Following up on my earlier posting, I've finally gotten around to a proper review of Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80s. Technically this is the third installment of the franchise coming in a few months ahead of the Guitar Hero III mega launch.
Although the 80's edition doesn't require the original Guitar Hero or Guitar Hero II game, you can think of it as an add-on pack of songs with the same game play as the first two games in the series. The graphics and some of the moves are updated, but there's no big changes, boss battles or new playing modes. While the songs are all from the 1980's they don't necessarily match everyone's favorites. I would have liked more songs from new wave bands like the Clash or even pop hits like the Cars or classic rock like Boston or Van Halen. But there's still a pretty good mix in here, including the likes of .38 Special, the Go Go's, Billy Squier, Eddie Money, Asia, The Police, Iron Maiden, Scorpion, Poison, Winger, Anthrax, Ratt, Twisted Sister and Judas Priest. Yes, it's heavy on the metal side.
Rather than write a traditional review putting the game through its paces, I called upon my nephews (shown below) --two devoted Guitar Hero and PS2 gamers to try it out. They're completely unencumbered by memories of the 80's --they weren't even born! They rocked out for the weekend on the game, progressing far faster than I did in unlocking additional songs and mastering the game at more difficult levels. (I admit, I am a duffer compared to them.)
The bottom line: they both loved the game and it rekindled their interest in Guitar Hero which had gotten a bit long in the tooth. While they are aware of Guitar Hero III's release I don't think they were pining for boss battles with Slash. They were plenty happy to have new songs to play. Their favorites were "What I Like About You" by the Romantics and "I Wanna Rock" by Twisted Sister. I was torn between "Synchronicity II" by the Police and "Heat of the Moment" by Asia, both of which were huge radio hits back in the day. The kids greatly enjoyed co-op mode, the Grim Reaper, and the cool guitars available in the game. But they were evenly split as to whether the 80's edition was better than Guitar Hero II.
While the Romantics are suing Activision claiming the licensed cover version is too close to the original, I was disappointed with two of the songs that were 80's renditions of classic songs from a decade earlier: Ballroom Blitz by Krokus and Radar Love by White Lion. To me the original songs -- by The Sweet and Golden Earring respectively --are far superior versions and would be great songs in a future edition of Guitar Hero. Frankly, I'd never even heard the 80's cover versions. But again, I was a new waver back then, so maybe I missed it. I guess one man's Meatloaf is another's Poison, so to speak.
As good as the 80's Edition is, it's not cheap, coming in at $50 for 30 songs, the same price as Guitar Hero III. The song list includes: We Got the Beat, I Ran (So Far Away), Shaken, The Warrior, Turning Japanese, Lonely is the Night, Heat of the Moment as well as many others. So if you like the songs, then it's worth buying. Heck, if you're a real Guitar Hero fan, you probably want both. You can check out samples of the songs and characters on the Guitar Hero Rock's the 80's official site.
Aside from the price, the only drawback is Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80s is available only for the Playstation. Given the delay of Rockband for the PS2, this deserves a second look when shopping for the holidays.