Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
Guitar Hero: Van Halen
Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Rhythm/ Party/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
The graphic design in Guitar Hero: Van Halen screams "80's" with totally "mod" black, white and red stripes used heavily throughout, while you can choose from familiar existing characters or create up to twenty custom characters of your own.

The music is almost equally divided between Van Halen tunes (25 tracks) and "Guest Acts" (19 tracks), which actually allows someone who's not familiar with (or, perhaps, overly fond of) Van Halen to progress all the way through the game without mastering (or, for that matter, playing) any Van Halen songs. Personally, I liked a few of Van Halen's more popular songs - and even played one or two in my high school marching band, but I was actually more excited about some of the "Guest Acts," such as Billy Idol's "White Wedding," The Offspring's "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy), Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life" and, one of my favorites, Fountains of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom." Of course, the big Van Halen hits are there - who hasn't heard "Jump" or "Jamie's Cryin"?

In what seems to be a step backwards in the line of Guitar Hero games, Guitar Hero: Van Halen appears to be built with the same engine as Guitar Hero 4, supporting guitar, bass, drums and a vocalist.

In Career Mode, Guitar Hero: Van Halen starts off with a bang, with you playing as Van Halen from their latest tour. After a couple of songs, however, you basically find yourself in a typical Guitar Hero situation, working your way through playlists of songs, earning stars to open additional venues and repeating this process. It sort of feels like the Career Mode has A.D.D., starting off like it's going to be all about Van Halen, then quickly getting distracted and running off to do something else. There are some specialized guitar solos in some songs, some two-note-triggered Van Halen signature wailing guitar licks, as well as some pop-up trivia, but to have a "special feature" outside of the song that is simply the lyrics of the songs seems a bit weak.

Anyone familiar with the Guitar Hero series of games knows that there are different levels of difficulty to choose from. This is true of Guitar Hero: Van Halen, as well. You can choose a difficulty level that suits your skills and familiarity with the controllers (and with actually playing music), and work your way though higher difficulty levels as you improve your skills. As a note for musicians, if you're on an easy difficulty level and you find playing the game to be difficult, you may want to try increasing the difficulty level; easier difficulty levels can over-simplify the control, making it harder to see the connection between what you're playing and the actual songs.

Additionally, the songs are rated per their difficulty levels, both for the individual instruments and overall. Pay attention to the ratings to help select songs that are appropriately challenging for your skill level - or to at least get an idea of what you're getting yourself into.

As far as differences in the Van Halen game itself, some of the "special" Van Halen signature solos can be a bit tricky, so remember to make use of the Practice feature.

Game Mechanics:
There's not a lot to Guitar Hero: Van Halen, which isn't too shocking, since it was released as a promotional item. Even as a low-price-point item (think track pack pricing), it's not too bad, since there are a couple of really good songs in here. (One or two are actually Van Halen songs, even.) However, Guitar Hero: Van Halen is being released as a full-priced game retailing for around $60 USD, which seems a bit much, in my opinion. In the end, it's probably going to be a matter of how interested you are in the particular songs included in the game, though, really.

As far as Guitar Hero games go, it's not too bad, but has a relatively small number of songs (44), making it feel more like a track pack, without enough "gimmick" and "special features" to truly sell the "special edition" concept like Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Guitar Hero: Metallica did.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Related Links:

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.