I know what you're probably thinking, and you're right, there are an awful lot of Guitar Hero titles either currently available, or under development.
Despite this, the core gameplay objective in each remains the same - use a plastic controller to hit a bunch of coloured notes as they scroll past a certain point, and spend more time than anyone else practising it to avoid losing. It really doesn't matter if you're an absolute beginner to the franchise, or some kind of freak, the only thing separating you from anyone else is manual dexterity, and whether or not you're on the dole.
Although the basics are set in stone, each release in the franchise tends to have subtle tweaks to the software that modifies the way you play notes, particularly towards the harder end of the difficulty scale. I'll get to that later, but first, what exactly does this addition bring to the table?
Unlike every previous Guitar Hero title, there are no new tracks. Instead, you'll be presented with a selection of songs lifted from Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Guitar Hero Aerosmith. Well, actually, there's only one from Aerosmith, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, it's "Back in the Saddle", which is a bad thing (what happened to "Dream On?"). Progression follows the Guitar Hero Metallica model, in which stars are acquired in order to unlock new gigs.
There are 48 songs in total, each being reworked to provide support for the Guitar Hero World Tour drums and microphone, as well as the neck tap/slide notes that seem to either be used to potential or completely ignored by most seasoned players. The tracks have been laid down by a new addition to the team, the development studio Beenox.
A compilation collection allowing you to play (admittedly) most of the best tracks from the previous games with support for additional band equipment may sound like a relatively clever and somewhat thrifty idea - and it is - however it's important to realise that you're not exactly getting the same experience as you would if you happen to hire out the aforementioned titles and compare the original note placings side-by-side.
The release of World Tour saw a fundamental shift in the focus of the franchise, from fast-paced, show-no-mercy action on hard and expert Guitar Hero III, to a softer, more family-friendly note density and track selection designed to encourage co-operation and synchronized back-slapping. I've always believed that expert difficulty (at least for guitar) on World Tour is rarely more difficult that hard was on Guitar Hero III, so it was no surprise to discover that Beenox have kept this difficulty curve tempered by making all the old classics a lot easier.
It took me a long time to be able to do Guitar Hero III's Dragonforce "Through the Fire and Flames" on hard difficulty, I don't mind admitting it. The introduction being particularly brutal. With Guitar Hero Greatest Hits, the initial 150-or-so ascending and descending notes that required precision and synchronised strumming have been replaced by the relatively boring neck tap notes. Other note locations in songs such as "Cult of Personality" have been completely changed for absolutely no reason, as the modifications don't seem to alter the difficulty whatsoever. "Miss Murder" was a belter on expert mode, with a bunch of three-note chords alternating back and forth providing you with a real sense of achievement the first time you nailed it - now, the chords remain, but are shifted sideways a couple of colours and don't have anywhere near the logical flow of the original.
Perhaps this is due to Beenox's relative inexperience with Neversoft's franchise, or perhaps they feel the need to stamp their own authority over the game, but either way you'll rarely find anyone comfortable with unnecessary change, least of all gaming enthusiasts. In addition, I really think the person that voted to include Pat Benetar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" as opposed to, say, Disturbed's "Stupify" should probably quit in shame, however that's a matter of personal taste.
Guitar Hero Metallica ditched the crazy accuracy demanded of the hammer-on and pull-off timing in World Tour in favour of a slightly more relaxed feel, and it's nice to see that Greatest Hits has retained this. But for those used to playing Guitar Hero III, it's still a hard sell - you will miss notes until you train yourself to more closely replicate tapping that HOPO note when it actually crosses the strike bar.
There's no huge difference between what you may have observed in Metallica on the drum kit and what you'll find in Greatest Hits, including the double-kick "Expert+" mode. Gone, however, is any form of DLC whatsoever, so if this is the only Guitar Hero title you plan on owning and perfecting, you might not get quite as much out of it as the previous titles. Vocals remain the same as World Tour and Metallica, although on some tracks they seem to lose their emphasis in favour of the instruments. In fact, some of the mixing just seems off entirely - again, perhaps Beenox rushed things a little here?
So, who is going to get the most enjoyment out of this title? Undoubtedly, newcomers to the franchise who want a solid party experience. Those who may have seen or played World Tour or Metallica and may be looking for something with a bit more diversity in the track listing, and any drummers who simply must relive the old songs using their newly acquired skills. Anyone who has been thoroughly addicted to the early games and have no interest in drumming or singing will probably be disappointed. The reason the early titles were so entertaining and addictive wasn't necessarily down to the track list, it was the intuitive progression that meant you could notice your skills developing by the second. It seems that ever since the rest of the band has been included, this individual experience has been diluted somewhat.
Guitar Hero 5 is currently under development, so if you're looking for something more guitar-centric then you might want to wait. In the meantime, if you and your buddies are getting a bit bored of the same songs from World Tour and Metallica, then Greatest Hits really represents 48 more songs to hone your skills on.
Continue to the next page for a full track listing.