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Guitar Hero: Van Halen Review (X360)

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating

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Guitar Hero: Van Halen Review (X360)
Activision
I’m going to come right out and say it: Guitar Hero: Van Halen is the worst Guitar Hero so far. The song list is poor, the presentation is lackluster, and there is very little here to justify Van Halen getting their own game at all, let alone a full priced $60 release. As a free bonus for buying Guitar Hero 5 at launch, GH: Van Halen got the job done. As a full priced game, however, it is unacceptable. Find out all of the details here in our full review.
Game Details

  • Publisher: Activision
  • Developer: Underground Development
  • ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
  • Genre: Music
  • Pros: Decent challenge
  • Cons: Bad song list; poor presentation; $60 price tag; no Hagar; few extras

Obviously, if you are a die-hard Van Halen fan, you’re going to get more out of this game than anyone else. Even as a big fan of the band, however, it is hard to overlook some of the shortcomings here. First off, the game is firmly rooted in the pre Sammy Hagar days. Only late 70’s-early 80’s Van Halen material is featured in the game. Secondly, bassist Michael Anthony split from the band a few years ago and was replaced with Eddie’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen. Third, the character models are completely awful. Instead of playing as Van Halen in their heyday, we play as current day, old, stiff, wrinkly 2009 Van Halen, which is just weird and makes a really odd clash by having a fat young kid bassist playing with the geriatric rock band. You do eventually unlock “classic” Van Halen models, but the animation in the game in general is stiff and they just plain look old. Another problem in the game comes from the fact that the interviews and videos and extra tidbits for fans to appreciate that made GH: Metallica so awesome (and GH: Aerosmith at least passable) are nowhere to be found here. It is just bare bones in pretty much every way.

Activision
Song List

Another major issue comes from the song list. As I mentioned, it only covers pre-Hagar Van Halen, which hacks the potential song list down into bits and pieces and scraps of what it should be. The additional 19 songs from other bands are also a disappointment because they don't make a lick of sense in the context of this game. Unlike GH: Metallica where the guest bands actually had some sort of connection to the band (either touring with them in the past or Metallica had covered their songs before or something), the guest bands in GH: Van Halen are just a mishmash of modern bands that don't make much sense in this context. The rumor going around is that Wolfgang Van Halen selected the guest bands, and it seems like he just picked a bunch of his favorite bands instead of picking stuff that would suit the game. Bad times.

Gameplay

In terms of gameplay, the picture is a little brighter, thankfully. While the guest bands don't make a lick of sense in this context, at least a lot of their songs are fun to play. The Van Halen songs also provide a solid challenge, which is appreciated. Unlike the last non-Neversoft Guitar Hero title, Smash Hits, GH: Van Halen actually plays well and has decent note charts. With that said, finding songs in the 45+ song list that you actually want to play over and over (that aren't already in other music games you have), may prove pretty tough.

Graphics & Sound

The presentation is a major disappointment here. The venues aren’t anything special, and the character models are just plain poor. Old, wrinkly, short haired Van Halen (and the fat kid) are just not what we expected here. It also doesn’t help that the animation for their limited onstage antics is very stiff and robotic.

The sound is fine. Not much to say here.

Bottom Line

Activision
In the end, Guitar Hero: Van Halen is pretty easily the worst Guitar Hero game yet. The song list is weak, the presentation is poor, and there is very little to really get your juices flowing even if you are a huge Van Halen fan. In all seriousness, when Michael Anthony wouldn’t be a part of it and they couldn’t use any of the Hagar stuff they should have just called it quits and canned the game. Instead we get this half-assed, bare bones, cash grab. I’m all for band specific games when they’re done right, but GH: Van Halen is trash compared to Beatles: Rock Band and GH: Metallica. The one good thing that comes out of this is that, due to the Guitar Hero 5 promo earlier in the year where you got a free copy of GH: Van Halen, there are already a lot of super-cheap used copies of the game on the market. If you are interested in GH: Van Halen, pick it up for $15 or less. Don’t spend $60 on a new copy.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy

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