The last few months have been pretty good to Metallica.
The heavy metal icons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 4 in their first year of eligibility. They released a new album last fall — “Death Magnetic” — that most critics called their best in more than a decade and which won them two Grammys. And in late March, Metallica teamed up with Activision to release “Guitar Hero: Metallica.”
The folks behind “Guitar Hero” probably didn’t have a very long list of acts they felt could carry a game. And Metallica, one of the best selling American groups in history, was obviously high on the list.
The game, which follows “Guitar Hero: Aerosmith” as the only band-specific games in the series, is largely a success because of the partnership between Metallica and the game designers.
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The Aerosmith game felt like a band going through the motions to make a quick buck. Metallica went into the studio and motion captured many of the game’s songs. When he jumps up from his drum kit at the beginning of “Master of Puppets,” Lars Ulrich is simulating his movements at a Metallica show. This goes on throughout the set list, with hardcore Metallica fans greeted by treats throughout, including the fan-led “die” chants during the song “Creeping Death,” and numerous famous venues and set designs from previous tours. There are also tons of unlockable instruments and venues, rare videos of live performances, artwork and photos.
Much like with the Aerosmith game, your enjoyment of “Guitar Hero: Metallica” will ultimately depend on your fondness for the band. The gameplay is the same as in the past, and every “Guitar Hero” fan should enjoy the game and the tremendous difficulty of playing the band’s difficult songs, particularly with mainstream tunes like “Enter Sandman,” “The Unforgiven” and “Nothing Else Matters” in the game. But the band has a sprawling discography, and all 11 albums are represented among the 28 Metallica songs — 38 if you download the “Death Magnetic” album tracks.
The game also includes 21 songs from friends of the band or from bands that have influenced Metallica. Mercyful Fate’s King Diamond and Motörhead’s Lemmy are both unlockable as playable characters.
The storyline is pretty underwhelming — you create a band that is trying to open for Metallica — but unlocking the band’s instruments and famous venues throughout the main story is a treat. The developers could have also provided additional downloadable content, perhaps in the form of live tracks. But those are two minor negatives in an otherwise brilliant representation of Metallica’s career.