Guitar Hero II - 360 - Preview

Ever since its initial debut, RedOctane’s Guitar Hero series has been a godsend for gamers looking to channel their inner-Hendrix, effectively replacing the air guitar and giving them a means to rock out. The first game was an instant hit, striking a chord with gamers through rock hits new and old. The second game turned the series into an all-out phenomenon and cemented its position in gaming.

Now, the sequel is gearing up to release on the Xbox 360, marking the series’ debut on next-gen hardware. GameZone recently received a preview build of the game, complete with the new X-Plorer Guitar Controller that will ship with the game this spring.

In most ways, Guitar Hero 2 is the same game that’s currently available on the PS2, which is by no means a bad thing considering how fun and painfully addictive the game is (and I do mean painful, as my arms are sore just thinking about it). The key differences in the Xbox 360 version stem from the introduction of ten exclusive new songs. These are: Toadies – Possum Kingdom; Deep Purple – Hush; Pearl Jam – Life Wasted; Rick Derringer – Rock N’ Roll Hoochie Koo; Rancid – Salvation; Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies; My Chemical Romance – Dead!; Iron Maiden – The Trooper; Ounce of Self – Drink Up; and Noble Rot – Kicked to the Curb.

Of the new tracks, both Possum Kingdom by Toadies and Dead! by My Chemical Romance are master tracks, meaning that they are the actual studio versions recorded by the original artists. The game also features all of the songs from the original PS2 version, bringing the current track total up to 74. The game will also have new songs for download via Xbox Live, but actual track dates and pricing details are unknown.

The game will make good use of achievement points, with 1,000 possible points you can gain. They range from goofball goals like failing a song on easy mode or refusing to perform an encore, to very difficult ones like beat every song on expert or get a 1,000 note streak in co-op.

The online elements unfortunately do not include the co-op mode (only playable with two guitars on one system). However, there will be leaderboards where you can compare yourself to other player’s scores and song rankings.

The Xbox 360 version of the guitar controller is also quite different. Modeled after the body of a Gibson Explorer, the X-Plorer Controller seems a bit smaller than the PS2 versions, but still measures at the same distance between the fret buttons and the strum bar. The fret buttons are square-shaped and not rounded off like the PS2 controller, and the front strap notch is actually behind the neck instead of the front side of the body.

Another key difference is the inclusion of a D-Pad and the Xbox Guide button, both placed below the Start and Back buttons to the lower left of the Strum bar. The guitar feels very comfortable and responsive, and I personally had better luck with it than I do with the PS2 one. The only problem I had was the whammy bar, which felt a little stiff and unresponsive when trying to gain star power on sustains.

Of course, Guitar Hero 2 will get a high-def boost on the Xbox 360, and the character models look great and feature added special effects. All in all, the game is looking to be a worthy investment for Xbox 360 gamers who have yet to get on the bandwagon.

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