N Amer - 07/24/2007
Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s Review
“Always re-tease your hair before the encore. ALWAYS.”
Good advice for a good time. The 80s were an era of ridiculous hairstyles, outrageous clothing, and a distinct type of rock music that lives on today in memory and in many CD compilations. Since music games target a modern audience, their content usually centers on current hits, J-pop or Euro-pop. That changes with the release of another chapter in the Guitar Hero series, developed exclusively for PlayStation 2 – Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s.
More of a standalone expansion disc than a sequel (no other GH discs are required to play it), Rocks the 80s delivers 30 tracks for players to strum their way to rockstar glory. It’s not a revolutionary game, but if you love the series, you’ll enjoy this mid-sequel update.
Same Great Taste
Rocks the 80s is a gameplay redux of last year’s Guitar Hero 2. That means more chords, insane note transitions, and multiple difficulty settings to keep the best of players from finishing the game too quickly. Star Power, which fires up the crowd and is earned by forming and holding chains (where you don’t miss a beat), returns to give flailing players a second chance. The full track list includes (personal favorites in bold):
1. Caught in a Mosh (as made famous by Anthrax)
2. Balls to the Wall (as made famous by Accept)
3. Electric Eye (by Judas Priest)
4. Los Angeles (as made famous by X)
5. Police Truck (as made famous by Dead Kennedys)
6. We Got the Beat (as made famous by The Go Go's)
7. (I Think I'm) Turning Japanese (as made famous by Vapors)
8. Seventeen (as made famous by Winger)
9. Because, it's Midnite (by Limozeen)
10. Hold On Loosely (as made famous by .38 Special)
11. No One Like You (as made famous by Scorpions)
12. Only a Lad (as made famous by Oingo Boingo)
13. Ballroom Blitz (as made famous by Krokus)
14. The Warrior (by Scandal)
15. What I Like About You (as made famous by The Romantics)
16. Wrath Child (as made famous by Iron Maiden)
17. I Wanna Rock (by Twisted Sister)
18. I Ran (by Flock of Seagulls)
19. Round and Round (as made famous by Ratt)
20. Metal Health (as made famous by Quiet Riot)
21. Holy Diver (as made famous by Dio)
22. Heat Of The Moment (as made famous by Asia)
23. Radar Love (as made famous by White Lion)
24. 18 and Life (as made famous by Skid Row)
25. Bathroom Wall (as made famous by Faster Pussycat)
26. Lonely is the Night (as made famous by Billy Squier)
27. Nothing But a Good Time (as made famous by Poison)
28. Play With Me (as made famous by Extreme)
29. Shaken (as made famous by Eddie Money)
30. Synchronicity II (as made famous by The Police)
I know I’ve heard “(I Think I’m) Turning Japanese” prior to its inclusion in Rocks the 80s. But now I’m compelled to track down an old Vapors CD just to have it blasting through my car’s speakers. That’s true for other tracks in this game, most of which I couldn’t have cared less about two months ago. It’s not that I didn’t like them before, but they hadn’t grabbed me in the way that 90s alternative rock and punk rock music have. The strength of these songs lies not in the vocals, the lyrics, or the drumming – it rests entirely on the guitar, which is why they were chosen for Rocks the 80s, a game that emphasizes every individual guitar sound.
Guitar Center is a well-known music store, so it’s appropriate – even to me, a guy who despises most product placement – for the store to be publicized in this game. You can visit the store from the Medium difficulty setting and up (Easy mode is excluded) to acquire new guitars. They aren’t free, so keep that in mind every time a note slips through your fingers. Better performances lead to higher cash rewards, and thus more guitar buying options.
Many of these guitars have appeared in Guitar Hero 2, but the selection is still impressive. The double-neck Gibson EDS-1275 is too cool for words (and too complex for most of us to handle in the real world), as are the Marauder and Melody Maker models. Epiphone brings the Casino, Sheraton and Coronet guitars. Other Gibson classics, such as the Firebird, X-Plorer, and Les Paul Double Cutaway, are also available. Bonus guitars (added to the lineup after finishing the game on various difficulty settings) often represent an animal of some kind, or something less friendly – like death. “This is a highly practical and efficient guitar design. Because it looks like a fish,” notes The Fish guitar’s description.
Rocks the 80s isn’t just about great rock music – it’s also about re-creating the big-hair era. Johnny Napalm, one of the playable characters, looks stellar on stage with his mousse-drenched green hair. Judy Nails’ punk appearance is cool and stylish. Pandora, whose long hair covers half her face, has that fried and too-out-of-it-to-care attitude. Izzy Sparks is your typical 80s guitarist with long and fluffy, blow-dried hair. Axel Steel’s bland appearance doesn’t say much of anything, but the secret character – known as the Grim Ripper – could tear your heart out and steal your soul while tearing up the stage.
The venue selection isn’t new, but the 80s designs do alter their appearance. Swirls of neon lights cover one small stage while colored spotlights highlight another. An oversized monster construction (which looks like it’s supposed to be made of cheap wood or cardboard) stands in the back of an outdoor show, while wavy and hypnotic lines cover the stage at another location.
Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s is not much costlier than purchasing 30 tracks from iTunes – but is several times more fun. I know many of you plan to move up to the next generation with Rock Band and Guitar Hero III. But if you already have a PS2 guitar controller, don’t move on without experiencing one final Encore.
Review Scoring Details for Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s
Modern gaming with a retro twist. Rocks the 80s is Guitar Hero II – the GH2 tracklist + 30 new songs from the 80s.
I do not think of Guitar Hero as being a visual series. There are graphic elements – mainly the band and its thriving audience – but you spend most of the game staring at circular icons. That said, Rocks the 80s looks great. The high resolution and standout stage and character features are above the average PS2 release.
Aside from the SingStar series, music games don’t typically include the artists’ original recordings. But I’ve got to give credit to the artists of Rocks the 80s, whoever they are, for producing sounds (musically and vocally) that are worthy remakes of these 20-year-old hits. The sound quality is high in clarity and performance appeal, making other games’ remakes – which were once acceptable – seem really weak.
The Easy mode is just that – easy. The rest will make you want to grab your guitar controller and thrash your bedroom like an angry rock star just about to exit the stage. But don’t. He has people to pick up after him, a luxury you probably don’t share - unless you’re a rock star too, in which I must ask for a backstage pass at your next gig. Oh come ‘on, what do you mean you’re fresh out?
As a spin-off of the main series, Rocks the 80s isn’t as creative as its predecessors.
You’re gonna rock this game like it’s 1980 – with a friend.
Just like the title states, this is Guitar Hero “Encore.” Another great performance from last year’s tour.
Just like the title states, this is Guitar Hero “Encore.” Another great performance from last year’s tour
Reviewer: Louis Bedigian
Review Date: 07/23/2007