Guitar Hero was a smash hit on the PlayStation 2 and you know that a sequel was bound to come out. I had a great time with the first one and wanted more. Well, it's finally here and Red Octane has yet another hit on their hands in Guitar Hero II.
Guitar Hero II is the first for Harmonix under the Activision distribution umbrella. Like the original game, you play a toy sized guitar with five fret buttons, a strum bar, and a whammy bar. A note line comes strolling down towards you and you have to match the right fret button with the corresponding note and strum the guitar at the right moment. Variations on the notes include holding more than one fret button down as well as long notes. The more successful you are, the more points you score and the better the crowd reacts to you. On the bottom right is a meter that tracks how well the crowd reacts to you. When you are in the red, there's a chance your session will end prematurely and you'll have to start over if you want to complete the song.
As you continue to hit notes correctly you'll build up score and a multiplier. A maximum non-star powered multiplier is 4x. You'll get the maximum amount of points naturally by completing a long section of notes in a row. One mistake though and your multiplier is gone so it pays to be accurate as a mistake is very costly in terms of point potential.
Some notes can increase your star power. Once you have enough star power, you can activate it by tilting the guitar. Star power will increase the multiplier by a factor of two while star power is active. The opportune time to use this is when you have a 4x multiplier as the big jump to 8x will garner you a lot of points quickly. When you're in the red on your meter, activating star power can also quickly get you back into the crowd's favor and move that arrow towards the green area.
The big selling point of the game is the guitar of course and it's a blast to play. Those that are starting out can easily pick up the game as the easy setting only uses three fret buttons. Like Samba De Amigo, Guitar Hero II utilizes the unique controller and offers a fun an exhilarating experience. The one that comes with the second one is red in color as opposed to the white one in the first game. Decals are also included in this one as well so you can decorate your guitar to your liking. If you have the original, you can use the same guitar for Guitar Hero 2. I'm happy to say I experienced no problems playing the game with the Guitar Hero 1 guitar. There are issues with some after market guitars but if you have the Red Octane official version, you'll be safe.
If you played the first game then all these features will be familiar to you. Those that played the first game will easily pick up the guitar and hop right into the main game.
As with any new music game, new songs are now available and the playlist has a great variety to choose from. You'll get songs from big name bands from different eras such as Aerosmith, Stray Cats, and Van Halen. Of course, the more obscure and garage bands are also represented here. Most of the songs are covered by another band and they do do a very good job just like in the first game. Some of the vocals are dead on. The instrumentals offer some twists in some songs as well adding to the game. Overall, the song selection should have something to please everyone. There are forty songs that will be available once you go through the single player and more that you can purchase through the store. A slight change from the original game is that you have to play three songs and finish the encore to move onto the next set. If you don't pass the encore song you won't be able to access the next group of songs. You'll see a nice ending animation for each venue you play in once you complete the encore.
Veterans of Guitar Hero will find the new one harder and taking longer to master. Even at the medium difficulty level, the songs can take a few tries. I didn't have too many problems with the original game and I found myself flubbing a few songs here and there on the second lowest difficulty setting. Crank it up a little higher and you'll really see yourself fail quickly if you're not up to the task. Thankfully, the practice mode that I'll get into in a bit really comes in handy. While you might be a whiz at the first game, be prepared to get some extra practice in for the second one.
Guitar Hero 2 has some new characters and guitars with some returning favorites such as the Grim Reaper. The store is back to purchase new guitars, songs, finishes, and characters. You earn cash through the single player mode with more money in hand the better you do of course. Using the money in the store will increase the content available in the game just like in the original.
The new features for Guitar Hero II, besides the new songs, really add to the game. First off a great practice mode is now in place. You can pick a specific song, a specific section of the song, and a speed at which to practice to. This will really help with the added difficulty of the second game and should also give newbies an easy way to learn the songs so they don't get frustrated easily. Even Guitar Hero veterans will need to strengthen their skills and this is a great way to do so without having to get into the game.
Also new to the game are three button chords. These don't come around too often but they do add another aspect to the game. Also, hammer ons and pull offs are a little easier. If you don't know what those are, hammer ons allow you to play successive notes with one strum. Say three notes come really close together going from left to right. You can hold the first fret button down and strum as you normally would but you can just switch to the next successive fret buttons to complete the note rather than strumming for each note. Pull offs go the opposite way from right to left.
Another great features is the new multiplayer option. You can now play alongside another person as one takes the lead guitar while the other plays the bass or rhythm guitar. In the previous game, you had to play against each other but Guitar Hero II offers both cooperative play and playing against each other. The great thing about the cooperative play is that you don't have to have the same skillset to play together. One can play at a different difficulty setting then the other so if you got a person who's new to the game and one who's really experienced you both can enjoy the game at the same time. Both of you share one meter and to activate the super star mode, you both have to tilt the guitar at the same time. When each player plays the note correctly, you can hear the music from their respective side if you have a stereo setup. You'll also hear which person is not playing up to par easily this way. When you two are doing well though, you'll hear the musical tones in harmony. The new mode really makes you feel like you're in a band working together to produce the best song possible. Since everything is shared, you have to work a little harder to get those multipliers. The new cooperative mode is a great addition to the series and a great reason to pick up another guitar.
In the end, there's some new features but the core game remains the same. That's not a bad thing as the original is a blast to play and so is the second one. Guitar Hero 2 gives you more of the original game with some added twists, increased difficulty, cooperative mode, and practice mode along with new songs. The game's a blast to play with others and Harmonix has really done a great job translating the notes into a fun playable experience with the guitar. It's too bad that you can't plug a controller in the PlayStation 3 to experience this game but if you have the good ole PlayStation 2, do yourself a favor and pick this game up. Fans of the original will love the new version and those new to the game will find it easier to get into with the practice mode.
It adds a few new features and has the great gameplay from the first. Fans of the first will love the second one and new to the series will enjoy the features that help them get into the game.
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