Category Archives: plastic instruments

Warning! Contains cheese

Guitar Hero: Greatest Hits and Metallica are proving to be splendid fun; they both have a great selection of songs that build up to some insane final tier shred-fests that should keep all but the most trained-spider-fingered of fake plastic guitarists busy for a while. I’d say “… busy until Rock Band 2 comes out on the Wii”, but “… until death from old age” might be more accurate with the release date either back to September or just not being listed depending on retail site, not that I’m bitter or anything. So long as the Wii version of The Beatles: Rock Band is released at the same time as the other platforms I’ll let them off (gracious, huh?)

Anyway! While Guitar Hero: Metallica is perfect when you fancy a spot of moshing, it doesn’t feature much outside the broad spectrum of “quite metal” to “very metal”, so overall I’ve been playing a bit more of Greatest Hits which, for the most part, has an awesome set list. I say “for the most part”… The only drawback so far is that, with the new system of unlocking songs where you don’t have to complete every song of one tier before moving to the next one, I’d been skipping songs I didn’t really fancy playing; towards the end of the set list, though, you have to have completed all encores to unlock the final stage. And that meant I had to play all the songs I’d been skipping… basically, the godawful hair-metal cock-rock cheesy stuff that Metallica were railing against in their early years: Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, Ratt, Warrant… Ugh. The odd cheesy song can be fun, a bit of Kiss, Poison’s Nothin’ But A Good Time, but having to play through the lot of them in short order is like scraping a massive slab of unpleasant congealed processed cheese off a burger, eating the rest of the meal, then being forced to eat the cheese before you’re allowed dessert. If you don’t eat yer cheese, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer cheese?!

So my advice is to hold your nose, take a deep breath, play sodding Warrant as soon as you can to get it out the way, then enjoy the good stuff. Mind you, if you’re not some sort of completist nutter, you can always solve the problem by just avoiding the songs entirely…

Reviewlet: Guitar Hero Greatest Hits

In a shocking turn of events, the European release of Wii Rock Band 2 has been put back again. Current estimate from is 31st July; a Harmonix developer has posted “… we ran into several technical issues that required attention before the game could be finalized”, which I believe may be a code for “we sent a second raft to try and find the first, and located it beached upon the shore of the lost island of Atlantis. Namor the Sub-Mariner is looking a bit miffed about the whole business.”

Still, not to worry, I’ve still got the latter half of the Guitar Hero: Metallica setlist to conquer (quite chuffed about passing One the other day), and Guitar Hero Greatest Hits has just turned up in the post too. Known as Guitar Hero Smash Hits in the US, presumably renamed to avoid the kids/teen pop magazine connotations of the name in the UK, Greatest Hits follows hot on the heels of Metallica, but with less Metallica, and… er… more Hits. That are Great. With 48 songs taken from previous Guitar Hero games, Greatest Hits is probably one to avoid if you’re only interested in playing the plastic guitar and have played the other games extensively. If, on the other hand, you only came into the series with Guitar Hero World Tour, it’s a good way of getting a bunch of rather excellent songs, and with full band support.

Greatest Hits has all the good stuff of World Tour like customisable characters and instruments, and keeps the Metallica approach to the career in which you need to achieve a certain number of stars over all songs in a tier to progress, rather than having to play through absolutely everything, which works rather well. There seems to be some sort of plot involving the classic Guitar Hero characters being summoned to rock out across the world, or something, but plot in a Guitar Hero game is about as relevant as plot in a porn movie, something to rapidly skip through to get to the strumming.

All in all, probably not a mandatory purchase at full price unless you’re desperate for something new, but well worth picking up when they knock a few quid off.

Reviewlet: Guitar Hero – Metallica

Guitar Hero – Metallica is… Metallica-y. This isn’t terribly surprising, what with it having “Metallica” in the title and everything; 28 of the 49 songs in the game are by Metallica, you play them as motion-captured Metallica, the rest of the tracks can be played as one of Metallica, on signature Metallica guitars, if you buy/unlock them as a character, and there are lashings of Metallica extras on the disc.

If you’re unsure whether you should get the game or not, here’s a detailed in-depth questionnaire to help you decide:

1) Do you like Guitar Hero?
a) Oh yes! It’s a work of plastic instrumental genius!
b) It’s OK I guess.
c) No, it’s a stupid waste of time, learn to play a real guitar.

2) Do you like Metallica?
a) Oh yes! Who doesn’t like the genre-defining multi-Grammy winning fourth highest-selling music artist since 1991?
b) They’re OK I guess.
c) No, I hate them and everything they stand for.

If you answered:
Mostly (a): buy the game right now
Mostly (b): maybe rent the game, see how you like it
Mostly (c): don’t buy the game

Hope that helped.

You may be experiencing a strange sense of deja vu around now, as Guitar Hero: Metallica is a very similar idea to Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, taking a core engine (Guitar Hero III for Aerosmith, World Tour for Metallica) and building a band-centric game around it.

I have most of Metallica’s albums and saw them live a while back, so the Metallica-y-ness a major selling point for me compared to Aerosmith, whose songs never really gripped me even after a few playthroughs of their game. The non-Metallica tracks are a slightly mixed bag, some strong stuff from bands like Slayer, Motorhead, Queen and the copper-bottomed Thin Lizzy classic The Boys Are Back In Town, but generally the Metallica tracks are the highlight, as it should be (my favourite tracks from GH: Aerosmith remain the Kinks and Mott The Hoople covers from the first couple of tiers). Being based on World Tour it’s also full plastic band game, which may or may not be a major factor depending on whether you stick resolutely to pretending to play the guitar, or are more of a living room skinsman.

By crikey, though, it’s a bit tricky. I (just about) managed all except the final tiers of Guitar Hero III and World Tour on Expert, but I’ve started running into difficulty about halfway through the Metallica setlist, mostly thanks to Kirk Hammett solos. If you’re not familiar with the oeuvre these contain, on average, seven hundred and sixty two notes every second, and are often long enough to outlast any star power you might have saved up to assist your desperate flailings. I haven’t made a serious attempt at drums, bass or vocals yet, but being the drums have the extra-bass-pedalling Expert Plus difficulty, I can’t imagine they’re going to be proverbial strolls in the fake plastic park. Still, that’s what multiple difficulty levels are for; I imagine I’ll switch down to Hard to try and complete the guitar career (hopefully I won’t have to resort to Medium), and it’s good to have something to aim towards. Overall, seven thumbs up out of two with an extra “OH YEAH!” and some toast.

Wii waits. That’s what wii does.

At the end of April, I said “(Rock Band 2 has) been delayed another couple of weeks, May 29th being the current release date (though that may just be a placeholder if the database behind the website can’t cope with inserting “when hell freezes over” into a datetime() field).” Sure enough today, just as I’m thinking “only another couple of weeks until Rock Band 2 for the Wii, gosh I’m looking forward to applying pressure to coloured buttons in a rhythmic fashion to the sounds of popular light entertainment combos”, an e-mail comes through announcing another four week delay, to June 26th. On the Tony Harrison outrage-o-meter, this is now officially a Level 4 Outrage.

With details of Guitar Hero 5 emerging including the first ten songs (Dylan! Woo!), bookies are currently taking bets on Which Guitar Hero Games Will Be Released In The UK Before Wii Rock Band 2:
Guitar Hero: Metallica. 1/1000000 on, no more bets being taken.
Guitar Hero: Smash Hits. 5/19 on, seems likely.
Guitar Hero 5. 8/9 on.
Guitar Hero 6. Evens.
Guitar Hero 7. 5/2.
Guitar Hero: Rocks the 20s (a nostalgia trip back through all your favourite hits of the 2020s). 10/1.
Guitar Hero 125th Anniversary Special Edition Tribute. 25/1.

All I can imagine is that Harmonix decided to save a bit of money, so the output of the Wii Rock Band Disk Manufacturing Plant in Timbuktu, instead of being loaded onto a ship, was formed into a rudimentary raft which is now being piloted through the choppy waters of the North Atlantic. Full access to the Captain’s Log sheds further light:

March 7th. Making good progress in calm waters. Estimated release date: April 24th.
April 16th. Reports of pirates off the coast of Morocco have forced us to sail much further west than we were planning, resulting in being caught in the North Equatorial current. Estimated release date: May 15th.
May 2nd. Storm-force conditions brought down the mainsail and put a hole in the hull that needed patching with several drumheads and a plastic Stratocaster. The mast has been re-rigged with promotional sticker sheets, reducing average speed to seven knots. Estimated release date: May 29th.
May 17th. Things not quite going according to plan. Stuck in the doldrums, use of plastic guitars as oars maintained progress, but attracted the attention of Ebirah, horror of the deep, who seized two members of crew before we drove him off by flinging drum sets at him. Europe will have to make do with Rock Band 1 peripherals for a while longer. Food supplies running low, drinking water down to half a cup per man per day. Morale kept up by imagining the endless amusement being derived on the Rock Band forums from telling Wii owners to get a proper console whenever they complain about the delay. Estimated release date: June 26th.

Tired of Waiting for (RB) Two

Back on the 15th of April when I posted up a quick Plastic Rock Roundup, the Wii version of Rock Band 2 was scheduled for release in the UK on April 24th. Have I, then, been rocking out this last weekend, extending index and little fingers while sticking my tongue out to the maximum extent permissible under regional law and scaring neighbourhood pets with my vocal renditions of Pinball Wizard? No, no I haven’t, as shortly after that post the release date on shifted back three weeks to May 15th, and in the last few days it’s been delayed another couple of weeks, May 29th being the current release date (though that may just be a placeholder if the database behind the website can’t cope with inserting “when hell freezes over” into a datetime() field).

In other Harmonix news, there’s been a press release about a Limited Edition Premium Bundle for The Beatles: Rock Band. I must confess to being more than slightly tempted by the prospect of a Höfner Bass controller and Beatles-inspired drums (and surely part of the “additional special contents” must be four Beatles wigs to really get into the spirit of the thing), and if the announcement is to be believed the release is notable for its international parity; not only is the game “available simultaneously worldwide in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and other territories for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system and Wii™ home videogame console from Nintendo on 09/09/2009”, but the recommended prices of (US) $249.99, (EU) €199.00 and (UK) £179.00 for the Premium Bundle seem to be, at today’s exchange rates, broadly comparable give or take the odd tenner, as opposed to the previous UK pricing structure of “Take the dollar price, and stick a pound sign in front of it. Then multiply it by 1.5. And stick an extra zero on the end.” The only slight fly(ing beetle) in the ointment is the whole Rock Band 2 release business, which doesn’t engender tremendous confidence that closer to the projected release date we won’t get an announcement that they’ve decided to push the UK Wii release date back ever so slightly, to instead coincide with the 100th anniversary of the death of Paul McCartney.

Plastic Rock Roundup

Welcome back to the world’s premier Plastic Rock News Column, for regular updates on all the plastic rock news! Well, I say “World”, just Europe really. OK, not all of Europe, Britain. And “regular” might be overstating things slightly. And it’s not really *all* the plastic rock news, I’ve only got a Wii and don’t care about the other consoles. And it’s probably worth making it clear that by “plastic rock” I mean the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games with their plastic instrument peripherals, rather than natural looking but lightweight stone substitute for garden dressing or modelling. What was I talking about again?

First exciting news, after a couple of false alarms Rock Band 2 finally has an official release date for the UK Wii version! A mere four months after the US release, we get to Rock in a Band for the second time on April 24th. With Guitar Hero instrument compatibility and downloadable content, unlike the original Wii Rock Band, I’ll be picking this up to finally compare the two Plastic Rock Behemoths. One silver lining to the cloud of the four month delay is that it’s given plenty of time for Wii DLC to become available, and while not quite up to the full few hundred tracks available on other systems there’s been a steady increase from the fifty originally available in January.

Not long after that, it’s time to get a mosh on with Guitar Hero: Metallica out on May 5th. Normally I’d grumble about that being a month after the US release, but compared to Rock Band it’s positively speedy. It’s getting good write-ups, and as a paid up person-who-quite-likes-Metallica I’m much more excited about this than the previous Aerosmith game (though some of their stuff was fun to play, I haven’t gone and bought any Aerosmith albums since playing the game, and still prefer most of the non-Aerosmith tracks).

That’s not all the guitar heroism for this year, though, as a month after that (in the US, UK release isn’t confirmed yet as far as I know) Guitar Hero: Smash Hits is released. This features 48 songs from the first four Guitar Hero games using master recordings (the first three games were mostly covers) with support for a full (plastic) band. I’m quite happy about this; I borrowed the original Guitar Hero a while back but never played GH2 or Rock the 80s at all, and most of the songs will be new to the Wii (so long at they don’t go crazy with stuff from Guitar Hero III).

There have been grumblings about cash-ins and milking the Guitar Hero franchise, especially with suggestions of at least one or two more full Guitar Hero games to come this year (as well as assorted Nintendo DS versions and other tie-ins), whereas Harmonix are (rightly) lauded for continuing to release downloadable content, building up a massive Rock Band catalogue (though the Guitar Hero World Tour library is steadily growing as well, I’ve picked up some rather splendid Hendrix and Queen tracks recently, and Harmonix aren’t entirely forgoing new games with the PSP Rock Band Unplugged to come and The Beatles: Rock Band in September). The advantages of downloadable content are obvious, you pick exactly the songs you want, but there’s a price: £1.40 per song, to be specific (on the Wii at least, and without the benefit of album or “track pack” discounts), and that can rack up pretty quickly. On a pure £/song basis (never mind the quality, feel the width), at current GAME pre-order prices Guitar Hero: Metallica comes in at 61p per song, and Rock Band 2 a bargain-tastic 35p. Another advantage of the whole bunch o’ songs on a disc is that it introduces you to music you might not have sought out otherwise, and maybe I’m just easily pleased but there are very few songs in the Guitar Hero series so far I actively dislike, and lots of stuff I’ve since gone out and bought. Overall, then, DLC is great, but I’m perfectly happy for them to keep cranking out new plastic rock games. I’d even be tempted by Rock Revolution at less than twenty quid, if it wasn’t for the fact that the Wii version doesn’t support instrument peripherals, t’ch.

Stone Free

So m’colleague’s Chronicles of Spellborn impressions drew a bit of interest, and not wanting to be left out I thought I’d go and take a look to offer my own devastating insights, like “it’s got hats in it!” Not having the speediest connection, though, the 3Gb download is still crunking away in the background, so initial thoughts: the downloader has a bar on it that goes up, which is good. I like bars that go up.

While waiting for the download I went for a bit of a potter around the publisher’s website,, which offers a range of Free To Play MMOGs. Acclaim, and the logo on their website, rang a bell from a way back alongside names like Ocean and Midway, but from a bit of Googling it turns out that Acclaim went bust, and the name was bought by this Acclaim (usual it’s-only-Wikipedia caveats apply, though the articles seemed fairly plausible at the time and didn’t claim “Acclaim Games are best known for appearing as Norm in the 1997 Twix adverts”). I don’t think I’m quite in the target market for most of their offerings, but anyone who’s followed my other posts can probably spot one game that piqued my interest…

Yes, Ponystars! The game I’ve been waiting for! Within no time, I had a pink-hued offspring of a Fire Pony and a Love Pony ready to… erm… hang on, someone must’ve hacked my account, that was never me, I’ve never even heard of this Ponystars of which you speak you can’t prove a thing.

No, having something of a penchant for fake plastic moshing, Rock Free looked worth a shot. Currently in beta, it’s a Flash-based Massively Multiplayer Guitar Hero-esque Press-Keys-As-Circles-Move-Down-A-Fretboard-Em-Up. The song list should be familiar for players of the first few Guitar Hero games, plenty of classic rock in there, songs being streamed as you go (a bit of a problem if you’re downloading 3Gb of Spellborn at the same time in the background). The default keys of 1-5 for the frets and cursor keys to strum are configurable, which gives you the same options as Frets on Fire: play normally on the keyboard (boring!), remap the frets to F1-F5 and hold your keyboard like a plastic guitar peripheral (much better, though tricky with a G15), or sort out a genuine fake plastic guitar to give key inputs; I dug out the old bluetooth dongle and got my Wii guitar hooked up to it via GlovePIE.

If you haven’t got an actual Guitar Hero/Rock Band game, or have a desperate desire to compete against more than one other player simultaneously, it might be fun, but naturally enough a free Flash based game can’t really compete with full plastic instrument-y fun, so having picked up the Wii guitar I wandered off to play the Hendrix DLC that’s just come out in Guitar Hero World Tour instead while the download ticks away. 1Gb left now…

Thought for the day.

Zoso pointed out to me today that Guitar Hero World Tour is having some new bands added to its downloadable content in the near future, including none other than those legends of British rock, Queen.

Of course, initial excitement somewhat fizzles away when you look at the list of tracks being released: Fat Bottomed Girls is fair enough, but We Are the Champions? C-whatthebloodyhell-lebrity? Where’s One Vision, Flash Gordon or Bohemian Rhapsody? How about, oh, We Will Rock You? I mean, the clue is in the song title.

I don’t know; for me these band games are like hiring a prostitute, only to find out when they turn up that they’re an inflatable doll; I mean, it’s sex, but you can’t help but think of all the myriad better experiences that you’re missing out on.

Like to introduce ‘Legs’ Larry Smith, drums

When I first got Guitar Hero World Tour I mostly played the drums for their novelty, working through the career on Easy and Medium difficulty. After switching to guitar and bass for a while (and occasionally vocals, much to the consternation of any animals (and indeed humans) in the vicinity) I’ve gone back to the drums, stepping up to Hard difficulty. The biggest difference between Medium and Hard seems to be the amount of bass drum, or, in plastic instrument terms, pressing of a pedal that broadly equates to what might be a bass drum in a proper drum set. On Medium there’s not too much of it, and for the most part bass hits coincide with notes (beats? hits?) where you also hit one of the pad-things with a stick-thing in your hand-thing (you might, if paying very close attention, have noticed I’m a bit hazy on the correct terminology). I can cope with that. As the difficulty increases so does the number of bass hits, which leads to my first problem of my foot cramping up in protest. This might have something to do with my seating arrangements; I can’t recall going to see a band where the drummer is reclining on a sofa to play, it’s possibly not an optimal pedal-pressing position. Or maybe my foot-tapping muscles are just hopelessly out of shape, perhaps I should bring the pedal along to work for a rigorous work-out each day. The other problem I have is devious music-making swine who start putting bass hits on their own in between other hit-pad-thing-with-stick-thing hits, causing my brain to go “yellow, yellow and purple, yellow and red, yellow, AOOOGAH! AOOOOGAH! JUST PURPLE! You’re supposed to do something with a foot but I’m not sure exactly what HIT ALL THE DRUMS, HIT ALL THE DRUMS, GET THE CYMBALS AS WELL, NOOOOOOO!” Somehow this isn’t terribly effective, but depending on the beat I can usually either just about get to grips with it, or take the slightly more cunning approach of ignoring awkward bass hits entirely. Not great for streak scores, but it gets through the song.

So I’m just about coping with the bass pedal in the early-to-middle parts of the Hard drum career and feeling moderately pleased with myself when I noticed someone had posted a video from the forthcoming Guitar Hero: Metallica. The game that will let you use a second bass pedal in a new “Expert Plus” difficulty for drums. A video of Slayer’s War Ensemble, on Expert Plus difficulty.


There’s Bruce loose aboot this hoose

It’s a good time for plastic instrument aficionados. Firstly for anyone with Guitar Hero: World Tour, there are two free Bruce Springsteen songs up for grabs, the classic Born to Run and My Lucky Day from his new album. They’re only free until February 4th, though, so download ’em while they’re hot.

If Bruce isn’t your bag, baby, Metallica have announced the track list for the forthcoming Guitar Hero: Metallica, and it’s a cracker, as Oscar Wilde once said (or Frank Carson, one of the two). Really looking forward to Sanitarium, Master of Puppets, Creeping Death and the rest, I even have a soft spot for Frantic from the not-entirely-universally-loved St. Anger. Nice selection of other artists too, let there be mosh!

Over in the Rock Band world, still no sign of Rock Band 2 for the Wii or PS3 here in the UK. Well, I say “no sign”, have it up for pre-order with an expected release data of January 30th; I’ve popped an order in on the off chance it might be correct, but it seems somewhat unlikely as no other retailers are even acknowledging its existence. I mean, Amazon don’t seem to have it for pre-order, and they’re listing Duke Nukem For-bleedin’-ever! Still, if it turns up Friday I’ll be most chuffed, and if not I’ve still got plenty of World Touring to do; Love Spreads on bass is amazing!