With the Guitar Hero franchise having generated over a billion dollars in sales, there's no question that it's "Rockin' on Top of the World." Now one of the biggest games in the world has gotten together with one of the world's biggest bands: Aerosmith. But is the addition of Steven Tyler and company "A Good Thing," or will the fifth game in the series be the "Same Old Song and Dance"? We got a first look at Guitar Hero: Aerosmith today to find out.
Right away you'll notice that this isn't just Guitar Hero with Aerosmith's name slapped on the box. The crew at Neversoft has gone out of its way to integrate the band's music, look, and personality into every aspect of the game. This is first evident in the menus, whose backgrounds are all locations taken from Aerosmith's real-life recording studio. Of course, all of the band members are in the game, albeit in stylized video game form and looking younger than they are today. Athletes coming into the studio to do motion-capture work is nothing new, but when was the last time you heard of a rock star donning the mo-cap suit for a game? Steven Tyler did quite a bit of motion capture to ensure that his signature moves and facial expressions would be accurately represented. Fans of Axel Steele, Johnny Napalm, Izzy, and the rest of the crew can rest easy--the gang's all here, and they each have four new outfits, for a total of eight per character. You'll be able to sport all eight costumes online, which sounds like it will essentially have the same modes as in Guitar Hero 3.
The band's history plays an integral role in the game's career mode. You'll still start at a small venue and work your way to the big time, but this time you'll be rocking in many of the same places Aerosmith played on the road to stardom. The intro movie shows a cartoon-style Aerosmith's humble beginnings and even a cartoon Clive Davis, the man who signed the band to its first deal. Before each new venue there's a short video segment with various band members explaining the band's history with that location. When you clear that area's songs (encores are back) you'll unlock a longer, more detailed version of the video--a really cool feature if you're a big fan of the group.
Your first gig will take place where Aerosmith's first gig took place: Nipmuc High School. The location itself isn't modeled exactly after the real place, but the stage is adorned with a sheet that sports the very first Aerosmith logo. From there you'll move on to Max's Kansas City, which was a popular club that closed long ago. Unable to find any blueprints for the venue, Neversoft used photographs and grainy black and white handheld footage to re-create the club in its glory days, topping it all off with a stage decorated in a Toys in the Attic theme.
Since the game does bear Aerosmith's name, it makes sense that the song list will mostly focus on Aerosmith, but there aren't as many Aerosmith songs as you might think. A full list of tracks is not yet available, but we were told it would consist of about 60 percent Aerosmith and 40 percent artists that either inspired Aerosmith, played with Aerosmith, or are liked by Aerosmith. We were able to scribble down a number of tunes from an early build of the game. The Aerosmith songs were "Make It,""Uncle Salty,""Draw the Line,""No Surprize," and "Sweet Emotion." Songs from other artists included Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes," Cheap Trick's "Dream Police," Joan Jett & The Blackhearts' "I Hate Myself for Loving You," and a cover of The Kinks' "All Day and All Night." These songs are all classic rock tunes, but we were assured there would be several contemporary bands as well as notable bands that had never been in a Guitar Hero game before.
One of the benefits of working so closely with a band is that you'll have access to all of their original recordings. But what happens when those recordings aren't available? Much to the band's dismay (and surprise) a few of the master tracks from their early years, including the song "Make It," were missing in action. Undaunted, the group hit the studio and re-recorded the track exclusively for the game. We were unable to do a head-to-head comparison between the new version and the original, but according to Neversoft, the band nailed it.
It shouldn't come as any surprise that Guitar Hero: Aerosmith's gameplay is almost exactly the same as in Guitar Hero 3. The interface and the way you get and perform star power are the same. That's not to say there aren't any differences. The developer said the hammer-ons and pull-offs had been tightened up to make them feel "less mushy," which means the time you have to perform them is tighter but still more forgiving than in the first game. You can also expect a smoother difficulty curve this time around; though keep in mind that Joe Perry can wail on the guitar, so it won't be a cakewalk. Another noticeable change is that although there is co-op play, there is no co-op career mode. This means all of the game's 40-plus songs can be unlocked in single-player mode. One thing that is a little disappointing about co-op play is that while some songs will have lead guitar and rhythm guitar, and others will have lead guitar and bass, there aren't any songs where all three parts are playable.
Although the game does look similar to GH3, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith does, in fact, look better than its predecessor. The venues are all-new, the band members' animations have been improved (particularly the drummer's), the game runs more smoothly, and you'll even notice Joe Perry with his air bag singing backup during "Sweet Emotion." Guitar Hero: Aerosmith will "Walk This Way" onto the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, and Wii this June. We'll have more on the game as its June release date approaches, so be sure to check back if you "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing."