STAFF REVIEW of Guitar Hero: Smash Hits (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009.
by Adam Dileva

Guitar Hero: Smash Hits Box art Have you ever played the previous Guitar Heroes (before World Tour) and wonder how awesome it would be to be able to play bass, drums, or even sing to those great songs long forgotten? This is what Guitar Hero: Smash Hits tries to remedy; it brings you back 48 of those classic songs from the previous Guitar Hero games but with improvements.

So what would it take to convince people to re-buy songs they might already have in older versions of the game? Well, Activision has thought of a way (or at least is attempting to) which is very simple. If you own Guitar Hero: World Tour (the bundle) then you also own the new guitar, the drum set and a microphone for the whole band experience.

Smash Hits brings back the top favorites from the previous games and now adds full band gameplay. Ever wanted to try drumming to Through the Fire and Flames to see how it compares to the guitar difficulty? How about play some awesome bass on Queens of the Stone Age? This is all possible now and you can play any instrument or sing to some classic Guitar Hero songs.

This isnt the biggest improvement to the selected songs though; if you remember playing the first few Guitar Hero titles, youll also remember how terrible some of the cover songs were due to not being able to secure the licensing for the real song track. Every song on Smash Hits is now a master track (other than 2 songs which are live versions) and that alone is worth it If theres a song you absolutely loved in the previous games but couldnt bring yourself to playing them due to the horrendous cover version.

Song selection and tastes are going to be a completely personal preference, so rather than list off every song, Im going to elaborate more on the game itself and its changes (or lack there of) from the other Guitar Hero games and not rate it on the song choices.

Ive youve not played World Tour and dont know what was new with it, then I suggest reading my review on it so that you understand the new mechanics (how bass has a 6th note) and instruments work (new drum set and slider bar for guitar specifically) as Im going to focus on the gameplay changes itself instead.

Obviously the biggest change is that the old songs can now be played with drums, microphone, or bass in addition to the standard lead guitar. This might not sound like a huge deal, but theres simply nothing like playing Free Bird with 4 players; its simply magical.

Another huge change is that the slider bar parts in the lead guitar sections are now thrown into some songs as well; the biggest notice youll see of this is the whole Through the Fire and Flames intro on expert can simply be tapped making it incredibly much simpler to accomplish. Also, the whole intro (first half of the song) of Free Bird can be completely tapped instead of strumming a single note. Its an interesting change I really wasnt expecting and it certainly makes some songs a much easier feat to complete.

On the flip side though, is that many of the songs have arbitrarily been upped in difficulty due to the slider and tapping use. While this might not sound like a huge deal if you are a veteran player, it completely threw me off my game because I knew the older note chart and what to expect. Certain songs will feel like you need to completely relearn them (Free Bird is much more difficult this time around). When youve mastered something and come back and are unable to do it because of a whole new note set, it can be misleading and cautious of what you may be able to finish easily.

Playing drums for a lot of the songs felt very gratifying and many were quite a challenge, so there is something here for everyone even if you dont play lead guitar. The same goes for playing bass, as having the 6th bass note thrown in is quite fun (especially on No One Knows) and does add some freshness to the songs youve long mastered.

While there are no Metallica songs due to their game recently just coming out, they did take one of the best features from the game; all songs are unlocked in quick play from the very start. No more having to play hours of career mode just to unlock that one song you bought it for. While this is great if you dont care about career mode, the downfall of the career mode was also included; and you do not build towards having a huge fan base following or anything, its straight up song unlock progyer is essentially the exact same thing as well with your Face-off modes, Band play, and Battle of the Bands. There is nothing new here, as you still gain money for completing songs and the same frustrations are in tact as well, like one person failing means the whole band fails.

Even some achievements are exactly the same such as making your rocker, designing an instrument and others. Its clear that this is basically a skin-job with some new tracks, as there is nothing new here (literally if you count the songs).

With no attempt the change or freshen the gameplay at all (even the menus are the same) the only thing that is going to sell you on Smash Hits is the song selection, and as mentioned before, it will be a personal preference. Guitar Hero: Smash Hits is simply a track pack of old songs that you can now use all of your instruments for, so weigh this into your decision when picking this up or not.

There is absolutely no reason this couldnt have been DLC for World Tour instead of a full priced game because not everyone is going to like every song. If I had the option to pick and choose the 10 I really enjoyed I would have done that instead without hesitation.

The way I would be able to forgive this choice of lack of DLC would be that if I could import Smash Hits into my World Tour and play them from there like how Rock Band did the AC/DC track pack disc. Alas, this is absolutely not possible and it doesnt even work the other way either, so all those songs you bought for World Tour stays in World Tour. There is no importing or exporting anything related to Smash Hits other than the lackluster user made GH Tune songs. I can not fathom any reason this is not an option to have as DLC or even export to my full World Tour game. Its extremely frustrating that Im going to have to put in this disc every time I want to play a specific song or two. Its a good thing there are some great song selections in this title, but again, that will be completely objective depending on your tastes.

Make sure to remember you will be getting absolutely nothing new game-wise in Smash Hits; you will only be able to replay the classics from Guitar Hero 1, 2, 3, and Aerosmith with all your instruments. Check the complete song list and decide if there are enough songs on it that will warrant you having to put in Smash Hits every time you want to only play those songs as it is the complete epitome of inconvenient.

Make any track packs importable to World Tour, simple as that, especially if it costs full price.

Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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