Ah, Guitar Hero. Where would the world of rhythm-rocking be without thee? Well, 14 iterations of the game later we’re sitting on the precipice of Guitar Hero 5, wondering exactly what else the genre can bring to the world of plastic music peripherals designed to present those without the inclination to actually "learn" an instrument with an output for their dormant rock-god persona.
Greatest Hits does in truth seem like a natural progression for the series. Most bands have waited far less time before releasing a cash-cow compilation and such is the wealth of music available since the first game, the relatively late adoption of a mainstream audience and introduction of multiple instruments, it would almost seem foolish not to "cash in" on the franchise at this point.
This should not suggest that Activision’s stop-gap release is purely an opportunity to generate money however, as there are plenty of reasons to buy this compilation even despite the significant price-tag. Greatest Hits introduces Wii gamers to the first few titles in the series and offers everyone else the opportunity to rock out with drums and vocals to some of the classic hits from the early games.
Admittedly, the choice of tracks will not be to everyone’s taste and you’d be hard pushed to find a fan who agrees that these truly are the "greatest hits" from the early games, but the opportunity to play along to 48 master-tracks should be too much to pass up, particularly for hardcore fans.
Aside from the advantages highlighted above, this new version has taken a careful approach to the game’s structure, and while nothing has really changed in terms of general game play it mixes the build of World Tour with arguably the best game in the series, Heroes of Rock, and the recent Guitar Hero Metallica. Gone is the money-earning approach in relation to gig-unlocking, and reintroduced is a series of mini set-lists that require an accumulation of stars to progress to further songs in career mode.
This certainly makes the game more approachable and to boot, all of the songs are available instantly through Quick Play, which should prove satisfying to those who wish to dip in and out of the "best-of" compilation for party games with friends.
The Music Studio, online play, character customisation and duels are present and correct, along with the ability to create your own rocker based on a range of music styles and designs. The lack of DLC downloads is the main omission, which for some may be a serious disappointment, and it would have been nice to see Activision make the rest of the previous hits available via download to round off a collection.
As it stands, you’ll need to be happy with the setlist provided and though some may bemoan the exclusion of more classic tracks, the ability to expand on the full-instrument from World Tour should be a bigger pull.
Greatest Hits is by no means perfect in terms of its potential, but it is arguably an essential addition to the series, consolidating its position alongside Rock Band for those with a full instrument set. Though it may not have the widespread appeal of a full release, it will sell itself to hardened fans with ease and Wii owners and those who signed up during the World Tour era will appreciate this expansion to the series.
Thanks to Amazon.co.uk for a review copy of the game.