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Critical Reception: Activision/Neversoft's  Guitar Hero: Metallica

Critical Reception: Activision/Neversoft's Guitar Hero: Metallica Exclusive

April 1, 2009 | By Danny Cowan




This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Guitar Hero: Metallica, a band-specific entry in Activision's music game franchise that reviews describe as "a great experience that Metallica fans should run out and get." Guitar Hero: Metallica currently earns a score of 87 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

IGN's Chris Roper rates Guitar Hero: Metallica at 8.9 out of 10, claiming that the experience lives up to expectations. "The Guitar Hero franchise seems to be ever rolling, churning out more than one title a year these days," he explains. "Fortunately for metal fans, this year's 'side project' is Guitar Hero: Metallica, which brings with it a ton of promise and hype."

"Luckily, the game delivers in many of the ways that we had hoped for," Roper praises. "The track list is stellar, the presentation is top-notch, the band is very well represented, and, perhaps most surprising of all, there's a ton of stuff for fans of the band to check out."

Roper finds that Guitar Hero: Metallica's gameplay progression succeeds where previous titles in the franchise have failed. "Rather than the gig-based progression from World Tour, you'll find something much closer to the original two titles where it's a tier-based system, but instead of having to beat each song in a tier to progress, you need only meet a total star requirement," he describes. "I actually 'finished' the game after having only beaten 40% of the songs, so there's a ton of leeway in allowing you to move on if you get stuck on something."

The result is an open-ended career mode that grants instant access to all of the game's included material. The level of challenge suffers, however. "Though it presents less of a challenge and winds up taking away a little of the reward for beating some of the game's hardest songs," Roper admits, "it's nice to know that you won't get caught up having to repeat the same track over and over to progress. Also, it means that you can almost skip right past the early stuff and quickly get to the big tracks, like 'Master of Puppets' and 'One', if you really want to."

Roper recommends the title, though he notes that it suffers slightly for its lack of support for World Tour's downloadable content. "It certainly doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it's been a while since I've had this much fun with a music game," he writes. "The only thing keeping me from scoring it higher is the fact that it doesn't support most of the Guitar Hero DLC. Other than that, it's a great experience that Metallica fans should run out and get."

Over at Game Informer, Matt Helgeson gives Guitar Hero: Metallica a score of 8.75 out of 10, noting that the experience will hold special value for Metallica fans. "The baroque, epic thrash of classic period Metallica is the stuff for which this game was made," he says. "From 'The Shortest Straw' to 'Seek & Destroy,' there is a treasure trove of fan favorites for old-school Metallica fans."

Helgeson warns that the game's difficult notecharts will pose a challenge to longtime Guitar Hero players, particularly drummers. "I expect many veteran Guitar Hero gamers will have to delve into the medium difficulty for the first time in ages," he predicts. "That's not even counting the insane Expert+ difficulty, which lets you recreate Lars Ulrich's machine gun blast beats with a splitter and two pedals."

Helgeson finds that the non-Metallica tracks are equally satisfying. "The rest of the soundtrack definitely matches the intensity of the vintage stuff," he writes. "It's clearly been selected by the band, and packed with quirky and fresh choices of tunes."

Helgeson continues: "Rather than a Danzig or Misfits hit, we get the menacing 'Mother of Mercy' by Samhain. Black metal pioneer King Diamond shows up as a playable character and in the track 'Evil' by his band Mercyful Fate. All in all, it's got perhaps the best hit to miss ratio of any music game to date – although it's not aimed at the casual party crowd."

"The only misstep is the cheesy cartoon storyline, done in the style of the last few games," Helgeson notes in conclusion. "It seems out of character with Metallica's image, and I would have preferred more documentary-style footage (I did appreciate the fan-shot videos and visual archive in the extras menu). Still, it's a small quibble with a game that provides a whole lotta metal for your $60."

Ryan McCaffrey at OXM Online rates the title at 8.5 out of 10, assuring that the team at Neversoft has learned from the mistakes made in Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and World Tour. "Most great musical acts have ups and downs throughout their career — Metallica included," he begins. "And one recent look at a store shelf might lead you to believe that Guitar Hero — with three Xbox 360 releases in the past nine months and another on the way in June — has reached Nickelback-ian levels of oversaturation."

"But after heading out on tour with our plastic axes once again," McCaffrey continues, "we discovered that Guitar Hero: Metallica is the series' best entry since Neversoft inherited the franchise — an achievement made only greater by the design challenges presented by the metal-heavy setlist."

Guitar Hero: Metallica's tracklist proves to be one of its greatest assets. "From 1983's 'Hit the Lights' to 2008's 'All Nightmare Long,' Metallica's catalog is impeccably suited to the Guitar Hero format," McCaffrey writes. "From solo-crazy, turbo-strumming songs like 'Whiplash' to more melodic pieces like 'Fade to Black,' the guitar parts simply make you feel awesome, while the instrumental 'Orion' highlights a bass career that is anything but an afterthought. Vocals, too, are a treat, highlighted by howling the chorus to what had become the holy grail of music-game songs: 'Master of Puppets.'"

McCaffrey also praises Guitar Hero: Metallica's retooled career progression. "Neversoft has finally mastered the difficulty curve," he notes. "A far cry from the torturous days of Guitar Hero III's Hard setting, the songs here are a treat on any skill level."

McCaffrey continues: "Better, though, is how the career mode is structured. It's star-based, meaning you'll unlock new venues and blocks of songs at certain star milestones. Smartly, you can actually earn enough stars to finish the career mode without playing any of Metallica's earliest, shreddiest, most brutal stuff, simply by plowing through the lower-tier tunes."

"Not many bands have a catalog that could pull off a compelling $60 package like this, but Metallica certainly does," McCaffrey concludes. "And as long as this kind of care and craft keeps going into Guitar Hero, it won't be jumping any sharks anytime soon."


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