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Guitar Hero: Aerosmith

Tell me what it takes to let Guitar Hero go.
The Game:
You know a game series has finally made it when it gets a corporate sponsorship. Of course, with most of the game publishers being a part of one mega-conglomerate or another, perhaps that's not as big of a deal as it sounds. But when a series like Guitar Hero starts signing worldwide superstar bands to be featured in their own games, you know that the title has become a massive hit. And so Guitar Hero introduces us to what will be the first of many licensed band specific games: Guitar Hero Aerosmith.

Guitar Hero Aerosmith is not a sequel to Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. It is, at best, an expansion pack, and, at worst, a shameless money grab. I wouldn't be so disparaging if the game wasn't listed at full price ($59.99) while offering only 31 tracks and 10 bonus songs (most of which aren't worth your time, as I will explain later). Also, the developers at Neversoft took almost no time to address the various blunders that marred the last Guitar Hero game and made it such an inferior entry in the series.

Guitar Hero Aerosmith has six venues, each of which the real band actually played in at one point. Each venue is introduced by the band, who reminisces for roughly 30 seconds before you're catapulted into the set. Now, I enjoy Aerosmith, but I'm by no means an expert on the band, and the members kept referring to events that sounded infinitely more interesting than the high school they played their first show at. It's a shame Neversoft didn't give the band a little more time to talk about their own history.

Each venue starts with a pair of songs by bands that have some connection to Aerosmith. Either they inspired Tyler and company, or they played with them, were inspired by them, etc. Chances are, if you like the main band, you'll like the opening tracks. You get songs by The Cult, The New York Dolls, Lenny Kravitz, The Black Crowes, and more. Some of them are covers, but to their credit, these are actually decent, unlike so many of the wretched, unlistenable covers in Legends of Rock. You then get two Aerosmith songs and an encore.

Of course, the immediate problem with doing a game centered around a single band is that most bands don't have enough good songs to fill an entire video game. Tracks like "Uncle Salty" and "Nobody's Fault" are just boring or tiresome. Then again, maybe this wouldn't be a complaint if Neversoft hadn't left out several genuine Aerosmith classics, including "Janie's Got A Gun," "Crazy," "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)," and "Crying," for example. To make matters worse, the bonus tracks are almost all Joe Perry solo songs, and they're not very good at all.

The actual gameplay retains the loose timing window of Legends of Rock, much to my chagrin. The charts have been made easier, which is a relief, but they're not much more fun to play because of the poor mechanics. Also, I don't know who was in charge of assigning the hammer-ons and pull-offs, but there are a ridiculous amount in this game. I think about 45% of all the notes are hammer-ons or pull-offs. It just comes off as silly.

To further add to the frustration, the obnoxious boss battle once again rears its ugly head, although this time there's only one. But given that half the fun of the battles in Legends of Rock was that you get to unlock and play with real guitarists, the boss battle in this one makes no sense, as you've been playing as Perry the entire time. There are also online multiplayer options, the same as in Legends of Rock. I found that connecting to a game was much easier this time around, and just like before, you can link your name to the Guitar Hero website so it can track your scores.

On the plus side, there are some great tracks worth playing here. "Toys In The Attic," "Dream On," "Love In An Elevator," "Sweet Emotion," "Back In The Saddle," and more. You even get the Run DMC version of "Walk This Way." But when Rock Band is offering 12 songs by The Who for download, you have to wonder if putting out a full price game with less than 50 tracks is really a good move.

The Graphics:
In most respects, Guitar Hero Aerosmith looks pretty much like Legends of Rock. Many of the established Guitar Hero characters appear in the game (including, unfortunately, the grotesque looking band that plays with your guitarist), and they all look exactly the same. The members of Aerosmith have been motion captured, but despite this, they all move awkwardly and disjointedly. Also, the poor aesthetic choices that make the regular Guitar Hero III characters so hard to look at have been carried over to Aerosmith, who look even more strange because we know what they look like in real life. Let's just say that if I were Joe Perry, I wouldn't have let them release the game the way they did. The audience, on the other hand, actually is now full of individual people, not the waves of cardboard cutouts that we got in Legends of Rock. Each of the venues has also been jazzed up to have some connection with Aerosmith.

The Audio:
The audio sounds fantastic, as expected. A few of the tracks, such as "Dream On," were re-recorded for the video game, but only a hardened Aerosmith junkie would know the difference. My only issue is that in some of the songs, particularly the older 70's tracks, Steven Tyler's voice has a tendency to get drowned out. The songs from the 80's onwards all sound fine.

The Conclusion:
Guitar Hero Aerosmith isn't a bad idea, but the execution is so lazy that it's hard to recommend. Yes, there are some great Aerosmith songs here, and most gamers will find the difficulty easier to handle. But several of the band's classics are nowhere to be found, and several boring throwaway tracks are found in their place. Combine that with the fact that the timing window is still way too loose, and it costs as much as Guitar Hero III did, and you have a product that is worth spending some time with, but not owning. Rent It.