Activision finally sent me my copy of Guitar Hero: Smash Hits on the day Michael Jackson dies. Ironically it seemed almost perfect that I would get a music game on the day a music legend passed. I was getting tired of watching the wall to wall coverage and decided, let’s fire up Smash Hits. Initially, I was totally against the idea of a Guitar Hero Greatest Hits collection, I own all the GH titles and this smelled of double dipping. Instead of these constant new discs why can’t Activision do what Rock Band does and simply let users import tracks from all their previous games into one massive library? Or better yet, get their DLC house in order. The Guitar Hero franchise is in danger of oversaturation and the fact that most of the DLC is incompatible with each game tells us Activision really doesn’t care about DLC. So no, at first I thoroughly hated the concept of Smash Hits. But after thinking about it for a few weeks, I was down with the idea of being able to play most of the obvious popular tracks on one disk instead of constantly swapping disk to play one or two songs. Then I saw the full set list for Smash. ugh…
I don’t understand what criteria Red Octane (the Developers) and Activision used to select these "Greatest Hits." It isn’t like they took a poll of the fans, or had any real way to measure what tracks people loved the most. The set does have some of the really cool pop stuff like Free Bird, Barracuda, More Than a Feeling, YYZ, etc. But then there’s a bunch of the speed and heavy metal garbage that I always felt the GH set lists always did overkill on.
From a play mechanic standpoint, this is the best Guitar Hero, ever. The charting in Normal mode feels almost flawless. In almost all of the songs, there’s just the right amount of challenge and more than ever I felt like I was really playing the full Guitar parts, not just key moments or hitting one button to play a scale. I never once felt like I had to bump the level up to Hard or Expert modes to get the true song. It felt natural and real. It didn’t seem like extra notes were added just to make the song more difficult. And a lot of the iconic little solo and riff moments felt like they should. The developers also got rid of the stupid Note/Chord Overlays that they experimented with in the last Guitar Hero. And there are only a few songs that use the slider bar. I went back and played some of the songs on the original disks and they were almost unplayable. You can really tell a lot of work went into creating this set. It’s also more forgiving than Rock Band you can miss more notes and it’s easier to recover your groove, so it’s really hard to really "fail" a song in Guitar Hero, even though it’s a much harder and faster chart.
While I’d prefer for this to be DLC, this installment of Guitar Hero is pretty solid. I just wish it had a better set list, which is something I shouldn’t be saying when this is supposedly a "Greatest Hits" package. Or maybe it’s not necessarily the set list but the way it’s arranged. It starts with the first two venues featuring mostly "pop" tracks and then you have to slog through 8 or 9 metal tracks in a row. It should have been mixed up a bit more.
Final Grade B
EM Review by
Originally posted 6.27.09