‘Aerosmith’ Can Dream Again

“Guitar Hero: Aerosmith” fails to rock the gaming world as Neversoft’s endless sequels roll out. It is increasingly clear that Activision, the game’s publisher, is relying on the “Greatest Hits” tactic for sales. Except for a lackluster soundtrack, “Guitar Hero: Aerosmith” is essentially a re-release of “Guitar Hero III.”
“Aerosmith” is the laziest effort yet; you are purchasing “Guitar Hero III” without the variety. The characters and guitars are identical with the exception of sparse Aerosmith-related additions. No upgrades have been made to the control scheme. It is the same old formula: Hold the right combination of five “fret buttons” as the notes cross the screen, “strum” the center of the guitar controller at the right moment for points, hit the whammy bar on extended notes to fill your “star power” meter and jerk the guitar to trigger the star power mode, which doubles your points for each correct note.
Wii owners get two tiny bonuses: the Wii Remote plugs into the front of the guitar, adding rumble and a speaker. The speaker only broadcasts one noise: the metallic clink when you commit an error. A bigger downside, however, is that the Wii’s graphics are carried over from the PS2 version. Still, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions look only marginally better and both cost more.
Neversoft uses motion capture on the band to nail its movements, but the implementation is lazy. Despite the mocap (motion capture), the animations are stiff and slow, particularly on the Wii version. Neversoft uses few lighting or particle effects to enliven the backgrounds while you rock out. As a result, the performances feel sluggish.
The developers made no effort to create the feeling of a concert, as shown by the weak sound. In a game that essentially depends on audio, this is a major downside. Surround sound features are virtually non-existent and most tracks come off sounding compressed and staid.
The short videos between songs suffer from compression issues as well. This is inexcusable as the game is comparatively small. If the graphics powerhouse “Gears of War” can fit onto a standard DVD, then there is no feasible reason, even on Wii and PS2, why video interviews with the band are not crystal clear.
From the title, you can guess what to expect. The track list amounts to about 30 major Aerosmith songs, and you can unlock some bonus material. It is really designed for fans of the band or “Guitar Hero.” There are nods to Aerosmith fans across the career mode, which follows the biggest moments in the group’s history, including its first performance at a Massachusetts high school.
Even the most die-hard “Guitar Hero” fanatics, though, will have a hard time getting into Aerosmith’s often slow, sometimes circuitous repertoire. With few exceptions, the songs are as sluggish as the animations. Unless you cannot get enough Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, there are not enough fast, engaging songs to make it worth the price of admission. Newcomers to the franchise are better off purchasing one of the earlier versions, which have a more diverse selection of tracks.
“Aerosmith” is also easier than its predecessor. Perhaps it’s that so many of the songs have a relaxed tempo, but masters of “Guitar Hero III” will have no problem breezing through every difficulty of campaign mode. Luckily, “Aerosmith” retains the online mode for every version, which adds some replay value. Unfortunately, Activision has announced that no downloadable content will be available online.
Designing a new piece of software around one band seems ludicrous. Neversoft needs to take a cue from Harmonix, developers of “Rock Band,” before its groupies hit the road for the next act. Instead of forcing consumers to buy a whole new game for extra songs, “Rock Band’s” publisher EA offers individual songs for download and “track packs,” which sometimes feature a popular album from a particular band. This strategy would have been more cost effective for Activision, who also paid to produce new “Aerosmith” guitars for their latest bundle. More importantly, however, the constant “Guitar Hero” encores are quickly making the franchise feel played out. It is time Neversoft explored new ground or its next performance might be its last.
Rating: 3/5