Retrospective: Guitar Hero Metallica Hands-on

Guitar Hero Metallica
Plastic guitar meets heavy metal

Guitar Hero: Metallica was one of the first “hands-on” that I did for NetGuide Magazine. The truth be told, I’d never even touched a Guitar Hero game when I turned up at Activision New Zealand. I had no idea what on earth I was supposed to be doing with that silly plastic guitar, and why would I? For I was a seasoned gamer, not a child that may enjoy twatting around with a little plastic instrument.

As I foolishly pressed those coloured buttons in time to the music, nothing happened. The Activision rep advised me that I needed to do more than just press the buttons, I needed to strum as well. Oh. It wasn’t long before I got the hang of it, my sneering elitism melting into adoration for this new gaming genre that had suddenly been revealed to me. I was hooked. The first thing I did on leaving the hands-on was to go get myself a copy of Guitar Hero: World Tour.


Here is my original write-up.

I’d never really played a Guitar Hero game before, so when I was invited to visit Activision’s secret bunker and try out a preview version of Guitar Hero: Metallica, I was more than a little apprehensive. Not wanting the look a fool, I locked myself away for a couple of days with a copy of Guitar Hero: World Tour. Oh, how we suffer for our art at Games Console.

Walk this way

Once you get over the fact that you are standing there like idiot pressing buttons on a plastic guitar, Guitar Hero rewards you with immensely satisfying experience that can be enjoyed by anyone with a passing appreciation for rock music. It is deceptively hard to master, especially if you are as ham-fisted as I am. My time with Guitar Hero: World Tour turned me into a fan overnight and I was desperate to have a go on Guitar Hero: Metallica.

Heavy metal icons, Metallica, have lent their name, their likenesses and, if the publisher’s blurb is to be believed, have been involved all the way through the game’s development.  The career mode is apparently inspired by a real group of fans that followed the bands tour in the 1990’s- as told to the developers by Metallica’s song writer, vocalist and all round hardcore rocker, James Hetfield.

It would be easy for me to write off Guitar Hero: Metallica is no more that a glorified content pack, better suited as a downloadable add-on for Guitar Hero: World Tour. We have, after all, already had Metallica’s album, Death Magnetic as downloadable content, why not this as well?  I don’t think Activision is cynically screwing the fans at all, I think they have a clever plan and this title is part of that plan.

Guitar Hero Metallica
In the round

Guitar Hero: Metallica is a different beast from Guitar Hero: World Tour; the art design definitely sets out to serve a more discerning audience. There is less of that parent friendly, rock clichéd feel of the game’s predecessors. The camera moves and video filters create a style that suits the more feral nature of a heavy metal concert. The Metallica tracks are accompanied by recognisable and very well animated motioned captured character models of the band.

It seems to me that Activision is aiming squarely between the eyes of the sneering rock elite. Guitar Hero: Metallica sends the message that it’s much more than just a game played with a pretend plastic guitar, that it’s another way to enjoy the music that you love. With serious rockers like Metallica onboard, as with the dedicated Aerosmith title before it, Guitar Hero is vying for legitimacy amongst unconvinced rock fans and “serious” gamers, alike.

Kirk Hammet
Kirk out

Guitar Hero: Metallica is fully compatible with Guitar Hero: World Tour instruments, supporting lead and bass guitar, drums, and vocals. A notable addition is the Expert+ mode for drummers only, which uses an extra pedal to generate a double bass drum note and recreate the signature Metallica sound. The game features many references for fans of the band, such as the inclusion of Metallica’s concert intro, “Ecstasy of Gold”.

As well as being loaded with songs from Metallica’s back catalogue, the game also includes tracks from over twenty bands that they have collaborated with or been inspired by, such as Mötorhead, Foo Fighters, Queen, Thin Lizzy and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Guitar Hero: Metallica offers a more intense experience than previous Guitar Hero outings. Whilst the music may not be to everybody’s taste, the thrash metal tracks included are sure to melt the fingers of even the most hardcore Guitar Hero fan. The commitment to the title shown by the band and slick presentation sets it apart. I’m not a heavy metal fan, but I went away smiling. It looks good and feels right. I’m looking forward to playing the finished game and from what I’ve seen, so should you. In the meantime, I suggest that you get in some practice, as Guitar Hero: Metallica will command you to play it hard and loud.

This article was originally published in the May 2009 issue of New Zealand’s NetGuide magazine.