Guitar Hero II

Guitar Hero IIGuitar Hero took the world by storm when it launched a year ago. But it was going to take more than just a new track listing and sexy cherry-coloured instrument to pull in the punters a second time. So how has Guitar Hero II performed?

For those who don’t even know what we’re talking about, the game is essentially the kind you’d play using a dance mat. However, it’s been tweaked for boys and rock chicks who always wanted to play at being rock stars. Because to hit the right notes at the right time you need a guitar-shaped controller that is big enough to do the job while not being the actual size of the real thing.

Guitar Hero II ships with a Cherry red SG guitar if you buy the complete package. And while we haven’t tested it, the original SG axe from the first game apparently still works if you only want to shell out for the disc this time.

Overall, the song line up is as great as the first game, with the covers being generally indistinguishable from the real thing. A couple of bands even offered up the goods to make it more authentic. The game uses Primus’ original recording for John the Fisherman and Jane’s Addiction offered the same for the track Stop. But the continued lack of any songs from rock gods such as Metallica or AC/DC means there is room for improvement in future versions. Who knows? Perhaps a future version only including Metallica songs could be on the cards – the band certainly has enough classic material.

As for additions in the gameplay, the new practice mode is a godsend when you start to move up the rankings. It allows you to play a particular part of a song without having to work through the whole thing. That’s great for beating hard riffs in the third or fourth section of a difficult song when you just can’t work your fingers fast enough over the guitar’s five buttons.

But our favourite additions are the extra features in multiplayer mode. Players can play together no matter what their skill level is. So experts don’t have to dumb down their talents and newbies don’t have to fear getting their axes kicked on too high a setting.

The ultimate test? We handed it over to a mate who plays guitar as a gigging musician. This man actually laughed when he first saw us holding the “kids’ guitar” but once he got started there was no stopping him. And as if to prove how close the game is to being able to live the dream and strum your stuff, he was hitting all the right notes and clocking up massive scores after just a few goes.

Rating: 9/10