Guitar Hero: Van Halen
Posted 3 years ago By - Marko Djordjevic
It came to the surprise of many last year when the third Band Specific Guitar Hero game was announced. It’s not to say that Van Halen isn’t worthy of the attention as they’ve given us many memorable songs, but in comparison to past games, for Aerosmith and Metallica, their inclusion questionable. With Guitar Hero: Van Halen, you get a good selection of their early catalogue but with a weak selection of guest tracks and no new material, the reason to pick this up really is a matter of how big of a Van Halen fan you are.
Guitar Hero 5 was quite a surprise return to form for the series following World Tour. The addition of key features like drop in and drop out showed a series shift towards the casual market. Unfortunately, with GH: Van Halen, all those advancements and additions are missing and you are left with merely a playlist of songs you need to unlock.
Even with only a rudimentary understanding of Van Halen, most people know that this group has gone through some lineup changes over the past 30 years. They famously had great success with not one but two lead singers, first with David Lee Roth and then with Sammy Hagar. Those who grew up with the group in the late 70s and early 80s will be glad the game focuses on so many of those early hits but if you were a fan of the Hagar era or just enjoy everything the group has given to Rock, you are completely out of luck. Songs like ’Right Now’ are sorely missed.
With the focus on Van Halen’s early material, neither fans nor newcomers are really getting everything they want. What also hurts is that there are no new songs to entice fans. What worked well for Guitar Hero: Metallica was that it was released around the same time as their latest album "Death Metallic" and did a great job showing off the band’s history. It would have been much better if Van Halen had new content to add to their older stuff.
Graphics and Sound
You might be playing as Van Halen but you won’t see every incarnation of the bad represented. The game looks more like footage from a Reunion Tour than a trek down memory lane. The ability to unlock 80s Van Halen is available but it only comes at the end and just does not feel like the game is properly showing off the band’s iconic history.
A problem with band focused Guitar Hero games in the past were the relatively limited soundtracks and that issue still holds true here. You do get a great collection of their hits before 1985 but there are only 25 songs sung by the band. The rest of the 45 plus tracks are filled with guest artists and, unfortunately, none of them really stand out. Songs like Third Eye Blind’s ’Semi-Charmed Life’ or The Offspring’s ’Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)’ in no way belong in a Van Halen game. Surely they could have found more suitable bands to flesh out the setlist.
An added problem is the fact the songs here are not transferable with previous Guitar Hero games. Sadly, that leaves you stuck playing this game to get your Van Halen fix. I would have preferred being able to rip them in to Guitar Hero 5.
If you were one of the people who registered your copy of Guitar Hero 5, you got Van Halen free of charge. In that case, the fact that it was free more than makes up for the omissions. On the other hand, having to pay full price for nearly half the songs available in Guitar Hero 5 and missing features is unacceptable.
The lack of a true ’History of Van Halen’, no drop-in and drop-out feature and the inability to export your songs means you’re not getting a full title. Because of these key omissions, GH: Van Halen would have been better suited as either DLC or sold at a discounted price.
Unless you are an absolute die-hard Van Halen fan there is no way you should pay full price for a game that only offers half the content. What is really disappointing is that Van Halen’s library of tunes during the David Lee Roth Era is so good. I can’t tell you how many recognizable songs I got to play and I wasn’t even alive when they were originally released. Despite that I still wish that there was more to this experience. If you really want to play Van Halen’s early hits, wait until this game lands in the Bargain Bins in a few months time.