Once again, my wrists throb, inflamed with the healing fires of rock.
Guitar Hero 2 for the 360 has landed and while I haven't had enough time to really get into it, I can provide some initial impressions.
First of all, let's talk about the controller. It's nice and sturdy like the last one, however the whammy bar doesn't have the same back and forth action as the controller for the PS2. I prefer to play with the whammy bar pointing away from the strum bar, as I find it uncomfortable to strum and hit the bar at the same time. With the last controller, I could just reach down away from the strum bar when I wanted some hot whammy action. Now, I either have to have the bar pointing to the strum bar, and figure out how to strum around it, or I have to reach down, pull it around and then use it. This cuts down on my whammying severely. Thankfully you don't need to use the whammy bar to "beat" the song, but it is essential for building up your boost bar and getting those high scores.
I don't really care that the controller isn't wireless, as I like the idea of a cord coming off of a guitar, but at the same time, I don't feel like having all of the usual 360 controller shenanigans gives you anything. Part of the illusion of Guitar Hero is the fact that the controller is a guitar, and as such, doesn't look like a controller. If your guitar has things on it, like a guide button, so that it looks more like a controller, that, in my opinion, is a bad thing. The gods demand sacrifice, and if giving up your precious guide button when you worship at the Altar of Rock is the sacrifice you have to make, then you got off easy.
The game is basically Guitar Hero, just with an incredible amount of shine and polish. This is a very, very good thing. Part of what made Guitar Hero so charming was the ascetic of the game. I'm glad to see they haven't changed anything in this regard. The usual rock posters for the in game menus are still there and look better than ever.
The character animations and rock backdrops are all improved and look amazing. I've missed a bunch of notes already paying attention to the band on stage instead of the song. Judy Nails is, quite possibly, the hottest video game female I've ever seen. The little touches like flaming amps and shots of the crowd, complete with lighters, when your band is really laying it down, help to let you know just how well you're rocking.
The song list is good. On the plus side, the "master tracks" they added to this version sound much, much better than the covers. On the minus side, the track list seems a little less eclectic than the previous game. At the same time, having such axe classics as Free Bird and Sweet Child O' Mine make the game feel like the tribute to Rock that it is. Rocking out to Pearl Jam is the amazing experience I thought it would be. The songs seem a bit easier this time around, but maybe I'm just not as rusty as I thought it would be.
I haven't touched practice mode yet, but based on how shitty I did when trying to play "Life Wasted" on Medium, I know I'll put it to good use.
The addition of achievements makes this game so much more fun than the original. It's one thing to tell people that you've mastered all the songs on Hard or Expert but to have something that the whole world can see makes it all the sweeter. Getting 100,000 points in a song, getting a 100 note streak, nailing 100% of the notes are all great moments in the game, but the achievements make them so much better. The Live Leaderboards aren't quite as exciting, as high scores don't tell me how well someone completed a song like a note streak tallies or notes hit percentages do, but it's nice to see your friends tearing it up with you. Hopefully multiplayer over Live will be released in a subsequent patch.
All things considered, everything about the original is here, just better. I'm sure I'll get frustrated as I venture into 5 starring all the songs on Medium, but even then, I'll be having so much fun it'll all be worth it. Truly, tonight I'm gonna rock you tonight.