If the cries of “Master! Master!” are enough to instantly cause your inner rock god to claw his or her way out of your usually restrained frame, then it’s a fair bet that this instalment in Activision’s Guitar Hero will transform you into a roaring, adrenaline-filled rock demon, as the metal militia themselves, Metallica, takes centre stage in what has to be the most polished outing of GH yet.
Building on the groundwork laid by Guitar Hero: World Tour, Guitar Hero: Metallica comes with 28 of Metallica’s finest recordings (all masters, naturally) and 21 additional tracks picked by James, Lars, Kirk and Rob, either due to personal preference, or for their influential impact on the band. This track list is, for Metallica fans at least, perhaps the best selection ever seen in a GH title. This is not solely down to Metallica’s song quality, but also simply for the fact that their tracks suit the Guitar Hero formula so well.
Along with some of Metallica’s stadium-shattering metal monsters such as Battery, For Whom The Bell Tolls, One, Sad But True and, of course, Master Of Puppets, this outing also features classics like Diamond Head’s Am I Evil, Mercyful Fate’s Evil (recorded by King Diamond and Co. for the game), Albatross by Corrosion of Conformity and The Boys Are Back In Town by Thin Lizzy.
As usual, when you begin your tour of rock only a couple of tracks will be open to you, but by advancing through the game’s career mode, which sees you as a ‘Tallica-inspired band looking to become the opening act for the Metalicats, you’ll unlock more and more tracks, as well as famous venues Metallica has played over the years, including album-themed stages.
The additional tracks featured are all good, and are a varied and interesting selection, but it’s when you get to play Metallica’s anthems that the game really shines, and when you’re strumming, drumming or screaming along to the likes of No Leaf Clover, Enter Sandman and Fuel, with the full, motion-captured, digital incarnation of Metallica owning the stage onscreen, you can’t help but be sucked in. Visually, this is surely the best GH yet, and you can clearly see that this is a real labour of love for the developers, who are obviously fans of the group.
Everything here gleams with more polish than a Mister Muscle ad. From the Metallica-themed menus, the inclusion of some of the band’s real instruments, impressive stages and the impeccable motion capture, there’s not a hitch in sight. You can even adorn your custom rocker with elements of the band, including Metallica t-shirts and hair styles. There’s also unlockable classic or zombie-themed incarnations of the gang, but, sadly, Jason Newstead or Cliff Burton are nowhere to be seen, which is a little unfair to the ex-Metallica members. I would have loved to see an original line up, with Cliff on bass ripping through Master Of Puppets. Oh well.
It’s not just when shredding along with the guys that the game entertains either. GH: Metallica comes with a huge amount of extra content about the band, including a gallery of photos and images (such as album covers, set lists and other artwork), full lyrics, track information and a range of videos. These clips include live performances, and some making of videos that show the band performing the motion capture.
Another cool extra is the addition of the Metallifacts option. After completing a song successfully, you’ll unlock this, which allows you to then sit back and watch the virtual Metallica perform the track, while VH1 Pop-Up Video-style facts are overlaid. This is a nice feature, and another real bonus for Metallica fans.
A selection of other new inclusions serve to further entice punters into the world of James and company. Most notable of these is the addition of the new Expert+ mode for drums. With an optional second kick pedal (and the required splitter) you can attempt the insanely tricky mode, which tries to match, note for note, Lars’ real performance of the track, complete with furious double-base action. Now, whether you’re a Lars fan, or one of his many critics, there’s no denying the challenge offered here, and all but the most experienced drummers will probably crash and burn in spectacular fashion.
Another nice addition, again for drums, is the new ‘Drum Over’ mode. Once unlocked, this essentially removes the original drum track from the songs, and turns the whole piece into a freestyle drum fill, which lets you drum away however you like. This is great for practising real drumming, and also let’s you experiment with alternative drum arrangements for your favourite tracks.
Much of the standard Guitar Hero fare returns too, but this is also where GH: Metallica reveals its major, glaring issue. While staple inclusions like the rock star creator and battle mode return, as well as World Tour‘s impressive music studio (this time with additional samples, such as James Hetfield’s Truckster), another major feature is absent. This is the lack of any downloadable content option, meaning that, bar the Death Magnetic album, which was originally available for GHIII and then World Tour, you’ll not get the chance to use any other content, new or otherwise. You can download user-created content from GHTunes however.
This lack of extra commercial content is a real shame, and it would have been nice to be able to use new features like the Expert+ difficulty and the Drum Over mode on the wide range of available downloadable tracks, or download additional future Metallica songs not featured here. With Rock Band and World Tour already proving that a constant stream of new tracks for people to play is essential to the game’s success, it’s strange that Neversoft decided to omit this.
Another missed opportunity is the lack of the ability to play as a fully kitted out Metallica. As it stands, you can play as a four-piece, with Guitar, Bass, Vocals and Drums, but it would have been great to have the option to use both rhythm and lead guitars.
My only other real gripe, one that I’m sure many will have, is the lack of songs. With less than 50 tracks, this is a far more slimline package than either GH:WT or Rock Band 2, and as it costs the same, it’s a little bit on the cheeky side of pricing. True, if you’re a Metallica fan (which, luckily, I am), you’re not going to care, as the track list will be more than enough to keep you going for a long, long time. For non-Metallica-loving gamers with a rock star spirit, or those that simply think Metallica are good or OK, the package won’t really appeal all that much over other options.
And, that’s really where scoring this game is weighted for me, and why I’ve decided to rate GH: Metallica twice. The game itself is rock solid (no pun intended), and as far as game play, challenge and general enjoyment goes, this is sterling stuff, and possibly the sharpest Guitar Hero available. So, whether or not this deserves your cash comes down to one thing – the track list.
If you’re a hardcore Metallica fan, then the choice of buying this or not is a real no-brainer. With such huge fan-service to the group, the masses of extra content and the fantastic selection of tracks, all of which are charted superbly, you need this in your life.
On the other hand, if you’re not a Metallica fan, and aren’t really bothered about the extra content, then the lack of extra downloadable content support will all but kill off any appeal, so you may wish to steer clear and stick with World Tour for now.
For Metallifans:For anyone else:
Guitar Hero: Metallica is available now.