- Publisher: Activision
- Developer: Neversoft
- Also On: PS3, Wii
- ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
- Genre: Music/Rhythm
- Pros: Amazing tracklist; Metallifacts; songs are well charted; tons of detail
- Cons: Maybe you don’t love heavy metal?; high difficulty level; no separate rhythm guitar tracks
Guitar Hero: Metallica is a full band game (as in, bass, guitar, singing, and drums) and is compatible with all of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band instruments released so far as well as the awesome microphones from LIPS. It offers a special Expert+ difficulty level for drums that lets you use two kick pedals, but so far only the Guitar Hero: World Tour drums (along with a splitter adapter cable) work for this setup.
The song list (see full song list here) consists of 28 Metallica songs spanning their entire career along with 21 songs from other artists. There are a few notable songs missing, but the included tracks are all very good and fun to play. The 21 other songs feature bands that either inspired or were inspired by Metallica, and there are some real gems here as well. “Turn the Page” by Bob Seger and “Tuesday’s Gone” by Lynyrd Skynyrd are slowly paced and quite tame compared to the rest of the songs, but they are so darn good and fun to play you won’t mind. Trying to hit the high notes while singing as King Diamond of Mercyful Fate in “Evil” is also crazy fun. And if you want finger melting guitar and bass work, Slayer’s “War Ensemble” should satisfy. Pretty much every track on Guitar Hero: Metallica is good-to-great. Good times.
Neversoft made some wise decisions with the career mode here that somewhat help you get over the difficulty level. First, all of the songs are unlocked in quick play right from the start; so don’t worry about having to unlock everything. Secondly, career mode itself is set up in an entirely different way than before. You only have to play a fraction of the songs to “beat” the career, and if you struggle with the super difficult songs you can just play through the easier stuff at the top of the career list before moving down to the also easy (relative to the context of “easy” in this game, of course) “The Thing That Should Not Be” to finish it off. I gotta say, I’m a fan of this new career style. You spend 95% of your time with these games in quick play or playing multiplayer anyway, so making a long and drawn out career seems kind of pointless.
There is also, of course, online multiplayer, local multiplayer, and the music studio (now with Metallica specific guitar sounds) from GH: World Tour.
As for instrument-specific notes, I only have a few things to say. Playing bass isn’t some easy throwaway thing in this game and is actually really, really fun. It is easy in that it is usually just the same handful of repeating notes, but it moves so quickly on most songs you really have to work to keep up. Drumming is fun, of course, but you have to be pretty darn good to tackle Expert+. Sadly, I’m not. Vocals are slightly easier than World Tour and you can still just hum along to the song to pass it if you want. Guitar is crazy and difficult, and satisfying, and just plain fun here. I do wish, however, that they would have included separate rhythm and lead guitar tracks. Every Metallica song has a rhythm and lead guitar, so it would have been nice to choose one to play rather than the current setup that mixes them together and you end up playing both.
One of the best aspects of GH:M is all of the little touches that will stand out to fans. There are videos of performances from real concerts. Three separate skins for Metallica (current, 80’s, and zombies). And certain songs have special lighting and camera effects meant to mimic the music video for that song or how it looks in concert. Metallica also motion-captured trademark movements and things they do in each song so everything is very authentic. A very nice mode is a “Metallifacts” mode that opens when you beat a song. It lets you just sit back and watch the band play while little Pop Up Video facts are displayed on the bottom of the screen, which is very cool.
Graphically, GH: Metallica is a surprisingly good looking game. The character models are good, the animation is good, and there are all sorts of special effects and lighting and little touches that really stand out. You kind of miss out on the little details while you are playing, but you can really appreciate everything in Metallifacts mode.
This game sounds completely excellent. It is one of those games that deserves to be played loud (or, to “11” if you will), and if you have a good sound system or at least some decent headphones you’ll appreciate it even more. Plus, playing with headphones actually makes it easier to play because you can hear the bass and drums better so it is easier to hit your marks and keep the rhythm. I played through the whole game – all 4 careers – with Turtle Beach Ear Force X4 headphones and it was downright magical.
All I can really say to sum up Guitar Hero: Metallica is that if you are a fan of the band and of metal in general, you will love this game. Personally, this is easily my favorite Guitar Hero game yet. I love the songs. I love the challenge. And I love the polish and details and little touches that make this more than just some side project while we wait for GH5. I can’t recommend it to everybody simply because not everyone will appreciate the track list or the crazy ramped up difficulty, but if the concept of a Guitar Hero: Metallica ever got you excited in the first place, you won’t regret a purchase.