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Xbox 360 Review: Guitar Hero II

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It is one of those things you never notice, so it goes overlooked. Guitar Hero strikes that perfect cord for the hardcore and casual fan. Pleasing both camps is almost impossible, Harmonix and RedOctane get a lot of credit, but it is not enough – this game is the definition of "pick up and play."

No matter how good, or how bad you are, you will rock out to Guitar Hero II.

Superb music/rhythm games coming from the U.S. is something of an anomaly, so that makes Guitar Hero's Cinderella Story that much richer. Now that the game is out on the Xbox 360, things get even better, if you can believe it.

It doesn't seem to matter one bit that I played this game to death on the PS2. It doesn't matter how many times you play this game, because it keeps getting better the more you play.

Play wise, the 360 edition did not add a lot to the already jam packed game. You get 10 songs exclusive to the 360, including a number of original recordings: "Stop," "Dead!," "Possum Kingdom," and "John the Fisherman." That brings the total number of tunes to 74. There are also three (so far) downloadable packs of songs from the original game, costing 500 Microsoft Points ($6.25) each – you can add nine more songs with these downloads.

Pearl Jam is a favorite of mine, but "Possum Kingdom" and "Dead!" are my favorite new tracks. "Life Wasted" is a fun track to play in the game, and that is really all that matters, it's just not my pick for a PJ tune in Guitar Hero.

It is really a delight to get original recordings. Some of the covers are just not right. And when the song is as famous as the ones here, its easy to notice when the vocals or guitar riffs are off.

The set list in Career Mode has also been shuffled around a bit, 15 songs in total changed places. This does help, placing some of the harder tracks later in the career.

Sure it is just eye candy, but the graphical boost on the 360 makes an impact. There is new lighting in the venues, and character models are crisp. This isn't a game that requires a sheen, but it has it. The strobe lights in the 360 version can actually be distracting, something I did not even notice in the PS2 version.

Also new is the guitar controller, a white Gibson X-Plorer. This guitar is heavier than the PS2's SG, and a lot easier to hold without the strap (yes, I prefer strapless). Like other controllers on Microsoft consoles, it has a breakaway cable, and if any controller needs it, it's this one! Going between the two controllers is fine, but I do prefer the X-Plorer.

Last but not least, you have 1000 Achievement Points to nab. As if this game wasn't addicting enough, you will be rocking out even longer going for the Hendrix Award (Beat a song with lefty flip on) or the Page & Plant Award (Get 100% notes hit on a song in Cooperative). The Achievements were really well thought out, and add that much more to the game.

The guitar had some issues at the launch of the game. The Whammy bar was not responsive on some units. I have two guitars, both with different model numbers, and I have had no Whammy bar issues. A software patch was released that cleaned up the Whammy bar issues. The raging forums died down once the patch was released, so it must have fixed the issue that people were having.

This game just rocks. If you have not picked it up yet, it is really your loss. The Xbox 360 version gives you even more, so if you passed on the PS2 version, there are even more reasons to pick this one up. And if you are truly obsessed, you should have this version of Guitar Hero II as well.

Guitar Hero II is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Lyrics. This game can also be found on: PS2.

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About Ken Edwards