Guitar Hero: Van Halen

Year: 2009
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft
Genre: Rhythm
Review Date: 5/20/10
Rating: ***

Anyone's enjoyment of "Guitar Hero" boils down to how much they like the music, and in that regard, "Guitar Hero: Van Halen" exceeds every game in the series. Additionally, Van Halen seems like an obvious band to focus on, and their brand of arena rock is bursting with energy, attitude, nostalgia, and just plain fun. One curiosity is that the game only features the classic David Lee Roth era, although the band avatars represent their current incarnations. However, at the very end of the game you can unlock a venue that features the band in their classic 80's personas.

Similar to "Guitar Hero: Aerosmith," this game features other artists including Billy Idol, Judas Priest, Foreigner, and Queen. Most of these supporting bands feature the actual vocalists, but some of them are cover artists. Sadly, the Lou Gramm impersonator is downright AWFUL and just slaughters "Double Vision."

The game is basically a stripped down version of "Guitar Hero 5" and features the same character editor. It also reintroduces Midori from "Guitar Hero III: Legends Of Rock" to the cast, except that she was built in the character editor and looks hideous. But not as bad as fan favorite Judy Nails, who looks utterly horrifying this time around. Oddly, Casey Lynch ends up being the most feminine looking one in the group, which is a bit of a switch. Again, you never get to see your avatar while you're playing, so it's all rather moot. The various venues are non-descript and not particularly interesting, but they're generally more attractive than the GH5 venues.

The game suffers the same long loading times as GH5 and the most annoying issue is that the confirmation sound is twice as loud as anything else in the entire game, which causes the room to shake every time you make a selection. For the most part the difficulty is in line with the other GH games, but there are a handful of solos that are downright dastardly, even on the easier settings. The game ultimately builds up to "Eruption," which is laughably difficult. Despite the long load times and unattractive characters, I found "Guitar Hero: Van Halen" to be the most enjoyable game in the series, simply due to how much I loved the music. Now, if they came out with an Iron Maiden game, that would be pure ecstasy.