Now for the really cool part. Most rhythm action games don’t really develop that much. The notes and beats come faster, the patterns grow more frantic, but usually that’s it. Guitar Hero is different. Start a new career in medium mode and the fourth button comes into play, and you’ll need to start using hammer-ons and pull-offs to get by. Guess what? It feels even more like you’re a proper rock warrior, blasting out riff after riff until the cat-callers have been stunned into submission. The sequences are more intricate and – cleverly – seem to do a better job of matching the kind of movements your right and left hands would be making if you were actually playing the guitar. Flick up to Hard mode and you’ll need the fifth button as well, and the game becomes ludicrously challenging, only in that nice ‘I can, must and will crack this’ sort of way. Expert, meanwhile, is best left to genuine guitar heroes. Joe Satriani might be able to move his fingers that fast and that accurately, but it might be a while before I can do the same.
Still, it’s when you’re really in a hole that you’ll see the purpose of the guitar’s secret weapon. In a moment of sheer genius, the developers have made it so that – once your star power gauge has filled up – a rapid tilt of the headstock skyways triggers your star power. The notes glow and crackle with blue electricity, and the crowd are blown away by your fluid playing and intense performance. Damn it, Harmonix, you deserve that rock salute! And the unlockable guitars, songs, characters and custom finishes? You haven’t just iced the cake, you’ve iced the icing too!
Obviously, Guitar Hero is a game best savoured with a group of friends – preferably drunk ones – so you can warp back to the days when a studded denim jacket seemed like sensible attire or you lived in a biker’s jacket, worn jeans and band T-shirts. You can even plug in a second controller for axe-slinging duels (though as controllers are scarce I haven’t been able to try this). However, Guitar Hero is actually brilliant fun just on your own, which makes it not just a rarity in its genre, but practically unique. What more can I say? If you’ve ever played that air-guitar in a mirror, head-banged to the loud bit at the end of Stairway to Heaven or just wished you could rock the faithful in the pit, then this is an essential buy. In short, Guitar Hero rocks, and rocks hard!
Listen up Harmonix – From those about to rock, we salute you! A masterful exercise in heavy metal madness, with more legs than we had any right to expect.