone in the Top 25. Activision would have been better served holding off on the Aerosmith branding and making the band the centerpiece of their upcoming Guitar Hero World Tour launch, which is more band centric. Instead, they went for the quick buck by milking top dollar out of nothing more than a Guitar Hero III expansion pack…