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Guitar Hero: Aerosmith (PlayStation 3) artwork

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith (PlayStation 3) review


"Basically, you choose from a few possible rockers—none of them from the actual band—and then you are taken through a scattered recollection of their rise to fame. Between every five or so songs, there's a mess of interview footage that seems to have been edited by a chimpanzee with trouble concentrating on any one subject for more than three or four seconds. After a few sentence's worth of interesting trivia, you're taken to the song selection list and you get to choose from two songs that will be performed by musical acts who have connections to Aerosmith, such as Run DMC or Lenny Kravitz or The Black Crowes. Clear these and you'll be able to finish up with three Aerosmith songs."



Despite the fact that I enjoyed rhythm games like Frequency and Amplitude a great deal, circumstances conspired to prevent me from making the logical jump to Guitar Hero when the franchise arrived on the scene several years ago. As music-loving gamers around me anxiously snatched up the eventual sequels or switched to the Rock Band series, I was that uncommon gamer who had never bothered with one of the industry's most recognized properties for more than a few spectacularly bad seconds at an in-store display. I began to think that things were destined to remain that way forever.

Then something happened: as I was browsing the local department store this week, I discovered that Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is now available for a really low price. This appealed to my frugal side. For less than $20, I could take home a PlayStation 3 copy of the game, a licensed and wireless guitar peripheral, a little tour book and even some stickers. Not only that, but I knew from posting something like a billion Rock Band press releases on this site that said guitar would work with games from multiple franchises. Here at last was my chance to jump into the musical gaming craze without making a fool of myself at Wal-Mart. You know I had to go for it.

A short time later, I arrived back at my apartment with the package in hand. I tore the shrink wrap from the dented box and recruited my brother-in-law to help ease me into the world of Guitar Hero. He's by no means a pro at playing fake musical instruments, but he had a good amount of experience with the series and was at least able to play long enough to reach the end of a song. On "Medium" level, with a decent rating. None of that was true of myself.

So my brother-in-law jumped into "Quickplay" mode and explained how things work as he shredded through a few songs by groups that weren't Aerosmith. When he was done, my face must have been completely blank because finally he said "You should play through the tutorial" and vacated the room to finish watching a movie he'd paused during the impromptu demonstration. Left with no real choice, I decided to see if the game was actually any good at explaining the process and easing me into things. Fortunately, it proved quite adept on both counts. I was walked through the fine art of "strumming" and finding the appropriate frets and timing. Emboldened by my new knowledge, I began playing through the game's "Career" mode. On the lowest difficulty level, of course. I'm no fool!

Surprisingly, the experience went well. I realized that one reason my experience went so badly at Wal-Mart is that none of the buttons I was pressing would have had any effect if I never actually strummed (and I never had). See, the Guitar Hero controller is a bit like the actual musical instrument after which it's modeled. You can press the different buttons to indicate which note you wish to play, but nothing happens unless you then hold them and "strum" on the little lever. It doesn't matter how perfectly you time your button presses to match icons appearing on-screen; if you don't strum, you're going to fail the song within seconds.

This unconventional--but very appropriate--play mechanic took awhile to mesh with my years of playing rhythm games just by pressing a few buttons on a standard controller. That's what I kept trying to do here. Though I wasn't failing the first few songs I played, it was clear that I was doing something wrong. Fortunately, my brother-in-law emerged from his cave-like bedroom to get a drink. Watching me play and waiting for an opportunity to safely pass between me and the television set, he remarked that I didn't have to wait to press the buttons as the corresponding notes appeared on screen. Instead, I should find them with my fingers ahead of time and then strum as the time was right.

When I followed that advice, something happened: I began to suck less. I started to have fun and the game had nicer things to say about my performance. I still wasn't ready for an audience down at Wal-Mart, but I had collected my wits enough that the game and its controller no longer intimidated me. Once I stopped letting the foreign nature of things intimidate me, I was able to appreciate the game for what it really is...

...which, as it turns out, isn't anything as remarkable as what some of the general Guitar Hero hype would suggest.

I still haven't played much of a regular Guitar Hero game, but let me tell you how Guitar Hero: Aerosmith works. Basically, you choose from a few possible rockers--none of them from the actual band--and then you are taken through a scattered recollection of their rise to fame. Between every five or so songs, there's a mess of interview footage that seems to have been edited by a chimpanzee with trouble concentrating on any one subject for more than three or four seconds. After a few sentence's worth of interesting trivia, you're taken to the song selection list and you get to choose from two songs that will be performed by musical acts who have connections to Aerosmith, such as Run DMC or Lenny Kravitz or The Black Crowes. Clear these and you'll be able to finish up with three Aerosmith songs. Then the process repeats as you work through the whole game.

The songs actually included here come from a variety of Aerosmith albums and they include some of the band's biggest hits. There are some omissions, though, and many of the choices are limited to early stuff that they were performing in clubs throughout the Midwest before I was even born. It's nice to get exposure to some of that stuff, sure, but I imagine that most people who will be anxious to play this game have a different set list in mind. Even if they spend in-game currency (earned by each performance) to release new singles from the vault, the selection doesn't improve a great deal. I was able to cope with my disappointment by reminding myself that I didn't pay much and now own a sweet guitar controller, but I feel sorry for anyone who goes into this expecting the ultimate Aerosmith experience. This isn't it.

Don't think that I'm nitpicking, either, because I'm not. I swear. As I played through the game and contemplated versus matches against my brother-in-law that I was sure to lose, I realized that the most important part of a game like this is the song selection. Developers know this. They realize that you'll eventually get tired of contorting your fingers to hit notes (especially if you have short fingers like me) and you'll go back to leading a rugged space marine through a smoldering city or you'll watch a movie or something. That's why Guitar Hero and Rock Band both feature regular expansions to their music libraries. By including a lackluster selection of tracks here, one where the amount of music from the featured musician barely even exceeds the other stuff, developer Neversoft has produced a product that can't possibly hope to reflect the best that Guitar Hero or the genre as a whole has to offer.

I'm not bitter, though, and I'm not sorry for my purchase. After all, I got a sweet guitar controller--complete with a band-themed faceplate--and I did it for a great price. I'm also well equipped to jump into the next Guitar Hero or Rock Band project, which my Aerosmith boot camp now has me confident can prove enjoyable rather than intimidating. So I guess that really, the final verdict is this: Guitar Hero: Aerosmith isn't worth a whole to the fans it was most meant to please, but as part of a bundle and as an introduction to the possibilities that the franchise and this type of game have to offer, it's well worth a look.

Rating: 5/10

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (August 29, 2009)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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jerec posted August 30, 2009:

This is a great review. It also sums up how I was at Guitar Hero at first (not realising I had to strum). I haven't played GH: Aerosmith, and I doubt I will. I'm not even that keen on the band. But if you enjoyed the general playing of songs, you'll probably enjoy the other games which have a great variety of songs. I've got 2, 3 and World Tour. All good fun!
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honestgamer posted August 30, 2009:

Thanks, Jerec! The review came as a surprise to me. If you asked me a week ago when I would be reviewing Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, my answer would have been "Probably never." It's one of those things that just sort of happened. I'm glad it did, though, and that the result--despite essentially starting with an "I went to the store and there it was..." sort of narrative--worked for at least one reader. It was a fun review to write and it's good to hear that it's not a drag to read.

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