previews\ Oct 16, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Guitar Hero II - PS2 - Preview 2

Long before the Dance Dance Revolution craze hit North America, Konami released a music game called Guitar Freaks. The arcade machine featured two guitar controllers with three buttons (red, yellow, and green). Your goal was to hold down each button and press the string lever just as the appropriate notes were lined up on screen.

Guitar Freaks made it to PlayStation 2, but only in Japan. The game was a blast, but must’ve been deemed too risky for American and European audiences.

Harmonix Music Systems, creator of Frequency and Amplitude for PS2, were willing to take on that risk when designing Guitar Hero. Built with Amplitude’s 3D layout, Guitar Hero presented a series of fast-scrolling notes that must be struck to keep the song going. The guitar controller was more elaborate, featuring five buttons instead of three. Its sleek design and light plastic makes it look cool while being easy to hold, regardless of your age, size, or instrument experience.


That’s where Guitar Hero really succeeded – you don’t have to play an instrument, or know anything about music performance, to have a good time. Just follow the notes as closely as possible. Listen to the music, enjoy the wonderful rock sounds. But don’t let that take you away from what you’re seeing. The visuals are as important as the sound.

Guitar Hero II continues the series with dozens of new music tracks, new challenges, expanded multiplayer, and new ways of playing the guitar. Do you want to be lead guitarist, or just play rhythm? Maybe you want to get that deep, underlying sound of bass guitar? All three are presented, giving you the chance to take on different parts of specific songs.

Those who are new to the series will find the game challenging, but not at all difficult to get into. Strumming is made easy with the string lever, letting players push it downward to hit each note. Within minutes you’ll be “playing” music. Your musical prowess is only limited by personal speed and reaction skills. Improving those skills is just a matter of re-playing each song, increasing their difficulty setting, and trying your best to hit every note.

Two-player excitement.

The game is somewhat forgiving, but don’t expect all mistakes to be forgiven in the new multiplayer mode. Players team up for lead and rhythm or bass guitar, upping the ante on how each song is completed. One crappy player could bring down the song – a new challenge not experienced in Guitar Freaks’s co-op mode. Just like DDR, Guitar Freaks let one player carry the load. Guitar Hero II wants both players to contribute to the song equally. Different difficulty settings for each player allow you to customize the experience, making it simple for one player and challenging for another.

Spectators and groups of players waiting for their next turn will appreciate the array of colors, cool character models, and other visual treats. The game moves very fast. Simpler tracks are given the appearance of speed with various polygon displays, not to mention the note palette that never stops coming. You won’t get much of a breather. When the song starts, be ready to play.

Over 60 music tracks will be featured in the final version, including the Foo Fighters classic “Monkey Wrench.” Stone Temple Pilots’s "Tripping on a Hole in a Paper Heart" is another memorable track. Fans of Avenged Sevenfold will be glad to hear “Beast and the Harlot.” And of course the game has numerous rock staples, including Kiss, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Jane’s Addiction, and many others.

Get ready for my solo.

Blasting out of speakers on November 7th, Guitar Hero II will help wannabe rockstars live the dream all over again. Xbox 360 owners can look forward to playing the game next year using a guitar designed specifically for the net-gen console. Unlike the current guitar controller, the new one for 360 will include an expansion port. It doesn’t take long to envision what could happen next: Drum Hero, Bass Hero, or Piano Hero. Whatever is decided, you can count on Harmonix and RedOctane to be at the forefront of the music game revolution. Grab your guitar controllers, call your friends, and prepare for one of the best multiplayer experiences a music game has ever produced.

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