The first 11 months of 2009 were great for band-specific music games.
The outstanding “Guitar Hero: Metallica” received a spring release and became one of the most underrated games of the year.
Harmonix later unveiled “The Beatles: Rock Band,” which would set the standard for band-centered music games.
But the third band-specific game that was released last year ruined the perfect streak.
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“Guitar Hero: Van Halen” was easily the worst music game released in 2009, and it might be better than only the awful “Rock Revolution” in terms of current generation music games.
The game’s shortcomings didn’t really come as a shock.
I figured something was up when the game was offered free to those who purchased “Guitar Hero 5.”
It was released in stores in December, but I truly hope that those who own the game did get it for free.
Activision and Neversoft, however, shouldn’t receive all of the blame.
The developers created a game that is on par with past releases from a technical standpoint. It didn’t have all the features of “Guitar Hero 5,” but it largely offered the same gameplay experience as the Metallica and Aerosmith iterations of the game.
The larger problems stemmed from an apparent lack of cooperation from the band.
Van Halen appears to contribute just enough to get the game released. There are no behind-the-scenes features or videos of the band. Both the Aerosmith and Metallica games featured famous venues from the bands’ history, but that feature is absent here.
Only half the songs are actually Van Halen tracks. Grouped alongside the band’s tracks are songs from bands like Fountains of Wayne, Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World. Regardless of how anyone feels about those bands, most would agree that Van Halen’s contemporaries would be better suited as guest stars.
Also, all the Van Halen tracks are from the David Lee Roth-era. The game ignores the contributions of former members, particularly Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony. Hagar had plenty of noteworthy songs with the band, and they would certainly fit in better than ones from Alter Bridge and Yellowcard.
The game has a hastily contrasted career mode that offers nothing special aside from playing the songs from the set list.
Expecting bands to contribute as much time and input as Metallica and The Beatles did might be asking a bit much. But they should at least contribute something. Their name is on the game, after all.