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Guitar Hero: Smash Hits
Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Rhythm

Graphics & Sound:
Guitar Hero: Smash Hits brings everything Guitar Hero together, from the storyline to the features to the songs. The story, this time around, has a very Mortal Kombat or Twisted Metal feel to it, with the very best from around the world being lured to a worldwide competition to prove who is the best, only, in Guitar Hero: Smash Hits, it's a competition for rockin', not fighting or blowing up cars.

Guitar Hero: World Tour introduced whole band play to the Guitar Hero series, with the inclusion of a drum kit and vocals. Guitar Hero: Smash Hits is built for whole band play, as well, and features favorite picks from the various Guitar Hero games of the past that have been re-coded to include vocal and drum parts. Not only that, these songs are also made from the master tracks, so you get the songs exactly as they were played by the original artists and you get the original artist vocals, to boot.

The songs selected for Guitar Hero: Smash Hits were some of the most popular songs from the previous Guitar Hero games, including: Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s.

As for the characters, the old familiar characters are back, but you also have the ability to roll your own characters, a la Guitar Hero: World Tour, with a wide variety of attributes that you can tweak, from appearance to clothing and even a full-fledged guitar workshop, where you can build your guitar exactly how you want it.

The one thing that is truly to Guitar Hero: Smash Hits' detriment, however, is the utter lack of a DLC feature. This game is not compatible with existing downloadable content and doesn't even have a menu item for it, so it's obvious that it won't be available in the future. Downloadable content gives these music-based games a way to stay "fresh"; without it, the game will get stale quickly.

For those who want to just jump in and play, there is Quickplay mode. This mode lets you choose from all (currently unlocked) songs, either alone or as a band of up to four players. This is a great mode for parties or any time that you simply want to rock out a bit. If you're hoping to work on opening more songs, however, you'll want to play in Career mode.

Career mode is the story-advancing mode... the main game, if you will, where you play songs and earn stars and money based on how well you perform. Collecting more stars will open up access to additional songs and venues, while the money you earn from these performances can be used to trick out your character with new hairdos, clothing, accessories and instruments.

If you're feeling a bit competitive, there are competitive modes that give you your chance to stomp an opponent, either in your living room or anywhere in the world. There are three 2-player competitive modes that you can play on the same console: Face-Off, Pro Face-Off and Battle. Face-Off and Pro Face-Off are both where players compete against each other using the same instruments, while alternating on the same note chart, but Face-Off is played with a single instrument, while Pro Face-Off demands mastery of guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Battle is a guitar versus bass mode, where each player tries to out-shred the other and where Star Power can be used to activate attacks on your opponent. There are also two online competitive modes: 8 player Band vs. Band and Head to Head, if you're feeling competitive and you've got no one to play with.

You don't have to be looking for a fight to play online, however, as there is also a Band Quickplay mode that lets you find other like-minded players online and form an impromptu band across the interwebs. Nice.

The music studio featured in Guitar Hero: World Tour is back, allowing the creation of original music as well as the ability to share this music - for free - with other players around the globe.

While Guitar Hero: Smash Hits would probably be more attractive to the uninitiated, rather than veteran players, I would assume that most people playing Smash Hits would have played some game in the series before. If so, you probably will find that Smash Hits is typically less difficult to play than the previous games... unless you've memorized how to play the songs; the note tracks are different now that the master tracks are being used.

For those who aren't familiar with Guitar Hero games, or those who want a refresher, however, this easier difficulty makes the game a bit more approachable. In Smash Hits, there are a variety of ways to change the difficulty. First off, there is the difficulty setting. You can choose between Easy, Medium, Hard and Expert difficulty levels. These differ in the number of colors you have to play, as well as the number and complexity of chords. (Also, some songs have an Expert+ drum track option, a la Guitar Hero: Metallica, that requires two bass pedals and a shocking amount of skill.) In addition to the selected difficulty level, the songs themselves vary in difficulty. If you find that you still need help, there is a Practice mode, as well as general tutorials to help you refine your skills.

In addition, you can change the difficulty in the Versus modes by carefully selecting your opponents, either locally or online.

Game Mechanics:
Guitar Hero: Smash Hits is truly almost a "Best of" from the series... not only for the songs, but for features. You get the full-band functionality, the song editor, master tracks, editable characters and the best songs from nearly the entire Guitar Hero series. This really would be a what-if-we-had-everything-from-the-series-in-one-game game... except for the lack of downloadable content. This one missing feature changes Guitar Hero: Smash Hits from being the perfect game for new players to jump in with, to a game that really has no obvious target market. With the "Best of" hits on the disc, Guitar Hero: Smash Hits may be the best version to take to a friend's house, without the need to bring your PS3 along with you, but it's not going to please the veteran players and, without the download content, it's a dead-end game, making it pointless as a "My first Guitar Hero" game.

I have seen that others have suggested that Guitar Hero: Smash Hits may be attractive to gamers interested in the songs and who can't download content, but since these songs can't be added to your existing library and it has to stand alone, it's hard to determine who, exactly, would purchase Guitar Hero: Smash Hits.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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