I bought Guitar Hero on Friday night. I left Shiny Towers the minute I tapped my last key and made a beeline for Oxford Street, home of crowds, that horrible eternally vomiting zombie and one of the few stretches of road still left with more than one movies, games and music shops still standing.
I’d walked past the remains of a credit crunched Zavvi and then up and down between GAME and HMV trying to work out the best deal on guitar packs for either GHIV or Rock Band 2. Which was more expensive was less the issue than which game had the best tracks, after all, it was pay day. Who cares about being broke at the end of the month when you can stay in, turn on and rock out? That’s budgeting baby.
So, there I was, on a sunny Friday evening, the first nights of summer in the air; beautiful people in beautiful clothes spilling out of pubs reclaiming the streets, golden light shining through pint glasses – and me, walking past with an oversized box embarrassing one of HMV’s larger bags, heading underground and home to lock myself away from the world and screen hard. A little part of me felt guilty but I soon smothered that small voice with a series of rationalisations, and six pack of Carlsberg Export just to make sure.
I can’t really give you many more details of the evening itself save the enjoyment of putting together my shiny, new, sunburst strat-like axe, cracking the first tin open and taking it from there. Suffice to say that, by the time I had my first gig under my belt, I was onto can three and on my feet posing at the imaginary crowd in my front room with further affirmation that I do indeed rock.
I played the game for most of the weekend between the odd trip out to prove to my girlfriend that I haven’t slipped back into the days of my Everquest addiction and I’ve completed about 60% of it, so far, somewhere between easy and medium levels on lead guitar with one hard in the bag in the shape of About a Girl (Unplugged) – Nirvana.
Now, this isn’t supposed to be so much a review as a look at guitar games for those who haven’t yet got involved, but, all the same, I’m going to suggest you buy Guitar Hero World Tour. I’m not going to say that either Rock Band or Guitar Hero is a good way to get into playing an instrument for real. It isn’t, with perhaps only the drums as any kind of realistic indication of a transferable skill.
I can’t play the guitar and I never will. I spent years as a teenager trying to figure out how to make a good sound out of the damn thing and I just couldn’t get to grips with the chord changes or even how to strum properly which I always found incredibly frustrating because I’m neither a-rhythmical nor without a decent level of musical ability.
I’ve even got long fingers for getting round the bar chords but I’ve never made it beyond an attempted intro to Spaceboy by Smashing Pumpkins and the first few notes of Purple Haze. I’m not Hendrix. I never will be, but these games offer me that piece of pure rock emotion that I always deserved.
These games are hard enough to make you feel like you’ve got talent but not so impossible and painstaking as doing it for real, and the idea is that you adjust the difficulty levels as you get to know the songs and as they get easier. It’s the only game I can ever remember playing that isn’t done as soon as you complete it the first time round regardless of whether you happened to select Beginner all that time ago when you clicked on New Game.
You don’t even have to bother with the tracks you don’t like. I have absolutely no desire to do anything with the entire Tool gig other than get through it but I’ll sit there one Sunday practising Wind Cries Mary in the recording studio over and over at the slowest speed until I can finally play the thing on Expert. Why? Because some part of me that bought hundreds of albums, downloaded thousands of mp3s and spent summer after summer in the muddy fields of England deserves to be Hendrix even if only for 1% of the satisfaction of playing a gig in front of the cheering crowds. That’s what these games give you. You can be a legend, if only in your own front room.
RB and GH do cost a lot of cash. Granted, but I’d put GHIV in my top five games of all time. I’m not saying they’re for everyone. In fact, there’s only one type of person who’ll like them: those who like games – all of you – and also like music – 98% of you. So, if you’re in that 98% of people reading this, I suggest you get your wallet out now and either head here or here. You have been told.