By: Robert Workman
Although the soundtrack will make you “Jump” for joy, Guitar Hero Van Halen doesn’t have enough extra features.
There’s no shortage of quality music games from Activision this holiday season. The wonderful Guitar Hero 5 is currently on store shelves, and in early November, you can snag Band Hero, complete with several contemporary tracks and an improved drum set to rock out with. Following both of these acts is Guitar Hero Van Halen, a game set for retail release on December 22nd.
The game features the four most current members of Van Halen: singer David Lee Roth, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alex Van Halen and Eddie’s son, Wolfgang, on bass They rock on stage to a number of classic favorites from the late 70s/early 80s. The soundtrack includes such favorites as “Jump”, “Everybody Wants Some”, “Oh Pretty Woman” and more. The traditional Guitar Hero players (Judy Nails, Casey Lynch) also return, jamming to songs from Foreigner (“Double Vision”), Weezer (“Dope Nose”) and Foo Fighters (“The Best of You”), among others. They’re not all winners, though. We could’ve done without “Stacy’s Mom” and “Semi-Charmed Life”, but overall, this 40 plus track list has rock to spare.
In addition, several of the traditional modes from Guitar Hero return. You can team up with four players in band play, take your game online through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network (both in co-op and versus multiplayer matches), create songs in GH Tunes and stylize your own rocker using customized duds and other tools.
When players step onto the virtual stage, they can sing vocals, bang away on their Rock Band/Guitar Hero drum set (both of which are compatible) and strum a guitar peripheral to Eddie Van Halen’s songs. The difficulty level is right where it needs to be, with Eddie’s “Eruption” solo insanely tough on Expert. We didn’t even make it through half of it without some practice.
As for presentation, it’s a step backwards from Guitar Hero 5. Neversoft reverts back to an earlier GH engine, with plastic-looking characters mixed in with some above-average stage designs; the big “S” stage, where Roth prances around, stands out. That said, the crowd still gets into each song, and the note interface is easy to see, complete with tap-tap segments and a bounty of opportunities to fill your rock meter and double your score.
Most of the songs sound remarkable. All of Van Halen’s tunes are terrific in Dolby Digital, and some of the sidetracks are equally good. Still, some of the third-party songs are covers, which is something Activision should’ve gotten past by now. The cheering crowds and other rock concert noises are acceptable, but nothing you haven’t heard before.
On a side note, Neversoft fails to acknowledge bassist and co-founder Michael Anthony and lead singer Sammy Hagar. Sure, they’re part of a new band now (Chickenfoot), but how awesome would it have been to introduce a versus band story arc, pitting the Roth era against the Hagar one? Plus, that would’ve given the song list a push, with “Poundcake”, “Best of Both Worlds” and “Love Walks In” available for play. Sadly, that’s not the case, and Van Halen suffers as a result.
Guitar Hero Van Halen is fun, just not the best in the series. The song selection will keep you and your friends happy (just skip Third Eye Blind) and the options are acceptable. Still, with a little more effort, this could’ve been on the same level as GH Metallica. The band deserved better.