Xbox 360 Review

Guitar Hero Greatest Hits

Back to rehab?

In musical terms, the appearance of a Greatest Hits album can be seen as many things, a celebration of achievement, an acknowledgement of longevity or a gateway for new fans to discover the artist in question. However, more often than not it's really all about easy money. It makes perfect sense from a business point of view; with minimal effort established acts can rack up massive sales with a well marketed compilation from their back catalogue... easy money. It's not really been a business model that's worked for games up to now, although retro releases often prove popular. However, the ever increasing popularity of the music game genre could see all that about to change. It would seem Activision feel rhythm action trendsetter Guitar Hero has now been around long enough and achieved enough success to warrant a Greatest Hits release all of its own, the question, rather predictably, is can it be more than a cheap cash in?

It starts off well enough. Developers Beenox Studios have taken all the tweaks and fresh ideas from the recent, rather fantastic, Guitar Hero Metallica and simply removed all traces of Metallica from the proceedings. Instead we're back to the series' regular more cartoony visuals alongside a track listing made up of songs from earlier GH games. Everything you'd expect to find under the bonnet is all present and correct, there's the new Expert+ drum tracks, the still slightly baffling Music Studio as well as your core gameplay modes Career and Quickplay (which has all the songs unlocked from the off unlike Career, obviously). All in all it's a well presented package that does exactly what it says on the tin in a perfectly acceptable way. So far so good. The problems start when you begin to consider if the game actually needs to exist at all.

It all just feels a little lazy, like a random person's list of their favourite GH tracks popped on a disk as a stop gap release while we await GH5. To be fair, they've at least pulled a pretty decent selection from the vaults here. It's nice, for example, to see classics from the original two games like Killer Queen, More Than A Feeling and Freebird. But it's also missing personal favourites (Sweet Child of Mine sticks out most obviously) yet includes tracks I could easily live without (Thunder Kiss 65, Caught in a Mosh). Clearly this kind of nit picking is really down to the wonderful world of individual musical taste so it isn't really anything you can blame Beenox or Activision for, since they were never going to please everyone. However, what you can do is question the sense of value for money you get from something most fans (you know, the people who actually paid hard cash to make Guitar Hero successful enough to warrant a Greatest Hits release...) will doubtless own a decent chunk of already.

With an RRP of almost fifty quid gamers are being asked to pay just under a pound a track here for the forty-eight songs on offer. This may not seem horrible value, especially when compared to standard GH DLC charges, but it becomes infinitely harder to justify if you already own lots of the songs on previous games or simply don't agree with the choice of greatest hits in the first place. This kind of disk vs. DLC value for money argument isn't new, each SingStar release, not to mention previous GH and Rock Band games, tend to stir it up again but at least in those games, until now, you're generally getting all new content for your money each time.

It's true that if by any chance you're a series virgin then Greatest Hits is probably one of the better selections of tracks to start you off when compared to the standard numerical releases but that's purely taste-based, and I'm a bit weird like that. It would have made far more sense to have re-released these songs as DLC as part of a Greatest Hits style celebration giving gamers the chance to cherry pick the ones they classed as GH classics. Activision could have even turned it into some kind of vote to find the top ten GH songs with download charts and celebrity fans offering opinions, et al. That kind of community based 'event' would have left fans feeling involved and appreciated rather than instead asking them to pay again for content they probably already own.

To re-use the comparison between GH:GH and a band's Greatest Hits album, there's not even the equivalent of rare B-sides or exclusive new tracks here to tempt the already wary punter. Sure, the songs from early games are now fully fledged original master recordings rather than the 'as made famous by' covers they used to be. Nice, but not really enough to warrant shelling out cold hard cash for surely? It's more of a big deal being able to finally play these songs as a complete band (on and offline) rather than just on the guitar but how much of a selling point that is depends on your friends and again, all this could have been included via the aforementioned DLC.

If you've managed to get this far without joining the world of Guitar Hero and you feel the urge to start now then this is, cynicism apart, a decent place to start. It's got all the most recent gameplay tweaks and the track listing, depending on your tastes, does offer a nice selection. If however, you're not a newbie then this package's worth is going to depend entirely on the size of your existing GH collection and how much you agree with the choice of songs. The sad thing is that Guitar Hero has actually done more than enough over the last few years to deserve some kind of back slapping celebration of it's success, it's just a shame Activision have decided this quick and easy cash in is the best way forward.

E3 Trailer