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Guitar Hero II: Melts Your Face, Not Your Hands
Company: RedOctane

Guitar Hero gave would-be rockers the chance to crank it up to 11 and take center stage. With Guitar Hero II, RedOctane is giving them the chance to crank it way past 11.

The second iteration of the surprisingly popular series doesn’t stray too far from the first. Everything is set up almost exactly the same as before, so it shouldn't hit you out of left field with any big changes. You still have a selection of songs and play along with the special guitar controller. Where the sequel breaks away from the original is the amount of skill required for each song.

One of the first differences I noticed in the sequel is that button presses are a little (emphasis on a little) more challenging than the first game. The button combinations for songs are more refined and actually fit the song’s guitar chords better. There are fewer holds and one-button repetitions. Instead, these are replaced with more dual-button presses, a few really quick transition combos and even a few button presses during holds. The game is still accessible enough to casual players, especially on the easier difficulty levels, but there is also more challenge for intermediate and advanced players.

With the slightly higher level of challenge comes a Practice Mode, one of the most requested features in the original. Practice Mode is set up in a logical way and should prove to be exactly what fans of the first wanted. After selecting a song, you choose if you want the guitar/bass/rhythm/lead parts (choices depend on the song). You then go to a menu where you choose if you want to play the entire song or start at certain parts. After that, you can choose the speed you want to practice it at. From there, you go to a studio where you practice. If you find that you’re not getting it, you can go back and replay parts at any time.

Multiplayer adds a new dimension to Guitar Hero, making the game even more addictive and fun when getting together with friends. Two modes are available, Competitive and Co-op. Competitive is your standard guitar face-off, where you and a friend challenge each other to see who get closer to the greatness of Slash without having to put up with Axl Rose.

Co-op play is easily the more enjoyable of the two multiplayer modes and of the two will probably get the most playtime at parties. Here, both players play the same song, though with completely different parts. One can take the Bass while the other Rhythm. Both players share combo and Star Power meters, which may lead to some broken friendships if one player isn't as good as the other. Luckily, players can set their own difficulty levels, allowing advanced players to play on harder difficulty levels while their partner sticks to easier ones.

It should go without saying that music selection is a major aspect of Guitar Hero II. Compared to the original, the sequel features a greater variety of songs, ranging from classics like “Carry on Wayward Son” and “Free Bird” to modern hits like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Monkey Wrench”. A few purely instrumental tracks, like “Misirlou” also make the cut along with rockabilly tunes “Psychobilly Freakout” and “Rock This Town”.

If you liked the first, there’s no reason you shouldn’t like the encore. Start planning your parties now.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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