Anyone who has ever played any Guitar Hero title for an extended period of time will invariably come across a song that completely owns them.
I'm not talking about a Pat Benatar number, or something from the Killers or Nirvana. They're easy. No, the song that will have you staring in fear at a wall of notes while your rock meter goes into the red faster than ACC will almost certainly be metal, and extremely heavy at that. The reason you never got past hard on Guitar Hero III was because of Slayer, not Santana.
Overjoyed as we were with the news last year that Metallica would not only contribute a bunch of their songs for a band-exclusive Guitar Hero title, we were far more interested to see just how developers Neversoft would deal with the difficulty level. World Tour and Aerosmith were noticeably easier than Guitar Hero III, the former going as far as to require much more accurate tracking for hammer-ons and pull-offs, the latter - well, Aerosmith could be described in a lot of ways, but "brutally hard" would not be one of them.
Before we get to what it's like to play, it's worth noting just how inclusive this title is when it comes to Metallica lore. The band members were involved in every step of the development, with James Hetfield personally laying down the basic idea for the Career Mode storyline. This is based on a group of fans who followed Metallica around on tour in the early 1990's. It's important to realise that career progression is not done in chorological order like Aerosmith - Metallica vetoed that suggestion, and it's just as well. Imagine starting your career mode off with Motorbreath, or Pulling Teeth; you'd need carpal tunnel surgery before the second set.
Speaking of which, you'll no longer have to play gigs to progress, Metallica harks back to the original Guitar Hero set lists style, each requiring you to not only pass songs, but achieve a certain number of stars to progress. There's also no need to perform endless early songs to get to the later stuff, as in Quickplay mode, all set list songs are unlocked by default.
We've compiled a list of all the current known songs in this release on page two of this article. There's a good selection of not only Metallica classics, but songs from artists that have inspired Metallica, and those they've either performed with, or produced covers of. Some of the more notable include Bob Seger ("Turn the Page" was covered by Metallica on their 1998 Garage Inc. album), Lynyrd Skynyrd (the first album James Hetfield bought was from Lynyrd Skynyrd, paid for with his lawnmower money) and Motorhead. Motorhead is a recurring theme in Guitar Hero: Metallica, as not only is the Motorhead anthem "The Ace of Spaces" included, frontman, bassist and all-round legend Lemmy features as a playable character.
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Where Aerosmith dabbled in video featurettes and location-specific gigs to immerse the player, Guitar Hero: Metallica goes way further. Not only will you have access to a comprehensive extras submenu that features unlockable venues, songs, commentary, videos and behind-the-scenes footage, you can also replay completed songs with trivia pop-ups that give information about each track. With guest artist songs, you can learn how each band is tied to Metallica, along with lyrics and history facts.
Themed Battle Modes will make an appearance too. We didn't get to sample these, but we've been reliably informed you'll be able to "fade to black" your opponents note track, and even modify the amp overload to include the signature Metallica lightening. More about these in our full review in a few weeks.
Although Guitar Hero: Metallica uses the existing World Tour hardware, it wouldn't be a Guitar Hero title without subtle modifications to gameplay, and this time around it seems that Red Octane and Neversoft just couldn't keep up with the frantic pace of Metallica's legendary drummer Lars Ulrich. Instead of dulling down the complexity by removing a bunch of notes, they've provided drummers keen to put their skills to the ultimate test with a whole new difficulty level: Expert+. This mode requires two foot pedals, and from what we understand, insanity may be beneficial. None of us are particularly good drummers, so that'll also have to wait for our full review!
As you can see in the accompanying video, none of the pace or energy of the band has been removed. Playing "Master of Puppets" or "Fuel" on the higher difficulty levels will have you hitting intuitively-placed notes just about from memory. We didn't get enough time to sample every difficulty mode, but one thing is certain - there's much more intensity right from the start than there ever was with World Tour.
Fans of not only Guitar Hero but Metallica too will be looking for the ultimate, authentic Metallica experience, and from what we've seen and played they won't be disappointed. From the accompanying videos to the "ecstasy of gold" introduction when Metallica enters a venue - even "Metallifacts" that give background information on songs - it's all here. Our suggestion? Break out those instruments and start practising. Not with Pat Benatar, though.