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Guitar Hero

A series of rhythm games.

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Making Music - Kind Of

  • Jan 31, 2010
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(note: most of this review is based off of playing Guitar Hero: World Tour, but it's based on the underlying mechanics of the game more than the details of any particular incarnation, so it should apply to any game in the series.)

Until recently, I've unfortunately avoided the Guitar Hero games. I like rhythm games and have been interested, but a combination of lack of time, money, or ability to deal with the peripherals. In the past couple of weeks, that's been fixed, and I've been mostly happily rocking out ever since.

Guitar Hero isn't entirely comparable to those other rhythm games, however (Samba de Amigo, Dance Dance Revolution, Elite Beat Agents, and Space Channel 5), in ways that I wasn't totally expecting. Those other games were a blast to play, and properly difficult and accessible at the same time, but they never felt creative. They're entirely reactive - the game throws something at the player, who responds directly - instead of most games, which involve some level of forward planning. Guitar Hero is essentially identical to this, but its genius is that it makes the player feel like they're creating the song.

It accomplishes this with two simple, clever methods that work their way into the player's non-conscious mind. The first method comes from the peripherals. The plastic guitar (and drums and mic, for the later versions) provide such reasonable facsimiles of the real instruments that the player begins to feel like they are playing the instruments. It's a little like the scenes in Freaks and Geeks when Nick puts live Rush performances on in his headphones, dry ice to fog up his basement, and "feels" like he's a rock star.

Guitar Hero takes it a step further. Most rhythm games give the player some sort of audio cue when they mess up: for example, Samba de Amigo shouts "boo!" Guitar Hero not only makes a grinding, atonal noise, but it also stops the sound from the instrument that's messed up. The player can be in the middle of the solo from "Sweet Home Alabama" and then they mess up, and the entire song is ruined until they get back on track. This really adds to the false feeling of creation. In a sense, it allows the player to take ownership of the song, which reinforces any feeling of accomplishment and success. Thanks to these simple but crucial innovations, it's easy to see how the Guitar Hero series has become the gold standard for rhythm games.

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February 04, 2010
My fiance and I are huge fans of Guitar Hero and Rock Band and while some people just can't get into these games, they are a lot of fun!  I just played DJ hero for the first time and that was really hard!  Nice write up! 
February 02, 2010
I don't get into these games but my kids do sounds good.
February 02, 2010
I agree. I love this game. It's also a great way to bring people together. My siblings and I always play this when we get together for the holidays :)
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About this video game


The Guitar Hero series (sometimes referred to as the Hero series) is a series of music video games first published in 2005 by RedOctane and distributed by Activision in which players use a guitar-shaped peripheral to simulate the playing of lead, bass guitar and rhythm guitar across numerous rock music songs. Players match notes that scroll on-screen to colored fret buttons on the controller, strumming the controller in time to the music in order to score points, and keep the virtual audience excited. The games attempt to mimic many features of playing a real guitar, including the use of fast-fingering hammer-ons and pull-offs and the use of the whammy bar to alter the pitch of notes. Most games support single player modes, typically a Career mode to play through all the songs in the game, and both competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes. With the introduction of Guitar Hero World Tour in 2008, the game includes support for a four-player band including vocals and drums. The series initially used mostly cover version of songs created by WaveGroup Sound, but most recent titles feature soundtracks that are fully master recordings, and in some cases, special re-recordings, of the songs. Later titles in the series feature support for downloadable content in the form of new songs.

RedOctane, then a company primarily in the manufacture of unique game controllers, was inspired in 2005 to create Guitar Hero based on their experience with creating hardware for Konami's ...
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Developer: Activision
Console: Various
Genre: Music

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