With Guitar Hero's latest (and possibly final) band-centric game, Neversoft has tapped into the work of one of the most prolific guitarists of the past 30 years.template's appearance. Van Halen has always been a very highly requested band, but thus far, the band has only had two songs make it to the Guitar Hero series ("You Really Got Me" in Guitar Hero II and "Hot for Teacher" in Guitar Hero: World Tour), but each time, the songs were highlights in their respective game's soundtrack.
In 2008, right before Guitar Hero: World Tour was announced, Neversoft announced that they had secured exclusive rights to songs by The Eagles and Van Halen. It was also implied that they had signed exclusive contracts with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith and Metallica. Out of those four bands, Aerosmith and Metallica got full-band games, while Hendrix and The Eagles got downloadable songs for Guitar Hero: World Tour. After all of the excitement over Van Halen being in Guitar Hero, only one song was featured on the World Tour disc and no songs were released for download. Then the rumors started spreading. Finally, Neversoft let the cat out of the bag and officially announced that Guitar Hero: Van Halen would be released around Holiday 2009.
Then the fun began. Amidst fears of Guitar Hero 5 not being able to stand up to sales expectations, especially considering it was released a mere week before The Beatles: Rock Band, which ended up being one of the biggest selling games in the genre's history, Neversoft announced that Guitar Hero: Van Halen would be shipped to any consumer in the United States that purchased Guitar Hero 5 in the first month of its release and followed through with the online redemption process. It was a bit of a pain, but after receiving the game in the mail absolutely free and over two months before it's release, I can tell you that it was well worth it.
The biggest problem with Guitar Hero: Van Halen, is that we were spoiled by Guitar Hero 5's massive feature-list. Guitar Hero: Van Halen unfortunately uses the Guitar Hero: World Tour engine, which really limits the potential of this game by a lot.
This game has some amazing charts, but the features are strictly the same as the list that Guitar Hero: Metallica and Guitar Hero: Smash Hits, which is nothing compared to Guitar Hero 5's amazing list of features.
Basically, the bulk of the game will be spent playing through career mode, much like players did through all Guitar Hero games up to Guitar Hero 5. Through getting more stars, players will unlock more venues, songs, create-a-player items and instruments.
The GHStudio custom song feature is still in tact, but it's definitely the same version that appears in Guitar Hero: World Tour, which compared to Guitar Hero 5, is just feels like half of the "current" version of the Studio.
Once again, Guitar Hero: Van Halen is tainted by the fact that it came out after Guitar Hero 5, despite running off of the previous engine. The graphics truly look dated compared to the newer version of the GH series.
The big problem for me is that the atmosphere fails in comparison to Metallica and Smash Hits. The crowd has very little presence other than a few singalongs in certain places. Also, we're now back at the Guitar Hero: World Tour style of animation and art that I was never found of. David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen look a little off in their animations, but overall the developers did a good job capturing the feel of a Van Halen concert.
Ah, sweet redemption.
After falling short behind Guitar Hero 5 on the features list and presentation aspects, I can say that Guitar Hero: Van Halen has some of the most fun charts in the franchise history.
The game is so chocked-full of guitar solos from Eddie Van Halen, plus lots of great songs that have been some of the most requested songs by fans to be in Guitar Hero throughout the years.
One of the main highlights of the setlist is Eddie Van Halen's iconic guitar shredder, "Eruption". The song has always been on the top of many hardcore players' wishlists, and has had countless custom charts made on hacked versions of the game for Playstation 2 and PC.
The gameplay is not flawless, however. The game still relies heavily on the slider-notes, much like Guitar Hero: World Tour did, but the slider notes still don't have the perfection that gamers experienced in Guitar Hero 5.
Guitar Hero: Van Halen is a very good game. The only problem is that us gamers were spoiled by all the great things that Guitar Hero 5 offered us. The game was originally rumored to be released before Guitar Hero 5, which would've made this game stand out a lot more. I feel the reason it was pushed back was so that it could not only allow the superior Guitar Hero 5 to compete better with The Beatles: Rock Band, but also so that they could run the incentive that they did to boost sales for Guitar Hero 5.
I am, as many fans are, pretty disgruntled about the fact that ZERO songs from the Sammy Hagar era were included in the game. They had a decent amount of iconic hits with Hagar, so it makes sense that he should be in the game. Also, what is with Wolfgang Van Halen (Eddie's son), being the bass player? I know he is the current player for the band, but Michael Anthony is responsible for a lot of the amazing bass lines and backing vocals in some of Van Halen's biggest hits. That's like having Guitar Hero: Black Sabbath and only having Dio-era songs with no mention of Ozzy whatsoever. It just doesn't make much sense at all, especially when they include Wolfgang during the "classic" band line-up costumes.
All that being said, after paying $60 for Guitar Hero 5, I would probably feel foolish paying that same price for this game. Instead, I'll just settle for this game possibly being the best deal ever offered by any video game company.