Guitar Hero: Metallica Review

By Paul Semel - Posted Apr 13, 2009

Ride the lightening with this X-Play Review of 'Guitar Hero: Metallica' and find out whether new tracks and the Sandman is enough to make this game worth it.

The Pros
  • Is basically Guitar Hero: World Tour with a set list that rocks (literally).
  • Zombies!
The Cons
  • Is missing their coolest covers and some bands we expected (Sabbath, Misfits…)
  • No Jethro Tull.

Nine years ago, while working for the since defunct game magazine Incite, I did an interview with Metallica guitarist (and Legacy Of Kain: Soul Reaver fan) Kirk Hammett in which he played the Japanese proto-Guitar Hero game GuitarFreaks. And how did he do? “I instantly became the laughing stock of the dressing room,” he laughed at the time. “So then I went and got James [Hetfield, Metallica’s other guitar player], and I was so relieved because he was just as $!%# as I was.”

So it is with great irony that Metallica are now the subject of their own musical videogame. Especially since, in a more recent interview, Kirk admitted that he hasn’t gotten any better at these things. Which is too bad. While Metallica’s Kirk Hammett may not be good as Guitar Hero-type games, Guitar Hero-type games are very good with Metallica’s music.

"The Mechanix"

Guitar Hero: MetallicaAs you’d expect, Guitar Hero: Metallica is basically Guitar Hero: World Tour with songs by Metallica, bands that have influenced Metallica (Judas Priest, Diamond Head), bands that have opened for Metallica (The Sword, Mastodon), and bands who are friends with Metallica (Mercyful Fate, Corrosion Of Conformity). Still, there are some subtle differences between this and World Tour. Besides reconfiguring the multiplayer interface so you can tell when you’re flunking out, they also added an Expert + skill level for drums, which requires a second drum pedal and the rhythmic skills of Neil Peart. And while the individual instrument battles in Career mode have been excised, you can still battle your buddies in the three Head To Head modes or online.

The game also returns to the tier structure employed by the earlier games in the series. This is a welcome change from the gig-based structure of World Tour, and a very, very welcome change from the annoying open structure of Rock Band 2, since it not only gives you a real sense of accomplishment and progression, but also means you don’t have to play any songs more than once if you don’t want to. In fact, the way GH:M is set up, with you only needing a few (and we do mean “few”) stars to advance, you can skip any song you don’t like.

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"Germane Soup"

Guitar Hero: MetallicaNot that you will, since the set list is exceptionally good; the best of any music game so far. Just as Guitar Hero: Aerosmith went deep into that band’s back catalog, so too does GH:M, mixing such expected classic as “Enter Sandman,” “Master Of Puppets,” and “One” with such lesser-known fan favorites as “Dyers Eve,” “Orion,” and “Disposable Heroes.” The same goes for the other bands, who not only include such classic rockers (Thin Lizzy), punks (Suicidal Tendencies), and metal gods (Slayer), but some bands you wouldn’t expect to see in such a mainstream game (Samhain, Michael Schenker Group, Diamond Head). More importantly, there aren’t any horrible songs in the game. You may not like them all, but at least there are none of the usual “hip” faux rock bands that normally populate music games: no Fall Out Boy, no Panic! At The Disco, and — praise be to God, Buddha, and Eric Clapton — no Paramore.

The kicker is that the Metallica’s songs just work really well in this format. Granted, rock songs work better in guitar-based musical games anyway (as the crappy pop soundtrack of Rock Band 2 so painfully illustrated), but Metallica’s work especially well. The complicated riffing and jazz-like tempo switches that make their music so great also makes this game so challenging and invigorating. This means that even people who don’t like Metallica or hard rock, but don’t hate them, will have a lot of fun with this game.

Metal Up You’re A$$

But while you needn’t be a big Metallica fan to love this game, if you are one — you know, the kind who’d buy the import version of the “St. Anger” single just for their cover of The Ramones’ “Cretin Hop” — then you’ll love this game. And not just because it’s Guitar Hero with Metallica songs. From the inclusion of “The Ecstasy Of Gold” in the intro to the Pushead illustrations and icons strewn throughout, this game was clearly made by some serious Metallica fans. All of the venues — be they Britain’s Donington Park, Russia’s Tushino Airfield, or New Jersey’s Meadowlands — are special to the band, and they even got a member of the band’s crew, Zach Harmon, to be mocapped handing a guitar to James Hetfield. The developers also included such fun unlockables as concert clips and behind-the-scenes videos, an option to watch the songs with a trivia text track, and alternate character models of the band that will make you glad they’re still alive.

What they left out, however, are Metallica’s great cover tunes, save for their medley of Mercyful Fate songs. Granted, it’s actually rather Metallica-esque that they would honor the bands they love by including the original versions of songs they’ve covered — including Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” and Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” — but we still would’ve liked to play along with their version of Discharge’s “The More I See,” Budgie’s “Breadfan,” or Black Sabbath’s “Hole In The Sky.”

Speaking of which, the mighty Sabs are curiously absent from this game. But then, so are Anthrax, Kid Rock, Flotsam & Jetsam, Guns N’ Roses, Les Claypool, Oasis, Deep Purple, Metal Church, Exodus, and The Misfits. We also would’ve loved it if they’d left the instrument battles in, and had pitted guitar players against Dave Mustaine, bass players against Jason Newstead, and drummers against Doane Perry. But these are just little things only a serious fan will miss; bitching about their absence would be as stupid as getting upset that someone cut their hair or stopped you from stealing their music.

“Let It Loose”

Guitar Hero: MetallicaAs great as this game may be — as great as the set list is, as perfect as these songs are for this kind of game — there are those who won’t enjoy Guitar Hero: Metallica: alcoholics, the unemployable, angry loners… Oh, and people who have crap taste in music. For everyone else, Guitar Hero: Metallica rocks as hard as you’d expect and then some.

Article Written By: Paul Semel