IGN Review of Guitar Hero: Van Halen
Some rock stars don't know when to call it quits and retire. Stardom of days gone by comes knocking at the door and the allure of easy money on a reunion tour can't be passed up. All the band has to do is go through the motions and the millions come pouring in. The same criticisms could be leveled at Guitar Hero Van Halen -- a game starring a band that has seen its better days injected into a franchise that has already seen three previous releases this year. The result is a train wreck. Simply going through the motions isn't enough. Not for a band and not for a videogame.
It would be tough to pick a major band that is more irrelevant to popular culture today than Van Halen. The band that wowed arenas filled with screaming fans in the '80s through the virtuoso guitar work of Eddie Van Halen and on-stage antics of David Lee Roth is best known by the youth of today through kitchy references in Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow films. The majority of Van Halen's catalog has fallen into obscurity by all but the most ardent fans.
But let's say you are still a big fan of Van Halen. You might think that this is the perfect game for you -- a digital dream come true. You'd be wrong. Of the 45 tracks included on this disc, nearly half aren't even from the title band. The supporting acts, as they're called, feel like rejects from other Guitar Hero games. What exactly do Weezer, Blink-182 and Fountains of Wayne have to do with Van Halen? Absolutely nothing. These non-Van Halen tracks are pure filler and a piss-poor way to round out a set list.
Things get worse yet. It's not like Van Halen doesn't have enough material to support an entire game in the same way that Guitar Hero Metallica did earlier this year. However, Activision never bothered to secure the rights to any Van Halen songs created after David Lee Roth left the band. Many claim those years to not be the "real" Van Halen, but even those purists would have to admit that having some Hagar songs in there would be better than Lenny Kravitz. Or Third Eye Blind. Or Jimmy Eat World.
The Van Halen songs themselves are great fun, particularly for those that like a challenge. The last set of tunes will challenge all but the uber-pros. There aren't enough of them for a full game, though. Above all others, Van Halen begs the question as to why this wasn't simply a downloadable add-on to another Guitar Hero game.
The failings aren't limited to the set list. Guitar Hero games are supposed to be about living the rock star dream. Van Halen was the embodiment of that ideal...in the early '80s. So, naturally Guitar Hero Van Halen puts the current aging line-up on stage to prance about awkwardly, showing off their wrinkles and short hair and pudgy young Wolfgang Van Halen. That was sarcasm. Van Halen in concert today is an exercise in nostalgia. The Van Halen of today in a video game is just sad. You'll have to work through the entire Career before you get to see "classic" Van Halen in the game. Even then, they still move like they're geriatrics. Don't expect to ever see any classic stage antics here. The band doesn't even look interested.
Of course, the Career mode was only named that out of tradition. There is no career here. You don't play at classic Van Halen venues or follow their rise to stardom. You just work your way through a list of tunes earning stars. All of the bells and whistles added for Guitar Hero 5 are not here. There are no song challenges or interesting gigs. There aren't even any behind the scenes videos or interviews with the band like there were in Guitar Hero Aerosmith or Metallica. Some tracks have extra facts that can be read while listening to the songs, but not all of them. "Hot for Teacher" is one missing extra info. Talk about phoning it in.
The rest of the game is a similar disappointment. No support for downloadable content other than the GH Studio tunes. No option to import these songs into Guitar Hero 5. No Party Play mode. The PS2 version is further stripped when compared to the other iterations of Guitar Hero: Van Halen. There is no online multiplayer and the GH Studio, which allows players to create their own tracks and then share them online, is also removed.
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