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PLATFORM: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii, PS2
ESRB RATING: T
DEVELOPER:
Neversoft (360, PS3), Budcat (Wii, PS2)
PUBLISHER: Activision

The other day I was playing Guitar Hero: Metallica during a fierce thunderstorm here in NYC. Drumming along to Mercyful Fate’s Evil I was having a fun enough time till I got to a section with an incredibly fast thrash beat, and it was just at that moment that a massive thunderclap ripped through the air outside, scaring me and propelling me straight through the insane beat as I cackled madly.

It immediately obvious- I was playing the most metal game ever made. What other game can you think of that summons lightning?
 
THE PITCH

“Let’s make another game around one band instead of just giving our customers DLC!”

When you play through the usual tiered career mode there’s a brief story here where you’re a band trying to open for Metallica (called, irritatingly enough, Little ‘Tallica) but it’s stupid and juvenile and you’ll just want to skip it. This is all about the music.
 
THE PLAY


Let’s get one obvious point out of the way- if you’re not a Metallica fan, stay far away from this release. While there are 21 tracks from other bands, 28 more are Metallica tunes. Each of the other bands has been hand-picked by Metallica and are either songs they’ve covered, bands they were influenced by, or bands they’ve played with. You’ve got everything from Slayer to Bob Seger to Social Distortion. Check the incredible full track list here.

As you can see, for fans of the band you can’t go wrong. While the game’s got some of the more annoying songs they’ve released (damn you No Leaf Clover and Hetfield’s squeaky vocals!) there’s also just about every hit of theirs ever made, like Seek and Destroy, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Orion. They’ve wisely focused more on their older songs and only included a song or two from the last few albums.

The guitar and bass tracks are about as hard as you’d expect, and a helluva lot of fun. The big new twist with the gameplay this time is that they’ve included functionality for
a second bass pedal so you can get those insane drum blasts down. The
developers ran into trouble trying to translate these songs to the game
before deciding to finally give up and throw in another pedal, and you’ll be glad they did. There’s a
new difficulty mode called Expert+ that will ensure you lose any
semblance of drumming skill you thought you had. Grab another bass
pedal and a splitter and try to get that left foot moving.



CHUDTIP- If you have a GHWT set, make sure to pick up a GHWT pedal.
Rock Band pedals don’t work with it, and vice versa. You’ll need a
splitter to get each set working, but it’s absolutely worth it.

For drummers looking for more challenge this mode makes the game worth it by itself. It’s incredibly fun to play these thrash beats and you might actually gain a little bit of respect for Lars. A little.



There are careers for each instrument, which is nice, although there’s unfortunately no way to chose between rhythmn or lead guitar. They’ve made it
pretty easy for you to beat each one as well- you don’t even have to
beat the majority of the songs to finish each career. It’s a nice nod towards less skilled gamers in a game that’s really geared towards the experienced.

The last song in
each is The Thing That Should Not Be, a fun song to be sure but not
nearly one of the harder ones in the game. This is probably due to the
incredible difficulty of most of the later songs in the game. Just wait
till you try your hand at War Ensemble or Dyer’s Eve on Expert…



The worst career is by far the vocals. Considering that most of the
Metallica songs have very few words to sing along to as it is and that
Guitar Hero‘s mic setup doesn’t even let you tap along to the rhythm
during silent parts, expect to sit around a lot and wait to sing. It’s
pretty useless and boring. No joke- I finished this review in between
singing. Thank Hammet for his solos!

The band system from GHWT is back and is still broken. This is not a party game- if one of
the members fails you all fail without a chance to bounce back, and you
all share a star power meter. After every song you all have to hit A to
continue which is maddening when playing with amateur players because
you’ll have to run around saying “Hit the green button! Hit the green
button!” after every song. Rock Band still destroys Guitar Hero in this
regard and is a much better party game. Never mind the insane difficulty that the game provides.
 


CHUDTIP- The vocals actually work better if you go “-ah” after every of Hetfield’s sentances. For example, “Ending is near-ah”


That’s not to say Guitar Hero: Metallica‘s not fun, far from it, but it works best with metalheads who know how to play the game already.
 
THE PRESENTATION

No surprises here for anyone who’s played a Guitar Hero or Rock Band game before.

Despite the attempt to put Metallica in the game (along with Lemmy and King Diamond) the characters still look off. Even with all the mo-cap work they still don’t look like real people playing instruments- this is another thing RB absolutely kills GH with. The characters just look stiff and mechanical. It’s also pretty amusing that the version of the members of the band look like 30-year old versions of themselves.

Still, you’ll get a kick out of playing as these guys, and it’s pretty neat that they got them in the studio to perform the songs and get a lot of little signature moves and such. The stages you play on are all modeled after real venues and tours that they’ve been on.



CHUDTIP- There’s no unlockable Cliff Burton, so stop looking.


Every damn Metallica song has an option to turn on “Metallifacts”, which lets you watch the band (in GH
form) play the song while little trivia notes pop up at the bottom.
It’s a pretty awesome feature, and great for anyone who just wants to
listen to the music. The facts do tend to repeat a bit, though. You’re also
given Song Details and Lyrics for all the songs in the game.

The songs (the Metallica ones in particular) sound AMAZING. Whoever’s mixing these tracks knows what they’re doing, as you already know if you heard about the Death Magnetic debacle, where the game DLC actually managed to sound better than their album.
 
You need to blast this game, so prepare to annoy the neighbors.
   
THE REPLAY

 
The career modes will take you quite a while to get through and there’s tons of unlockables to find if you care about that sort of thing, but I expect most people got sick of customizing characters and supplying them with instruments long ago. You can also unlock videos- a few live performances, an incredibly funny look at Lars fucking up Shortest Straw over and over again, and a scary look at some big Metallica fanboys.
  
There’s an online band vs band battle (4 VS 4) that’s fun if you can get enough people, and besides the usual versus modes there’s also a battle mode with specific Metallica attacks like “Fade to Black” and “Ride the Lightning”.

It’s definitely one you’ll pull out everytime your metalhead friends come over… before switching back over to Rock Band 2 later on in the night. But this is a game I see myself going back to again and again, and it hasn’t been out of my Xbox since it was released.


CHUDTIP- Besides lifting your guitar you can also set your arm on fire for Star Power!

THE VERDICT

It’s still debatable if we wouldn’t all have been better off with this being included as DLC, but the Expert+ mode and amazing track list ensures that you’ll have a blast with the game no matter what. This is everything in a game a metal fan could hope for.

9 out of 10