Preview: Guitar Hero: Metallica


On Wednesday, I was invited to San Francisco to check out Neversoft's and Activision’s new Guitar Hero title, Guitar Hero: Metallica. The event was loud, dark, and packed full of plastic peripherals. Before the event, I thought I had a problem stowing my plastic peripherals. Whoever set the stuff up at the event must have a huge closet, or a significant other that doesn’t mind seventy guitars strewn around the living room.

So, yeah, I got to play Guitar Hero: Metallica. As you can imagine, it rocks in all the right ways. I came away from the event with the feeling that Neversoft really got the band. And that's a good thing, especially since Metallica had a heavy hand in the decision making for the music and venues in the title.

Hit the break for my preview.

It’s clear -- Guitar Hero: Metallica is a celebration of the venerable metal band, whose sick riffs, colorful lyrics, and memorable tunes have transcended the ebb and flow of popular music. As I played the game, I felt that sense of permanency -- each song resonated with a larger importance, and brilliant motion capture and visual effects conveyed the band’s teeth-gnashing grace. Guitar Hero: Metallica has an attitude and it’s better for it.

I say panache is good, because the thing that bothered me the most about Guitar Hero: Aerosmith was how underwhelming the entire experience was. The game was faceless, almost unremarkable in terms of how it related Aerosmith to the user. Guitar Hero: Metallica is radically different -- the band and its rich history have been compressed into the presentation in such a way that you feel the band’s vibe. My time with the game was limited, but in that time I found myself jawing along with favorites and furiously clacking with the quick ones.

Here’s how they grabbed me: awesome motion-capture work, excellent music, and powerful filters. The mo-cap was done over a series of days with the band’s members, and you can totally tell. Signature moves, subtle gestures, and facial expressions are spot-on and really capture the intensity of the band. The visual filters laid on top of the smooth, captured animations punctuate the passion with a dazzling assortment of gritty grays and scratchy tints. The minor accents like the pyrotechnics and crowd panoramas help to pull it all together, bridging a semi-live show experience into your living room.

Guitar Hero: Metallica doesn’t appear to be a revolutionary game by any stretch of the imagination. At its core, it is essentially Guitar Hero: World Tour with a cute metal paint job and a few enhancements and additions. Many of the improvements are visual (the filters and motion-capture), but there are some slight game-changing tweaks.

A new Campaign progression -- a benefit to the franchise, I believe -- hit me hard. Stars are now like currency. Instead of having to conquer every song in a specific tier, I only needed to earn a specific amount of stars in a couple of songs to move forward. I was pretty excited to be able to skip over some of the stuff I wasn’t feeling and get straight to the Metallica.

The unlocks that I netted in the Campaign were different as well. I didn’t earn any extra songs; they’re all available in Quick Play from the moment you boot the game. Instead, Campaign gives you new venues to play in, new clothing, and Metallica-related ephemera dubbed “song extras.” The prominent extra, for me, was “Metallifacts” -- a VH1 PopUp Video-style encore presentation of a song you’ve previously completed. It’s a mode of sorts, where the highway is turned off and text boxes constantly pop from the bottom of the screen relating a variety of information relevant to the song and its place in Metallica’s history. It also reveals why that song was pulled from Metallica’s -- or another band’s -- library and plopped into the game.

Clothing unlocks now have a new meaning. Guitar Hero: Metallica has a beefy character creation system. I played around with it for a few minutes and created an ogre for kicks. The system reminds me of a cross between EA’s Fight Night Round 3 and Bethesda’s Oblivion. Sliders allow for certain depth and heights to be reached but the level of zaniness is restricted. You can make a dude with ears sticking out like Dumbo, however, you can’t put the ears where his eyes should be. Different general modifiers like height, weight, and age are available as well. You can use your avatar in Career (when you’re not playing a Metallica song) or the game’s Band mode.

One of the biggest additions, adding to the fury of Metallica’s presence in the title, is Expert Plus Mode -- a drums only difficulty setting that utilizes a second bass pedal. I’m apparently rhythm game deficient -- my left leg doesn’t have the bounce of a trained drummer’s -- so I had to watch others rock out with the setting. The action looks intense, if not demanding. It’s beautiful to watch someone nail the notes. They kick pedal bars scroll down the highway with an unabated fury, requiring constant depressions. Awesome stuff to watch, but disenchanting for a dude like me. I wished I was able get through a few seconds of “Master of Puppets” with the mode turned on.

The tweaks in the game that I caught are subtle (and there may be more than what I caught). That neon blue beam that indicates Star Power on the side of the highway has been enlarged. Individual Band member health meters are bigger and lowered on the screen so you can tell who is losing. A red hue (something I experience a lot on Hard or Expert Plus) engulfs the screen when you’re losing, reminding me of a health system of sorts. Also, and this goes along with the new Campaign progression, is the prominent placing of a new Star meter, giving you a better indication of how you’re placing.

If you’re a Metallica fan, this should be your game. The songs are epic, the presentation is visceral, and the love put into the title is apparent. Metallica shines in Guitar Hero: Metallica, for sure. And that seems to me, at least, to be the most important thing.

A minor side note: I didn’t spot any differences between the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game. The Wii version was naturally, less visually appealing, but it didn’t seem to lack any features. Because downloadable content isn’t supported, three Death Magnetic songs are included in the package. All screenshots in this preview are from the PS3 version, because well, it doesn't matter.

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Brad Nicholson
Brad Nicholson   gamer profile

I'm Brad Nicholson. I've been around, but Destructoid is where my dawgs at. You can see my work here, at MTV, at Giant Bomb or other great places around the Internet. I also run a podcast called ... more + disclosures



Filed under... #Previews #PS3 #Wii #Xbox 360



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