Guitar Hero: Metallica is a remarkable step forward for the Guitar Hero franchise, especially if you like Metallica.

User Rating: 8 | Guitar Hero: Metallica X360
Metallica has come a long way since the underground days of heavy metal music. Despite initially being dismissed by the mainstream industry, the future became bright after the group began cracking the music charts. Listening to James Hetfield's brash might in his voice or hearing Lars Ulrich pound upon his drums were moments in the making for the music industry. But those timid times have passed, and Metallica has become one of the biggest metal bands in history. The folks behind the Guitar Hero franchise knew this just as well as everyone else. Metallica made their Guitar Hero debut with their hit "One" back in Guitar Hero III, and fans have put their fists up for more from the Metallica guys in Guitar Hero. After the release of the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith game, the Guitar Hero franchise entered the full band market with Guitar Hero: World Tour. But as fans rocked out to "Trapped Under Ice", rumors of a Metallica-based installment shook the rhythm game market. After months of speculation, Metallica's legacy was announced to be adapted for the world of plastic instruments. Guitar Hero: Metallica is Neversoft's second round for a band-specific installment of their treasured franchise. Does it do the legendary metal group "justice for all"?

The song list, expectantly, is rock and metal with a grand majority of the songs being hits from Metallica themselves. If you've kept up with the famed metal band over the course of their extensive career, you'll find plenty of fan service in the songlist. You get the classics like "Master of Puppets" and "Enter Sandman", along with a slew of earlier hits like "Seek and Destroy" and "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)". In addition to Metallica songs, you also get songs from other bands, many who have either played alongside or been inspired by Metallica. These range from Mastodon's "Blood and Thunder" to System of a Down's "Toxicity." Guitar Hero: Metallica is also compatible with the Death Magnetic DLC from Guitar Hero: World Tour (though not with any other DLC from the game). The song collection doesn't reach the caliber of World Tour, mostly because the songs lack diversity and quantity, but the songlist makes up for that with challenge and intensity. While it doesn't reach the sheer insanity of Guitar Hero III, the game is difficult, thanks in part to Metallica's fast and complex music style. If you aren't a fan of Metallica, Guitar Hero: Metallica probably won't change your mind. If you ARE a fan, however, you won't find a stronger songlist than the one in Guitar Hero: Metallica.

When it comes to gameplay changes, you really won't find many. Guitar Hero: Metallica is essentially World Tour with a new songlist focused on Metallica. Fortunately, the minute changes do in fact make a difference. Most importantly, Quickplay has all of the songs unlocked from the start. No longer will you have to trudge through song sets to unlock songs when all you want is to play your favorites; now you and your friends can find your top songs and play them from the get-go. Instead of unlocking songs, you can unlock Metallica pictures and options in the Career Mode, which also has been improved. Progressing in Career Mode depends upon your amount of stars, so it's completely fine to skip a song you don't like or one that isn't at your skill level. It's a great improvement which will hopefully be implemented into future games in the series. The rest of the game plays much like World Tour, though now with a bigger challenge and the new Expert+ drumming option. If you have a Guitar Hero World Tour drum set, you can plug in a second foot pedal and take on the ridiculously difficult Expert+ mode. This may satisfy the hardcore Guitar Hero fans who've mastered every song, but for the casual player, this is far too much challenge. It's a cool installment for long-time World Tour drummers, but everyone else will probably find the Expert+ mode to be over the limit. Overall, the improved Career Mode and accessible Quickplay options are welcome to Guitar Hero: Metallica and the Guitar Hero series in general. The familiarity of the rest of the game may concern fans, but there's still a good amount of improvements to check out.

Much like Guitar Hero: World Tour, Guitar Hero: Metallica has a slick, alternative presentation that focuses on cinematic intensity. The game has video game representations of the band members, all of which are animated well and provide a sense of authenticity to the music. Even cooler are the obscure animated cutscenes featuring the band, which manage to burst onto the stage with humorous, though undeniably clever animations. These cutscenes may seem like they're not taking the band seriously, but that's far from the truth. Metallica is represented on stage with incredible style and design. As expected, the music quality is also strong and easy to rock out to, with master recordings and a few re-recordings throughout the songlist. Explosive sound effects and a clean, easy-to-navigate interface are just icing on the cake. New to the mix are the extras, like Metallifacts (tidbits that you can read about certain songs while the song plays) and plenty of Metallica related photos and media. All of this adds up to a stellar presentation with enough Metallica-related madness to satisfy hardcore Metallica fans and headbangers alike.

+ Excellent collection of Metallica songs
+ Plenty of Metallica-related extras and info
+ Awesome presentation
+ Career Mode is greatly improved
+ Rock-solid gameplay

- Could've used more songs overall
- Only compatible with Death Magnetic DLC
- Too far aimed at Metallica fans

Guitar Hero: Metallica is a genuinely great example of how to make a band-specific Guitar Hero game and make it right. The robust collection of Metallica and Metallica-related songs has plenty of strength when it comes to challenge, though if you're not a fan of Metallica, you probably won't find a majority of the songs to be worth checking out. However, those even slightly interested in the famed metal band's music will find the improved Career and Quickplay options to be excellent fixes to the original World Tour formula. The inclusion of unlockable Metallica media makes going through the Career mode a Metallica fan's dream. The presentation is some of the best seen in the Guitar Hero series; the excellent use of the band's personas and the awesome animated cutscenes are incredible and give Guitar Hero: Metallica its own definitive style. However, the inability to use DLC other than the Death Magnetic album combined with the slightly short song list may feel a bit less than expected, especially compared to the massive songlist from World Tour. If you can't stand Metallica, Guitar Hero: Metallica won't change your mind in the slightest. From a gameplay standpoint, however, the game fixes many of the design issues of World Tour. It's just a shame that the game isn't as universally appealing as World Tour was. At the end of the day, Guitar Hero: Metallica's improvements to the Guitar Hero formula are definitely a solid step forward, though unless you like Metallica, you'll probably simply consider this to be a track pack for the fans. But for the Metallica fans and anyone with a passing interest in metal music, Guitar Hero: Metallica is one of the best games in the Guitar Hero series yet.