Earlier this week, Activision and RedOctane set up shop in San Francisco with a press event displaying a pair of their upcoming Guitar Hero games. One of these games was their tribute to Boston rock legends Aerosmith. We covered Guitar Hero: Aerosmith a couple months back, but this was our first opportunity to click away on a miniature Les Paul to see how it plays. Besides a decidedly un-DragonForce difficulty level, this entry in the Guitar Hero franchise is steeped in an Aerosmith feel, with menus, videos, and reworked animations all focused on the band.
If you jump straight into multiplayer, you won't notice a massive difference from Guitar Hero III. The same modes persist here: Face-Off, Pro Face-Off, Battle, and Co-op. You'll also be able to choose from the same familiar characters you've seen time and again in previous Guitar Hero games. Taking a look at the tracklist, there's obviously a heavy emphasis on the work of Steven Tyler and company, but for the most part, the gameplay is much the same in the multiplayer.
No, it's when you kick off a new career that the realization you're playing an Aerosmith game really hits you. The first chapter in career mode is called "Getting the Band Together." It begins with a brief vignette showing the members of Aerosmith waxing nostalgic about their old stomping grounds, Nipmuc High School. Slightly disappointing is the fact that these videos are shown in grainy standard definition, even on the Xbox 360 version that we played; but that's a forgivable offense with the reworked visuals we'll get into later.
Each of these chapters is structured like a real show, so you'll see a pair of opening bands in each segment before you can unlock the Aerosmith tunes. The very first band you'll live vicariously through is the power pop group Cheap Trick, performing their song "Dream Police." After that it's Mott the Hoople's "All the Young People." Once you get through the supporting bands, Aerosmith takes the stage with their songs "Make It" and "Uncle Salty." If you win over the crowd, you'll be able to perform "Draw the Line" as an encore. Some of the opening bands you'll see later on in the game include New York Dolls, Lenny Kravitz, Run-D.M.C., The Cult, and The Clash. The latter seems quite appropriate, considering it's the 1977 Clash song "Complete Control," featuring the lyric "You're my guitar hero!" As far as the selection process goes, we're told these bands were either influential to Aerosmith, influenced by Aerosmith, or just bands that the group really likes and couldn't resist putting in the game. It would be nice to see those designations made in the song selection, but as it stands you're only told if it's a cover or not (of which there are very few, luckily).
A lot of people can't think of Aerosmith without thinking of the famous cover of "Walk This Way" done by Run-D.M.C. It was a historic moment for the rap genre that brought over a lot of new fans from the rock-and-roll side of the fence. So it goes without saying that this memorable moment in the history of the band is featured as one of the songs in Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. In fact, Neversoft brought in D.M.C. to perform the song so that they could re-create the iconic music video.
As you progress further into the career mode, you'll make your way from the aforementioned Nipmuc High all the way to the famous Orpheum Theatre in Boston, with even a trip to the Super Bowl halftime show. You'll continually unlock more vignettes giving you some insight into the history of the band, with chapters titled "First Taste of Success," "The Triumphant Return," "International Superstars," and "Great American Band."
While we admittedly didn't progress into the deepest regions of the career mode, the first few songs felt a bit easier than Guitar Hero III. In our talk with Neversoft senior producer Chris Parise, he brought up the fact that they received quite a bit of feedback from fans on the level of difficulty players encountered in GHIII. As a result, they've toned down the game and focused on creating a friendlier difficulty curve. To us, it felt like the Aerosmith songs were a bit harder to play than the opening bands.
There's also been quite a bit of work done on a visual level. Parise told us that Steven Tyler took a look at the animations from Guitar Hero III and told Neversoft those weren't going to cut it. So they strapped some motion sensors to Tyler--including, oddly enough, on his mouth--for good, old-fashioned motion capturing. It seems to have worked out, because seeing the game in action gives you a feel for the band's penchant for the dramatic while onstage. As one example, you'll see a lot of interplay between Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Beyond the motions, the character models bear a striking, almost scary resemblance to their real-life counterparts. It's not quite uncanny valley territory, but the models are really good.
For diehard Aerosmith fans, this game was probably already a given. But there's also quite a bit to enjoy for regular old Guitar Hero fans who aren't terribly enamored with Steven Tyler's singing or Joe Perry's licks. Either way, you can expect to see it arrive June 29.