A few of us were recently brought into sunny San Francisco to check out the final build of the eagerly awaited Guitar Hero: Metallica, along with a cadre of games media press of course. At first glance, the title seems to be nothing more than a re-skin of World Tour∞
with a batch of new songs thrown in, Neversoft has been paying careful attention to the feedback from World Tour though and have put in a large number of changes to the overall game.
The interface has been tweaked and hauled over to be a littler easier to follow and understand, you still can't tell how much shared Star Power you have to use without looking way up to the top left (and even then you can't really tell if the Star Power that is there is already in use by another member without looking to the rest of the charts on the screen), but you can finally tell if you are about to fail. They went from the old I-had-no-idea-I-was-about-to-fail to a system that practically smacks you in the face. Each fretboard has its own rock meter on the side that gives you a general idea of how you are doing, but the major addition is essentially a health system ripped straight from modern day shooters. As a single instrument hangs dangerously close to failure, their fretboard pulses a nice blood red -- don't worry, it isn't really all that distracting. Now as the band is about to fail, a large portion of the edges of the screen start to get that blood red fade in effect like you would see in Gears of War. Having always been the drummer and playing on the center fretboard when the band was in danger of failing (imagine that, with me on drums and all) this full-screen effect didn't really impact my playing. That is a good thing, you'd think such a large effect would be distracting, but it was actually a good measure of now being a damn good time to activate Star Power. Another nice addition to the UI is a big glaring indication as to who actually failed the song for the band, no more wondering who failed when multiple people were in danger of doing so, multiple people can actually fail at the same time and the game will tell you of all the offenders.
List of In-Game Expert+ Enabled Songs
- Wherever I May Roam
- Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
- Armed and Ready
- Hell Bent for Leather
- Fade to Black
- All Nightmare Long
- Blood and Thunder
- Beautiful Mourning
- Creeping Death
- Master of Puppets
- War Ensemble
- The Shortest Straw
- Dyers Eve
- Disposable Heroes
- Fight Fire with Fire
List of DLC Expert+ Enabled Songs
- That Was Just Your Life
- The End of the Line
- Broken, Beat & Scarred
- The Day That Never Comes
- The Judas Kiss
- Suicide & Redemption J.H.
- Suicide & Redemption K.H.
- My Apocalypse
This is really the big addition to the game that has everyone excited and, sorry to be somewhat of a letdown, it kind of disappoints. I honestly haven't been following GH:M news all that much, and what I understood of expert+ was this: it is a new mode only for drums and it takes advantage of the double bass. What I did not know, and am not sure how clear it was to everyone else, is that: not all songs have expert+ (Take a look at that list to the right) and the chart is identical to expert in every way except for the added double bass. This makes sense once you think about it since not all songs were played with double bass, why have it in the game right? I was a bit surprised when I found this out, but not really an issue once you think about it, it is going to make score tracking a bit interesting for us though (which could explain why the official leaderboards aren't going to support it). I am proud to say that I did pass a couple of expert+ songs myself, they were some of the easier songs for sure and I didn't even crack 70% notes hit, but I still passed dammit.
HylianHero played vocals the most and was able to muster up some thoughts on the improvements Neversoft has made.
The first thing I noticed during the playtest was the vocals engine. Vocalists, rejoice, as it should be pretty easy (or at least somewhat possible) to 100% songs now. GH:M implements the phrase system like RB does, but unlike World Tour, judges entirely based on that. If you get all the phrases in the song without screwing up in between, you should 100% the song. The phrases themselves are still as hard to FC as they are in World Tour, which still means songs with a lot of super fast phrases are pretty tough, but it's worth it to actually be able to 100% stuff now. The words seem to be a bit more legible this go around. Even on songs that I had never heard before, like War Inside My Head, I never really had much trouble trying to figure out what I was supposed to be singing (actually hitting the pitches was another story entirely ).
Of course, some of the faults of the engine are still present. The main fault (and may not even be a fault for some of you, but it was a complaint of mine) is that freestyle sections and Hype sections (those super awesome blue cheering fan sections that are basically free SP on an engine that gives an abundance of SP anyway) are both back. As in WT, their implementation into songs seems very random and unorthodox. Songs like Turn the Page have Freestyles in between every decent length break in the verses (wish I was kidding; it seemed like there was one every twenty seconds), whereas Orion didn't have a single Freestyle or Hype section at all. You just sat there for 8 minutes watching the other instruments play. A smaller change I wish they would've made is changing how SP is displayed. Personally, I always got a bit distracted when using SP on vocals, since it does make it a bit harder to see what the hell you're supposed to be singing when the highlighting changes from the bright yellow to contrast against the pitch lines...to everything changing the same blue. It makes it very clear that SP is being used, but makes it rather hard to see what you're supposed to be singing. (Note that these are just personal bits I would've liked to seen improved. I'm really not a fan of freestyles at all...but if they're going to be used, I'd like them to be used somewhat consistently.)
Guitar charting seems improved quite a bit as well. I'm struggling to remember any charts that were actually unfair or overcharted, and there were a lot of fun charts. The infamous touch-strip notes (which are no longer connected by a dark purple line...they're connected by a light grey line now, if I remember correctly) worked wonderfully, and although I didn't have as much time to fully verify this, I struggled to find a part that seemed hindered by the section itself. I know a few sections in World Tour were made a bit more complicated by them being tapping...and I just flat out don't remember seeing that ever happen in any of the songs I played of GH:M. That doesn't mean the issues others had with the purple strings aren't still there, I'm just saying that I didn't notice any issues with the ones I played.
I don't really remember much specifics about the charts themselves, since there is so much metal in this game, the charts tend to blur together. I will say this though, the super-fast triplets in 'One's' solo are now strung together, which should make it easier to FC eventually.
My one major gripe with the game, and this being purely my opinion that most people will not agree with, the songs are too long. Now hear me out; I do not look forward to grinding out FCs of this game at all. I'm not certain on this, but I would wager that the average song length is about 7 minutes (that is something easily found out if anyone cares to take the time to do so). If anyone remembers the pain that was a Free Bird FC, then you know what is in store for you with a lot of these songs. Queen's 'Stone Cold Crazy' was the shortest song we played at two and a half minutes or so, but then there is also 'Mercyful Fate', which clocks in around 12 minutes. The band was not happy when I failed expert drums at about 80% on that one, let me tell you. Metallica plays long songs, everyone knows this and I'm sure most of you are prepared for it already, it just happens to be a big turn off for me.
Overall, we had a good time playing the game, there are a lot of great improvements and some notable missed opportunities, but it is definitely a step up from Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. If you are a fan of Metallica, metal in general, or just hard Guitar Hero songs, then this game is for you. Speaking of difficulty, the first song the game has you play in the career mode is 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'. That song certainly ain't no 'I Love Rock and Roll' in terms of difficulty so that should give you a good idea of how much more difficult the game is overall. Enjoy some high-rez images below (click on the thumbnail to obviously bring up the nice and big version) and join us in the Q&A thread to ask some questions and get some answers.