Measured against the robustness of its predecessors, Guitar Hero: Van Halen weighs closer to the anorexic AC/DC Live: Rock Band than the impressive stock of either Metallica or The Beatles.
The latter two heavyweights showed how you redesign the Guitar Hero template and pack it with fan-pleasing extras to create what are essentially interactive Greatest Hits albums. We thought Guitar Hero: Aerosmith was an anomaly. We were wrong.
If you're going to dignify a band with its own Guitar Hero tie-in, you'd better make it justified and not half-hearted. This seemed a prime opportunity to draw in new fans and sketch out a historical document of the band and its songs - a career retrospective to hammer home why Van Halen deserves the recognition of its own game. To make it an event. Yet Van Halen feels very much like a cheap cash cow.
The stakes have changed, so band motion capture and 25 songs selected from the group's 38-year history just isn't enough any more. There is little here to differentiate from a normal Guitar Hero title. Song set unlocks in Career mode happen with little fanfare. Song factoids were a great idea in Guitar Hero: Metallica but here they are the only concession to fleshing out the band's career.
Understandably, there is no mention of the various member changes and arguments that have occurred over the years, but it would be nice to see a band willing to bare its history unedited, warts and all. Fingers crossed for a Mötley Crüe or Guns N' Roses tie-in at some point, then.
'Guest Artist' choices are baffling, ranging from indie rock to thrash metal. As with any release, the title lives and dies on your personal music taste, but in our opinion, the list should have been better tailored to tie-in with bands of a similar ilk, if not era, as Van Halen.
Band-specific titles are a hit-and-miss affair - the lukewarm commercial success of The Beatles: Rock Band proves that a big name doesn't immediately equate to massive sales. Van Halen balances uncomfortably on a fence of its own creation. The band isn't riding a recent successful revival to pull in newcomers, while the threadbare content doesn't equate this to a must-have purchase for hardcore fans. Instead, sing along and air guitar to these songs on a Friday night at your local rock joint. You'll enjoy it more and save yourself 40 quid.
Loss of (creative) control
- Songs fun to play as usual
- Solos are a workout for GH veterans
- Threadbare presentation
- No nod to band's history
- Too expensive for what it is