When I was 15 there were two concerts I was absolutely forbidden to go to - Iron Maiden and Van Halen. After that I stopped asking for permission to go to concerts and made up excuses to slink off and go to shows Mom did not approve of. She thought Iron Maiden were devil worshippers and Van Halen were drunken obnoxious party animals. Wrong on the first one Mom, absolutely correct on the second, and I loved them for it.
And I still do... "Mean Streets" from the "Fair Warning" album still gets me going and is one of my favorite rock songs of all time.
At night I walk this stinkin' street past the crazies on my block
And I see the same old faces and I hear that same old talk
And I'm searching for the latest thing, a break in this routine
I'm talkin' some new kicks, ones like you ain't never seen
Insert nasty guitar lick from one of the primo guitar legends of my era. In my day, if you said "Eddie" everyone thought of Eddie Van Halen first, and Eddie the mascot of Iron Maiden second.
So we come to the end of 2009... Activision and Neversoft decide to give Guitar Hero fans a game we have been crying for for a long time by following up their star treatments of Aerosmith and Metallica with a dedicated Van Halen effort. How did it turn out?
The Music. Old Van Halen rocks harder than the poppier Sammy Hagar years. They were nasty, edgy, dirty young boys and Eddie's guitar playing was brilliant, dynamic and gut punching. David Lee Roth was the eptiome of what every mother did not want their son to be, but his showmanship and vocal work exuded "PARTY!" He was also one whacked out dude (and obviously still is). Alex Van Halen on drums and Michael Anthony on bass were tight and contributed a great deal to the bands party vibe. Van Halen, Van Halen II, 1984and Fair Warning are must listen to albums, with Diver Down and Women and Children First close seconds.
The Music. If you're a fan of the Sammy Hagar years and quality albums like 5150 and OU812 (I only like "Poundcake" from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge) you're out of luck. All music with Sammy as the front man is excluded. That's some seriously big hits to leave out, and really is inexcusable. However the current band members feel about Sammy (and Eddie is known to hold a grudge like few others), leaving out the tunes from this era is just wrong.
Michael Anthony. Not only is Sammy left out, but so is original bass player Anthony. This, to any diehard old school Van Halen fan, is just flat out wrong. He meant as much to the band and its image as anyone, and to slap him in the face like this publicly is disgusting. Instead, who do we get to play as? Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie's young son...
WHAT? Why the heck would I want to play as Wolfgang? What appeal does that have whatsoever? Is Wolfgang a legendary bass player? No, he's a stand-in... It's so awkward even seeing him in there, it's so obvious he doesn't belong that it's almost painful to see his avatar meekly meandering around the stage. It's like personally standing there watching Anthony get punched in the face and being constantly reminded of it while you're playing the game.
The Avatars. See that reference photo above... see Eddie? That's old wrinkled Eddie. That's not the Eddie you unlock after playing for awhile, that's the Eddie you start with and the Eddie you'll be stuck playing with until you unlock the c1assic Eddie. Same goes for the whole band... so you're stuck playing with dudes that look like this:
Who wants to play as a bunch of old guys? I'm an old guy and I wouldn't want to play as me, I'd take the younger version of me any day. Do I want to play as the David Lee Roth who girls had posters of in their bedrooms in 1982, or as washed up crazy DLR who looks more like a Beverly Hills hairdresser than a rock star?
And even when you unlock the avatars of the way they used to look, Eddie just looks weird.
The avatar you unlock for David Lee Roth is much better though and is the best one of the bunch. Oh yeah, you can unlock an alternative version of Wolfgang too... but considering he's only 18 years old, c1assic Wolfgang is a baby playing bass (I'm kidding, but that would be better than what you really get).
The Game. Neversoft obviously made this during a transition between the old model of GH because you see elements left over from World Tour and prior games, and you see a few of the changes made for the recent GH 5. It sits uncomfortably in that region in between, so for GH regulars it will feel a little strange.
No History. Unlike GH: Aerosmith, there are no cool unlockable interviews with the band. The care and attention to the band's legacy is missing and you will likely learn nothing about them from playing the game, other than they had alot of cool songs in the early years.
Price. I got the game free for buying GH 5 during the promotion Activision ran in September. I see that the pre-order price listing is $60 when the game is officially released in a couple of weeks. This post is an attempt on my part to make sure you don't completely waste $60. No way, no how, even if you're a Van Halen fan like myself, should you be plunking down that kind of money on this. Wait till it's $20, that's about the most you should pay.
I didn't cover the non-VH songs included in this because they seem completely out of place. At least with the Aerosmith game the band said those were bands that influenced them, they influenced, or they admired. With this game it seems like Neversoft had some tracks sitting around without a game to put them in and threw them in to take up the space that could have been used for the songs with Hagar singing lead. Jimmy Eat World? Weezer? Yellowcard? Huh??
Unfortunately for those of us that really (used to) love the GH series, this is an obvious cash in.