Guitar Hero Metallica
If you'd had to vote on which band was likely to be the subject of the next Guitar Hero special you may not have picked Metallica. While the aging rockers continue to be one of the biggest acts in the world they've shown a certain amount of well publicised opposition to this new fangled digital world over the years. However, for whatever reason (although one assumes it's a reason followed by a large number of zeros) they've been persuaded that now is the time to fully embrace the future and provide Guitar Hero fans with the game a lot of them have been praying for.
While the Metallica brand throws its far reaching arms around every little element of the game this is still the same GH we've come to know and love. As ever it's a purely rhythm action affair that requires the use of GH controllers (the World Tour guitar, drums and microphone all work just fine) to play along with the songs. The central career mode sees you creating a Metallica tribute act after being inspired by the real thing in a story told through some cartoon visuals that feel a little out of place if we're honest. Of course, all of this is pure window dressing around the gradual unlocking of the track listing. The one slight difference in the process this time around is that the next group of songs are unlocked depending on the number of stars you earn rather than song completion. In practice this allows the set lists to be unlocked faster by the experienced player who regularly gets five stars on each track which is a nice touch and eases the sense of grind while the game is new.
Away from the career mode there's the normal array of single and multiplayer (online and off) options as well as the in depth Music Studio that anyone familiar with World Tour will have come to know and love. One slight change is the ability for drummers to try a new Expert + mode which uses a double base pedal (assuming of course they own both a second pedal and the required splitter) to give things an even more realistic feel.
The game includes a selection of twenty eight Metallica songs all hand picked by the band themselves and includes tracks from the entire length and breadth of their career. From their beginnings with "Hit the Lights" to "All Nightmare Long" from their 2008 album Death Magnetic. It's a well crafted track listing striking a pitch perfect balance between fan service and the big hits which should keep most people happy. There's also a wide ranging selection of twenty odd songs by acts Metallica have picked as influential on their career, these include people like Slayer, Thin Lizzy, System of a Down and even Queen.
Much like each SingStar release, how much you'll enjoy GH: Metallica will depend very much on your enthusiasm for the tracks on offer. So, if you're not a big Metallica fan this is perhaps not the game for you, but then you should have guessed that from the title really and there surely can't be many GH fans who wouldn't enjoy powering through at least a few of the tracks on offer here.
As you'd hope there's a healthy dose of Metallica themed extras on the disk along with the game. These include exclusive videos and behind the scenes footage of the 'making of' the game that crop up as you play. There's also a nice touch in the career mode that lets you watch a performance of the tracks you've completed while various facts about the band are displayed on screen Pop Up video style.
One downside worth noting is that this is very much a closed shop when it comes to content from other GH games. None of the DLC you've amassed from World Tour et al will be visible here and while there is specific downloadable content for this game it is, as you would assume, Metallica only (the whole of Death Magnetic being the only thing available at the moment).
The various venues you'll get to play at are all taken from important gigs in Metallica's history and include places like London's Hammersmith Odeon and Los Angeles' Forum. Once on stage things look very nice indeed. In fact with motion capture performances from the band members themselves and a noticeable attempt to make the on screen stage show look more akin to the classy lighting of a Metallica concert, it's quite possible that this is the nicest looking GH game so far. Of course as ever, if you've got time to enjoy the visuals then you're not playing on a hard enough difficulty setting, but for those around you watching your performance it's a nice change from the slightly garish Spinal Tap image of previous games.
While the success of Guitar Hero Metallica does ultimately boil down to how much you like the titular band it's also important to note that this is a excellent example of what band-themed GH releases can provide. It's perhaps not the ideal starting place for GH newbies (unless they're Metallica die-hards) but for the rest of us it's a lovely addition to our growing GH library. It'd have been nice to see them loosen the iron grip at times to allow other downloaded GH content to be accessed, and it's a shame there's less tracks here than on the World Tour disk, but these are quibbles that fail to detract from what's otherwise another fantastic release. Guitar Hero Queen next time though, please...