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We rock on with the encore performance of Guitar Hero for PlayStation 2.

“Do we even need to review this, or can we just slap another 10 on it?” That’s the thought that crossed our minds when Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s arrived in our offices. After all, how different could it be? It uses all the same characters, locations, and graphics that Guitar Hero II used – isn’t this just more of the same?

Well, yes and no. This is more of the same, sure – so it’s basically fantastic. But it’s not as much “more” as you might imagine. There are only six playable characters (five normal and one unlockable: the scythe-wielding “Grim Ripper”) as opposed to ten in the normal game. And they all have only one outfit: a new, ’80s-themed look. You can’t buy more in the store. More importantly, this version of the store also fails to stock any new songs, leaving you with just the 30 you’ll encounter over the course of the regular career mode.

This leads us to an interesting point: the music here is more diverse and less universal than that of either of the first two Guitar Hero games. And if our office is any indication, that makes this a much more polarizing song list than in previous games. Most everyone knows the Go-Gos and Police, but only the office metalhead threw the horns over second-tier headbangers like Dio and Accept, and bands like Oingo Boingo and X are great for new wave and punk devotees, but will leave others cold.  

It’s all fine music, and these groups were all undeniably successful in their own circles. But the end result is that many players – especially those under the age of 30 – might find a lot of this stuff to be too obscure for their tastes. That’s a big concern when you’re shelling out $70 – though watch-out for sales as you may well find it cheaper than the RRP. A few of us also feel that the placement of the gems is slightly less careful than usual, leading to occasional moments where you feel the song is sluggish, or that you’re playing the gems, but not the song.

In spite of all these shortcomings, this is still Guitar Hero and the formula still works – this remains one of the best games ever for anyone who has ever thought even for one second that it would be cool to be a rock star (i.e.: everyone). Just be sure to check out the song list if you weren’t around to hear this stuff the first time.


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