Guitar Hero 1 made big business. Guitar Hero 2 made bigger business and became a phenomenon. Due to the success of the first two, Activision decided to release a stand-alone themed Guitar Hero. After some deliberation, it was decided they would release Rocks the 80’s including tunes from my favorite decade. Included in that decade is my favorite type of music which is well represented: hair rock. Long hair, lipstick, blistering guitar solos and high pitched screams. Quite possibly the decade that most had in mind when they first or saw or heard about Guitar Hero. The Red Octane team was taking a chance on a smaller setlist but possibly paving the way for future themed releases. I am happy to say that the effort is a great step in the right direction but not one without bumps in the road.
Despite being a stand alone game, it is safe to say that the 80’s look exactly like Guitar Hero 2. It is available in widescreen display and also allows 480 progressive
resolution. The result is very nice but graphics have never been Guitar Hero’s strong suit. As a result of the 80’s theme; the colors have been changed around some. The outfits are different (but to be honest could have been a little bit flashier) and the menus sport that retro theme. But in doing that, the menus look drab and washed-out. Perhaps that is the intent; but sometimes retro can be taken just a little bit too far.
The most important category when it comes to Guitar Hero again shines. While 5.1 DD seems to be reserved for XBOX 360 GH games, we do still get a very loud and impressive Dolby Pro Logic mix for this installment. If you like 80’s music, you find yourself bopping and head banging to most of the tunes. To be honest, I found myself listening and singing along to tunes more than I usually do. So much, that I was missing easy keys on the fretboard. However it’s not perfect. For those not familiar with hair metal or glam rock; you have a lot of high pitched screams. Since Guitar Hero uses a lot of covers (there are a few originals on this one); they don’t have the original singers displaying their craft. As such, some of the work is less than adequate. Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve done karaoke for a number of years and this includes Skid Row, Poison, and Winger. I’ve also performed it better (not perfect by any means) than some of these selections.
Chances are if you are picking up this game, it probably isn’t your first time playing Guitar Hero (however, if it is; you might want to play Guitar Hero 2 first). You have a guitar (I still have the original black and white special from the first Guitar Hero) and you have 5 buttons up top that resemble your frets. The frets are held down while you strum on the guitar. Playing notes and hitting star sections gets you points, and if you tilt your guitar straight up you can activate your star power. More points. Anyhow, the mechanics from Guitar Hero 2 are here. Nothing fancy is added and if you were able to play songs in the previous games, you will zero trouble getting used to the songs in Rocks the 80’s.
The same guitar modes that were available in the second Guitar Hero game are back. Co-Op with a bass section is most appreciated and the face-off modes are back (the Pro Face-off mode is available after you beat the game in Medium or higher difficulty). Also, thankfully Practice/Training mode is back. One slight thing you will notice is that the money for this game is decreased, meaning you’ll earn less for a 5 star song than you did in GH2 or 1. That’s two-fold. One reason logically is that the 80’s had less money (inflation) but there is also less things to buy in the store due to the game’s expansion disc feel.
The difficulty in Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80’s is perhaps the easiest game to date. On the first play through in medium, I had nothing but 4 and 5 star performances. No 3’s to be found. True, I’m an old pro now; but there were a handful of songs that give me problems in GH2 and 1. Even now. The game’s final song Play with Me by Extreme, I was able to secure 5 stars in only the second go-around. The only truly difficult songs I found as far as starting off were Seventeen by Winger and Caught in a Mosh by Anthrax. While this is a fun romp, don’t expect a real challenge here, especially if you are experienced. Or if you never heard a drop of 80’s music in your life. (In that case, you might want to turn in your rock god’s license and have me set it on fire)
The tracklist for this Guitar Hero is unfortunately only 30 songs deep. Six levels at five songs a piece. Even if you love 80’s music you will find this game possibly completed in a weekend. To be honest, I finished the medium level of difficulty in 3 short sessions. Sure, I will attempt hard at the very least and I will go back because of the music but I might have spent more time with this game if the track list had been longer. Not to mention, due to the game’s expansion pack feel; the store feels vacant. Guitars, finishes and one secret character(Grim Reaper) is all the store gets. No bonus songs, no outfits and not even the Bonus Videos that I’ve so come to love. They really should have done something cute here like bandannas or maybe hairstyles keeping with the 80’s theme. But we get nothing. The Replay purely depends on how well you like the 30 songs you are given.
Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s starts a trend of releasing themed games that cater to a specific audience. We get thirty songs that unfortunately seem slapped together. This product feels stripped. It acts like a full fledged release in the pricing and the promotion of the game. However, once you get the shrink wrap off, you realize they could have charged $29.99 for this. The store is empty, the challenge seems a bit soft and there are no bonus songs period. You can’t tell me that there aren’t 15-20 smaller type bands that play this style of music today that weren’t dying to get on as bonus songs. Furthermore, there were that many smaller groups like Danger Danger, Firehouse, Bonham, and others that probably would have love to benefit from the exposure as bonus songs. To be honest, this reviewer feels kinda duped. I love Guitar Hero, and deep down I will come back to this game as I do the other releases. However, at the price they were charging; they could have spent more time on it. This would have paved the way to future themed releases (which we might get anyhow) that are more appreciated by the guitar loving public.
Song Track List
- “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” – Quiet Riot
- “We Got the Beat” – The Go-Go’s
- “I Ran (So Far Away)” – A Flock of Seagulls
- “Balls to the Wall” – Accept
- “18 and Life” – Skid Row (encore)
- “No One Like You” – Scorpions
- “Shakin'” – Eddie Money
- “Heat of the Moment” – Asia
- “Radar Love” – White Lion
- “Because It’s Midnite” – Limozeen (encore)
- “Holy Diver” – Dio
- “Turning Japanese” – The Vapors
- “Hold on Loosely” – .38 Special
- “The Warrior” – Scandal
- “I Wanna Rock” – Twisted Sister (encore)
Return of the Shred
- “What I Like About You” – The Romantics
- “Synchronicity II” – The Police
- “Ballroom Blitz” – Krokus
- “Only a Lad” – Oingo Boingo
- “Round and Round” – Ratt (encore)
- “Nothin’ But a Good Time” – Poison
- “Lonely is the Night” – Billy Squier
- “Bathroom Wall” – Faster Pussycat
- “Los Angeles” – X
- “Wrathchild” – Iron Maiden (encore)
- “Electric Eye” – Judas Priest
- “Police Truck” – Dead Kennedys
- “Seventeen” – Winger
- “Caught in a Mosh” – Anthrax
- “Play With Me” – Extreme (encore)
Other Coverage & Reviews
- JohnnyG calls it a money grab – 3/10.
- Ooblick points out an weird thing in the EULA (end user licensing agreement) – that you can only use sanctioned controllers with the game. Strange.
- 47Reviews: “Rocks The 80’s is, to me, a dissapointment. Only about 1/3 of the songs are fun to play, another third are okay to play occasionally, and the last third are absolute terrible to play.”
- Syrius328: Guitar Hero Sucks the 80’s.
- Craig: Guitar Hero Half-Asses the 80’s.