Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Review
I knew Guitar Hero 3 was popular, but I was very surprised when I read that it's actually very high on NPD's top ten list of the highest-selling video games since they started tracking them. Across all platforms it was released on, it's sold over eight million copies - that's more than Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. When put in that light, I think you can probably expect to see Activision flooding the market with Guitar Hero products for a long time to come. The first of those since the release of the 2007 monster is Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, a somewhat novel idea in the rather narrow genre of rock-based music games. The back of the box will talk about doing things like drenching you in Aerosmith lore and giving you a library of great songs to play from these rock greats.
But it doesn't really achieve that, sadly. Sure, you get to see some digital, slightly cartoony versions of Aerosmith on stage as you get access to about two dozen songs from their long career as well as songs that inspired them or they just plain like, I suppose (otherwise, what are Stone Temple Pilots and their kinda-hit "Sex Type Thing" doing in here?). DMC from Run DMC is in the game and animated on stage as two songs include them - "Walk This Way" with Aerosmith, and "King of Rock". I suppose Run decided not to do the motion-capture work to get into the game, although you'll still hear his voice booming in on their songs - which just makes his absence on-stage that much more noticeable. As for the music from other bands, they're played by the stooge band that we saw in GH3, along with your same choices of guitarists from last year (with a few amusing extras that can be unlocked).
You'd think getting Aerosmith up on stage in-game to play their own songs would be great, but it's only rather mediocre. Steven Tyler is by far the most animated of them all, and then it just goes downhill as you go to lead guitarist Joe Perry, then to bassist Tom Hamilton, on to rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford, and finally to the horribly-animated drummer Joey Kramer. For some reason, the in-game Joey looks very much like a marionette bobbing his arms up and down - sure, he's hitting the right drums for what you hear in the song, but you won't be looking at the drums when you see just how phony it looks. If it wasn't for Tyler and maybe a bit of Perry, you might think you're watching an Aerosmith-Chuck E. Cheese collaboration of animatronic pieces doing fake performances on a stage. Even the stooge band that plays the non-Aerosmith songs looks better - although they still don't look as detailed or smooth as the no-name musicians in Rock Band.
But it's all about the music, right? Well, not many Aerosmith fans I know enjoy every one of the band's dozen-plus albums, as their whole style changed quite a bit in the 80s. Sure, you'll get some of the classics, some of the 80s and 90s hits that brought them their biggest fame, and a few of their more recent songs as well. Still, there are at least a few that seem to be conspicuously absent: the high-energy "Dude (Looks like a Lady)" is probably the biggest omission, followed by "Cryin'" and "Crazy" which were big in the mid-90s. Sure, I can understand why "Janie's Got a Gun" and "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" aren't on there. They're really slow ballads, and while "Black Hole Sun" on Rock Band worked, most ballads just don't make the cut. Still, I don't understand why there are huge hits that are just missing here; maybe they're planned downloadable content later.
Guitar Hero: Aerosmith doesn't give you much choice when you're going through its somewhat short career, either. You have to beat every song no matter what if you want to get to the end, which by the way is a pretty disappointing affair. Getting up to the end is fun, but after slogging through the solo mode's single Battle-style song, a mediocre Joe Perry freestyle where he gets to screw you over repeatedly with versus-mode powerups, you then move on to a re-recorded "Mama Kim" (which, like almost all the rest of the game's numerous 70s tracks included, will only appeal to the serious Aerosmith fans) and finally "Train Kept A-Rollin", which yes, we already all played a bunch of times in Rock Band. Then there's the ending movie which is pretty goofy and ridiculous, and one last song - something I couldn't even recognize without the name of the track popping up - which plays during the credits. And that's it. The developers blew their wad with Aerosmith's biggest hits earlier in the game, like "Walk This Way", "Love in an Elevator" and the re-recorded "Dream On" (which has already been a free download for GH3 for a while now).
Don't get me wrong - if you love all of Aerosmith's stuff and don't mind playing a few songs by some other bands (the full list of tracks is here) and you're a big Guitar Hero fan, then this could be a very worthwhile purchase. Unlocking Joe Perry's classic guitars from yesteryear might do it for you, and you might enjoy getting things like both the original and Run DMC versions of "Walk This Way". But for those of us who only like a few of their songs and have already gotten used to the instrumentation in Rock Band, then this is not going to be too much fun. One thing I do like is that the bonus tracks are just more Aerosmith ones as well as a bunch of stuff that guitarist Joe Perry has done in his solo career and projects. It's a nice touch and does a lot more for the dedicated fans than a bunch of random tracks by bands we've never heard of. It's likely not enough, but it's a start, and otherwise, you'll find many of same extras and online/multiplayer features here as you would in GH3.
The instrumentation and timing for playing the songs is very similar to what you'd expect after playing GH3 and the difficulty levels and gradual increases in toughness as you progress in one difficulty are the same. So what you really get here is a few dozen new songs, some new venues, and Aerosmith and DMC on-stage. Watching Steven Tyler prance around with his trademark scarfed-up microphone stand is fun, but that's about all of the visual entertainment you'll get. Oh, there are a few bits of video of interviews with the band and you can unlock more video, but they don't really give that much insight into how the band works or what the guys are really like. And if you were looking for some kind of backstory to how the band was formed and a brief history of their rock careers, well, this link won't cost you sixty bucks.
The idea of doing a music game based solely around one band is a novel idea, but the execution here leaves much to be desired. I can only recommend Guitar Hero: Aerosmith to fans of both Guitar Hero and Aerosmith. And big ones, at that, because this game won't give enough to less-forgiving fans. Otherwise, what you get is about 30 songs, maybe seven or eight of which you probably know and like right off the bat, and the rest will be stuff you may come to enjoy at some point. If you're a serious GH player that must beat every track on Expert, well, you probably already have this game and don't need a review to tell you that your e-cred is in jeopardy without a world ranking in the two digits or less. For the rest of us, either stick with Rock Band or Guitar Hero 3 and see what Activision and Harmonix can deliver for us during the fall this year.