Guitar Hero: Van Halen (PS3)

Expanded in CAP-customization plus an iconic rock god’s overseeing & wild music sets, although strangely blockier in visuals, discordantly tame, forced-in unwanted side artists, & ~no story arc. More of a cover band than true VH-experience. 5/10.

Electrifying rock legends Van Halen come to Guitar Hero for the next entry in the music rhythm performance simulation series Guitar Hero. The game features 25 songs curated by overseeing Van Halen members, along with 19 additional songs from selected artists that have been inspired by the group.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

Review: Erupting like the Baroque 12th fret-tapping face-melt of the guitar solo on Eddie Van Halen’s genre-defining ballad ‘Eruption’ comes a brand new game from rhythm game-powerhouse Guitar Hero. I’ll admit, Van Halen is one of my favorite rock n’ roll bands of All-Time and EVH one of my favorite, as well as objectively greatest, guitarists in history. GH: Aerosmith and Metallica have been hits and brilliant additions to the series partnering with such legends, so this should be another easy hit out of the park, right? Well, that’s where it gets complicated.. well, not really: it sucks. Expanded in difficulty settings and customization options plus the overseeing and wild music sets of the iconic rock god band, the game does have some positives. I cannot sit back and tell you it wasn’t an extreme thrill to hear/play alongside the thumping drum solo on Hot For Teacher, silky chord progressions on pop-famous You Really Got Me, or sing along the undeniably-catchy Panama while strumming along to Eddie’s work. But, besides the bare bones getting right by nature of the band it has rights to, the rest of the game is pretty seriously awful. The graphics look bizarrely blockier and worse than even its predecessors made years earlier: I’m not sure how that’s even possible and that mis-layered but it is massively disappointing to look at. Whereas Aerosmith and Metallica captured the look and essence of its two bands and their music/style/energy, GH: Van Halen only features the older, lamer VH looking awkward and somewhat-washed up rather than the iconic young energetic one only presented for *one set* at the end of the game.. Perhaps that is why the game feels equally as grandpa-ish and lethargic being shockingly tame for a band this characteristically wild. Beyond that, the general structure of the game is an absolute MESS. What made GH: Aerosmith such a special experience was that it took us through a seeming documentary of the group showing their progression from playing proms and mini-gigs to rocking out the Super-Bowl, without frills or side-bands or anything but a pure nostalgia ride on their music and through some of their greatest and most memorable sets. Metallica was strong as well, although not showing the come-up at least getting everything else right and tying it together narratively with the band itself anime-ically passing the symbolic torch to your customized new character’s inspired band. In GH: Van Halen though, we’re presented Walmart-generic stages/sets in different mega-cities with no backstory or explained significance beyond just a hollow hull where the music can be played. On top of that, it feels almost like an insult or jip that almost HALF the songs featured in the game are from side-bands or ‘Musical Guests’ that are poppy modern ones having absolutely nothing to do or in common with Van Halen as the game tries to bait-switch while limiting on the Van Halen it promised us. Although it features good Van Halen songs, is at least playable, and gets customization right, what could’ve had masterpiece potential given the lore of VH is sold out for what feels more like a cover concert of VH with guys that look like the band, dramatically-inferior tame gameplay by Guitar Hero’s standards, overloaded and unrelated forced guests, and no involving story or cohesive narrative glimpse into who Van Halen was beyond the stage. Like an aging band that doesn’t know when to quit, this should’ve been stopped from ever reaching the stage.

Overall Rating: 5/10