Friday, August 04, 2006

I Wanna Rock

Today's gaming post continues our current trend of commenting on games everyone else has already played, loved and talked about to death as we delve into the rocking world of Guitar Hero.

I'm going to put something out here that may seem odd at first, given how much time we, as gamers, spend gaming, but hear me out and I think you'll agree. As much as we enjoy playing games, and putting our virtual counterparts through their paces, with few exceptions, we don't really want to be those people. Think about it. God of War is fun to play, but who in their right mind would want to be Kratos, he of the chain seared arms, skin permanently covered with the ashes of his family, murdered by his own hand? I love playing GRAW, but I usually end up either shot by a latin american rebel, shot by Andy, or blown up by my own grenade. None of these appeal to me. Zelda is a blast, but who wants to have to use huge jars as a means of getting from one place to another? Not me. Even Splinter Cell seems like it'd be a real hoot to live through until you have to spend 15 minutes flattened against the Pepsi machine because the patrolling guard can't decide between Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew Code Red.

Sports and racing games are exception to this rule, as I know plenty of people who would want to either score the game winning touchdown or tear through the streets of Las Vegas in their souped up Esprit. To that list of exceptions I would add Guitar Hero. In fact, I would place it at the top of that list, because for my money, the only thing I want to do in a stadium, is rock it the fuck out.

The reason Guitar Hero works so well in this regard is the controller. There is no way, with the best of controllers, that pressing a button can make you feel even remotely like you have just put some guard in a headlock. There is no trigger on any gamepad that can make you feel like you just put a round of buckshot into a marauding alien. The disconnect between the controller and the things we're controlling in games is just too wide. Not so with Guitar Hero. Yes it's a smaller, infinitely simpler guitar, but it is a guitar. You strap it on like a guitar, you plug it in to your PS2 with a long cord like a guitar and you strum it and hit the whammy bar like a guitar. Yes, you feel like an idiot for the first 5 seconds but then the opening chords of "I Wanna Be Sedated" come out of your speakers, by your own hand no less, and those feeling evaporate. It is as if the Gods of Rock have come to Earth, been made plastic and placed in your waiting arms. You want to rock and no one, not even Doug Neidermeyer can keep you from doing so.

Before we go further, a little background on me. I have loved music for as long as I can remember. I used to have this Eric Clapton tape, tape 2 from the Crossroads set, that I listened to every day on my way to and from good old Albany High School. It was, in my opinion, the best tape in the set, nay, the best tape in creation, as it started with his work with Cream, moving to Blind Faith, Bonnie and Delaney, some solo stuff, and ending with some of his work with Derek and the Dominoes. The Cream version of Crossroads, was my personal favorite. I knew every goddamned note of that song, and would play it, rewind it, play it, rewind it, play it, rewind it, just so that I could feel like me and my air guitar were laying it down.

Imagine my surprise when decades later, I get to the final set list of songs in Guitar Hero (Easy level anyways) and what song is the final song in the list, but my good friend Crossroads. The first time I played the song, I was so amazed that this was the song, the song that I had dreamt about rocking out too so long ago, that I completely fucked it up. I then stopped, gathered my cool, walked out on that stage like I fucking owned it, because I did, and me and my axe tore that shit up. Tore. That. Shit. Up. 5 stars, 98% complete, boom. Granted, it was on Easy, but the feeling was so amazing, the memories of walking to school dreaming about playing those notes in front of an audience were so real, that it ceased being a game and started being something that makes dreams come true. I know it sounds stupid, but lets be honest. I am 34 years old. The chances of me learning guitar, learning that song and playing it in front of an audience of people are so remote, this is the closest thing I have. I will gladly take it.

For those of you haven't played the game, this will probably sound silly. How much can it possibly be like the real thing? More than words can possibly express. You start off trying to figure out just what buttons need to be pressed and when. Next thing you know you're playing "Infected" by Bad Religion over and over because it's just that much fun, and you can learn it well enough to not just walk around while playing, but strut and swagger. The connection between you, the controller and the song is so strong, that I defy anyone to finish playing Hendrix's "Spanish Castle Magic" and not drop to one's knees, place their controller in front of them and pretend that their guitar is on fire.

The song selection is top notch, with classics like "Iron Man", "Ace of Spades", "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Smoke on the Water" on the set list with newer songs like Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out", The Donna's "Take it Off" and "Higher Ground" from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There are some notable admissions for a game that rocks so strongly, however I can understand some bands not wanting to license their songs for a game, not knowing how the final product would come out.

Now that the game has caught on and bands can see how good it is, I'd like to see these omissions rectified, one of which, the most glaring one at that, can be summed up in two words: Led Zeppelin. It is an undisputed fact that Led Zeppelin rocked harder than any other band in rock and roll, either before their arrival or since their departure. Board certified, independent Rockologists have measured the amount that Led Zeppelin rocked and have determined that no other band rocks or rocked nearly as hard. I am an openminded person, and will gladly take alternate viewpoints on a variety of subjects, weighing them against my own opinions and experiences, however anyone who would dispute the amount that Led Zeppelin rocks would have their opinions classified by me as those of a raving lunatic, on the order of someone who would deny the existence of water.

Cast your mind over the vast expanse of Led Zeppelin's catalog, and you will come up with fistfuls of songs that would cause a near cataclysmic amount of personal rocking should they appear in Guitar Hero 2. "Whole Lotta Love"? Rock. "The Ocean"? Rock. "Rock and Roll", "Heartbreaker", "I Can't Quit You Babe", fucking "Immigrant Song"? Rock, rock, r to the o-c-k, rock. Only by playing these songs, and somehow plugging into Led Zeppelin's infinite capacity to rock, can our own rock capacity be elevated.

Now some may not be able to handle how much Led Zeppelin rocks and as such will be unworthy to be touched by the fingers of the Gods of Rock. I am not one of those people. To the Gods I say this, I will rock any time, any place, for any length of time, be it the short, blistering length of "Immigant Song" or the long, episodic rock out that is "Kashmir" or "In My Time of Dying". Bring the rock, oh Gods of Rock, bring it to me in the form of Led Zeppelin songs and I will carry your glory forth for all to hear. If, on the other hand, licensing issues don't work out, I'd be happy with The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again", Aerosmith's "Train Kept A Rollin'" or Ozzy's "Crazy Train". You know, whatever works.

Should Guitar Hero come to the 360, and the notion of downloadable song packs becomes a reality, I will rock out indefinitely, until this world is nothing dust and memories. Imagine, song packs becoming available as licensing issues get worked out. 5 Who songs for 10 bucks? Um, yes please. The ability to extend the life of this game would achieve Oblivion like proportions. Plus, how cool would a wireless guitar controller be? Wicked cool.

So, thank you Red Octane, for letting a young, lanky lad from upstate New York realize his dreams of rocking out. Thank you for giving me a reason to love music even more, even if it is balanced by momentary bouts of blazing hatred for Queens of the Stone Age. Stupid "No One Knows".


Greg said...

Great post. You just sold me, my friend. I may have to go out and buy the game, which I'd been avoiding because I've got no place to put a new PS2 peripheral.

I'll bet you didn't know the words to Down at the Crossroads. :-) Did that song have words? Or just mumbling?

And I wasn't aware that you were originally from Upstate NY. 18 months ago, I was living in Brewster, NY.

suburbanjoe said...

It is totally worth buying a PS2 for, especially with the new rock bottom price. GH2 will only extend that value.

I know some of the words. Something about going down to the Crossroads and falling to one's knees. Or something.

Hells yes, we be reppin' Upstate NY wit a quickness! Rockafeller Plaza represent! I am unfamiliar with the town of Brewster, but from what I can see on the map, we would have passed by your general area on our way up the Northway.

Booster MPS said...

Your passion for this has started to get my interest. I have to say that I would like to just try this out once as I have never even seen what it looks like or how it works.

That said, yeah I would feel like a huge dork strapping this thing on in my office!

suburbanjoe said...

All the Best Buy's by me have them attached to their demo kiosks. Either that or hop a plane to the ATL and rock out in my basement.

k o w said...

I've played it but I just can't justify the PS2 purchase for one game. And don't say God of War to me. It won't work.

suburbanjoe said...

God of War absolutely is not a system seller. It's a good action-platformer, but not worth buying a PS2 for. Now the Ratchet and Clank series, on the other hand...