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It certainly helps that the game’s ambiance is so perfect. Whether it’s down to The Osbournes, The Darkness, School of Rock, Bill and Ted, Waynes World, Rock School or a combination of all six plus a host of other factors, we’ve seen perceptions of heavy metal and hard rock transform over the last few years. It’s not the devil’s music anymore, it’s everyone’s: frequently stupid, over-extravagant and dumb, but pulsing with energy and irony-free bluster. Guitar Hero has got this vibe down. The heroes are brilliantly drawn versions of classic rock stereotypes, the venues are full of screaming fans throwing crazy salutes, the band members are straight from the Spinal Tap school of rock-gods, and even the menus convey the appropriate rock look and feel. The visuals may be cartoony, but the animation is superb and the onstage theatrics are spot-on. The only way Guitar Hero could be more rock was if Gene Simmons and Lemmy from Motorhead delivered it by hand with a crate of Jack Daniels thrown in. It’s that good.
Of course, none of this would matter if the song line-up didn’t measure up, but Guitar Hero covers most of the rock bases extremely well. We get classics like Killer Queen, Ziggy Stardust and More Than a Feeling, thrash classics like Megadeth’s Symphony of Destruction, bluesy anthems like Crossroads and Spanish Castle Magic, and such hard-rock monoliths as Smoke on the Water and the omnipotent Ace of Spades. We even get a scattering of more modern hits from Incubus, Sum 41, Queens of the Stone Age and Audioslave, plus – oddly – Franz Ferdinand’s Take Me Out. You, I and everyone else could probably think of twenty other definitive songs we’d like to see included – Van Halen’s Running With The Devil, AC-DC’s Hell’s Bells, Soundgarden’s Loud Love and anything by Led Zeppelin would be on my list – but, hey, we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed for the sequel. Admittedly, not all the tracks are played by the original band, but the covers sound authentic and you’ll be too busy stretching for that next note to spot the difference too many times.
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