When someone talks about guitar heroes, certain names often come to mind. They talk about Jimmy Page or Carlos Santana’s soulful style. They talk about Kenny Wayne Shepard’s bluesy-rock and Paul Reynold’s catchy riffs. Wait — what?
If you were able to recognize Paul Reynold’s as the original guitarist from 80’s phenomena and hairstyling rebels Flock of Seagulls do I have a game for you. Get ready to rock the synthesizer and feather your hair; Red Octane and Harmonix are bringing you back in time with Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s.
Anyone who has ever played any of the previous Guitar Hero games will feel right at home with Encore, but for continuity’s sake, and for those who have found a permanent residence under a rock, let’s rundown the basics. Using the game’s guitar controller, you time your presses of colored fret buttons and a strum bar along with the actual notes of the song. Think of it as a digital version of air guitar. The games have become cult phenomena and have grown to be not only the biggest music franchise of all time, but one of the fastest growing gaming franchises in general.
Encore acts more as an expansion pack than a new installment and while it is fun, it does thin out long before the previous games. Any music game, and Guitar Hero especially is only as good as its track list and while there are plenty of big hits in Encore that are incredibly addicting and fun to play (Turning Japanese and the aforementioned Flock of Seagulls hit come to mind) the list seems to be bogged down by slower and lesser known songs. I mean did anyone get excited when they announced songs like “Balls to the Wall” by Accept or “Los Angeles” by X?
It would be easy for any reviewer to sit here and fault Red Octane for choosing a synthesizer driven decade like the 80s, but they made a smart choice from a financial aspect. Retro and especially the 80s are in right now. The track list just seems so light because the previous games weren’t limited to a single decade — there was something from practically every offshoot genre of rock, while we are incredibly limited in Encore to metal, hair metal and pop.
Encore features practically no new content besides a new 80s aesthetic and of course the new songs. There are no new characters, guitars or stages, merely retro versions of what we saw in Guitar Hero 2 (for instance, since there was no Warped Tour in the 80s, a new festival has taken its place). While this is disappointing, not many people are looking to the series for its unlockables, content or story. They play the series for the fun and addicting music gameplay, which is definitely present here in Encore.
Encore is not a bad game by any means; it just does not measure up to the original two in most categories. Those who can’t get enough Guitar Hero, and don’t mind a few boring and no name tracks will feel right at home, but anyone looking to get started in the franchise may want to pick up some of the older installments or wait until this fall when Guitar Hero 3 hits shelves.