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August 7 2007
Guitar Hero: Rock the 80's - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
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Classic Guitar Hero interface.
The 1980ís was a strange period for music. The decade was filled with electronic pop based music and bad rap artists, but there were some good tunes, and we were pretty keen to check out the third outing in Activisionís Guitar Hero series. More of an add-on then full blown sequel (Guitar Hero III is due out later this year), we didnít expect too much new. Can they deliver another solid pack worthy of the name in a decade that isnít necessarily known for itís rock music?

If you're going to play this game then there's little doubt that you'll be using one of the magnificent guitar controllers that came packaged with either of the first two games. In case you are unaware the guitar itself includes Start and Select buttons, five coloured Fret Buttons (where you hit the different notes), a Strut Bar (which mimics hitting the strings), and a Whammy Bar to add some effects to the longer notes. Playing the game is identical to the previous games. As the songs play the guitar riffs fall down the screen. It's your job to hold down the corresponding fret button, and then hit the strut bar as the notes pass the bottom of the screen.

It's all about timing - miss the note and you'll start sounding terrible, and your Rock Meter will drop. Should it drop too far the song will end to the boos of the crowd and you'll need to restart. Certain notes allow you to increase your Star Power (the blue bar in the screenshots). When this reaches over half way you can physically move your guitar into a vertical position (or press the select button) to double the points you earn for each note for a period of time. Overall this is tremendous gameplay which can be played by anyone from novices to experts with four difficulty levels on offer in the game.

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Graphics are pretty nice.
It's not just the gameplay which remains unchanged, but also the game modes. As with the previous game newcomers, if there are any, may want to spend some time in the training mode which is split up into tutorials and practice. Impressively the practice mode allows you to take any song from the game, or a part of it, and then slow it down so you can master the correct fingering. Next up you'll probably want to check out the Quick Play which lets you jump straight into the action - pick a song, a stadium and difficulty level and off you go. For most gamers however it will be the Career Mode that holds the most interest, and longevity. The first thing to do in Career is to pick your character, their guitar and name the band (profile). You will then progress through the songs, each getting progressively harder, and also located in bigger and better stadiums.

Multi-player, yet again, is where this game shines. Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80's includes the same game modes found in Guitar Hero II; cooperative, face off and pro face off. The co-operative mode sees the two players work together to complete the songs. Face off is a battle between two players in which each player can select their own difficulty level while the pro face off sets both players the same difficulty level.

I guess the most important thing with this release is the track list - especially as the games main features are the same as previous iterations - so here's the full list:

Caught in a Mosh (as made famous by Anthrax)
Balls to the Wall (as made famous by Accept)
Electric Eye (by Judas Priest)
Los Angeles (as made famous by X)
Police Truck (as made famous by Dead Kennedys)
We Got the Beat (as made famous by The Go Go's)
Turning Japanese (as made famous by Vapors)
Seventeen (as made famous by Winger)
Because, it's Midnite (by Limozeen)
Hold On Loosely (as made famous by .38 Special)
No One Like You (as made famous by Scorpions)
Only a Lad (as made famous by Oingo Boingo)
Ballroom Blitz (as made famous by Krokus)
The Warrior (by Scandal)
I Wanna Rock (by Twisted Sister)
What I Like About You (as made famous by The Romantics)
Wrath Child (as made famous by Iron Maiden)
I Ran (by Flock of Seagulls)
Round and Round (as made famous by Ratt)
Metal Health (as made famous by Quiet Riot)
Holy Diver (as made famous by Dio)
Heat Of The Moment (as made famous by Asia)
Radar Love (as made famous by White Lion)
18 and Life (as made famous by Skid Row)
Bathroom Wall (as made famous by Faster Pussycat)
Lonely is the Night (as made famous by Billy Squier)
Nothing But a Good Time (as made famous by Poison)
Play With Me (as made famous by Extreme)
Shaken (as made famous by Eddie Money)
Synchronicity II (as made famous by The Police)

The real issue we have with Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80's is the selection of music. Perhaps Activision wanted to keep licensing costs lower, or perhaps it was just ill-judgment but limiting the game to not just rock music, but rock music in the 1980ís (which is arguably the weakest decade for the genre) hasnít paid off. There are a couple of tracks you will be familiar with, but there are very few 'classic' songs. Perhaps the developers should have stuck to all genres from the 1980's, or rock music from all decades. Still, you can't tell me there weren't other options for rock music from the 1980's with bands such as AC/DC, Guns n Roses, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, and Kiss just some of the mega-bands releasing albums during the decade Ė not one of them appears on this disc. Having said that there were a few tracks in this compilation that we really loved playing including Turning Japanese (as made famous by Vapors), Wrath Child (as made famous by Iron Maiden) and Synchronicity II (as made famous by The Police).

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Playing with two-players is great fun.
Due to this limited track listing it wasnít long before, with my Guitar Hero fetish back in full swing, I was pulling out the original releases for a much more entertaining time. At $69.95 this pack is a little on the pricey side for 30 songs. Oh yes, we should point that out too. This compilation includes 30 tracks, and thatís it. There arenít any bonus tracks to unlock like previous titles which makes this also the compilation with the shortest tracklisting to date. I also wish that the developers would have looked at the difficulty. Admittedly Iím not the best Guitar Hero player, far from it. But I managed to cruise through the Medium difficulty without dropping a single song into the yellow level however when I moved up to the Hard difficulty level I started to struggle with some of the tracks and even failed to complete quite a few of them! Harmonix need to look at balancing out the difference between difficulty levels a little more.

Graphics in Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80ís are virtually identical to previous games in the series. While you will be focused on the notes heading down the screen the band pumps in the background in time with the music, the crowds cheers and jump around and there is the occasional pyrotechnic. The menu interface and design is identical to previous games in the series. Another nice touch is that the developers have yet again included a widescreen mode as well as Progressive Scan mode in the game.

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Hitting two notes at once.
Sound is solid enough. The songs, for the most part, seem to be accurate recreations of the originals Ė at least, from what we recall of the songs we knew. Some of the songs though required a bit more fine tuning as they sound quite a bit off their originals. The crowd effects also change according to how well you are performing, but as with the gameplay and graphics, if you've played the previous games then you know what to expect here.

Perhaps Iím wrong. Perhaps the 1980ís were a great period for rock music and guitar riffs, but this compilation doesnít do much for me. Itís certainly not filled with as many popular tracks as found in Guitar Hero or Guitar Hero II, and the replay value, as a result, is somewhat questionable. One can only hope, and we certainly suspect, that Activision are keeping a lot of Ďbrilliantí tracks for their upcoming Guitar Hero III. This is one only for die-hard Guitar Hero and 1980's rock music fans.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version).
GRAPHICSAlmost identical to the last game with some 80's visual tweaks.
SOUNDCovers are occasionally patchy, song selection is questionable too.
GAMEPLAYMany of the songs are forgettable, and it hurts the gameplay when you don't know the tracks.
VALUE30 tracks, variable quality, no bonus tracks. Worth $69.95? No.
OVERALLGuitar Hero: Rocks the 80's is a disappointment in a series which has had two great compilations, and almost certainly a third soon. It will add some game time to the series, but is one for die-hard fans of 80's rock only.

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