TWO posts in one day? Armageddon is nigh. I bring you my first impressions of the newly minted Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. I'm a reasonably big fan of Aerosmith, at least in their pre-butt rock days. Pandora's Box is probably the most played non-Pink Floyd related content on my ipod. I'm not Mike (a much bigger Aerosmith fan than I, even though I bought this game and he didn't), but I'm not some My Chemical Romance-loving emo fruitcake that doesn't know good rock when he hears it.
First impressions after the fold…
First things first, although it took iron discipline, I only purchased the game, so I cannot speak to whatever is included in the Special Edition box. I've got two plastic Gibson Xplorers, a plastic Gibson Les Paul, a plastic Fender Stratocaster (with wires) and another plastic Fender Stratocaster (without wires). While I like the swank new Aerosmith-themed face plate for the Les Paul, I don't need another Les Paul. Certainly not when I'm saving up for a shiny new plastic Fender Telecaster. To that end, the game box is like every other XBox 360 game, it comes with the disc and a booklet that is about 3 micrometers thick – which no human being will ever read.
Second things second, my plastic instrument street cred. I've played Guitar Hero 1, Guitar Hero 2, Guitar Hero: Rock the 80s, Guitar Hero 3 and Rock Band. When it comes to plastic guitars, I'm passable. I've beaten all of the guitar campaigns on Hard, and most of them I've almost beaten on Expert. So the trouble with any new plastic instrument game is likely not going to be the result of me sucking.
Third things third, my bias. I'm a Harmonix guy. Until yesterday afternoon, the exact nature of why I am a Harmonix guy was only vaguely clear. Yesterday's experience with GH:Aerosmith crystalized it nicely. Trying to channel Joe Perry yesterday showed me exactly what my problem is with Neversoft.
They just have no idea how to chart these songs. It isn't always that they make it hard for no reason (although they certainly are guilty of that) – it's that at times, it just feels completely unnatural. There is some mystical gift that Harmonix has, and Neversoft needs to find it (or steal it). When I play guitar tracks in Harmonix titles, it is natural enough that belief is suspended and you feel like you are playing the song. With the two Neversoft games, it feels like I'm just trying to hit colored buttons at the right time with a cool soundtrack playing in the background.
Their biggest crime is hammer-on/pull-offs. In Rock Band, there is just a natural sense of where a HO/PO combo should be. When you expect it, it's there. When you don't, it's not. In GH3 and now GH:Aerosmith, when you expect a combo, it's not there and you plink. When you don't expect it, it's there and you double strum. It seems like it's placed there just to screw with you and make it harder.
I don't ever recall seeing a chord sequence ending with a PO or HO in the Harmonix games. They are all over the place here. And they are irritating. I remember in GH2, in songs like Free Bird, even in long sequences of PO or HO cascades, you had to strum occasionally. In Livin' on the Edge, during the outro, Neversoft treated me to a HO/PO combo that was literally like 70 notes long without a single strum.
I was very excited when Sweet Emotion came up, but it was easily the most frustrating of the tracks to play. So far, it's the Suffragette City of this game. There's still some hope, as my favorite Aerosmith tracks are still in front of me on the Set List (Mama Kin, Back in the Saddle, Toys in the Attic, and Walk This Way).
I would have endured all of this if they had included Seasons of Wither, but that was not to be. In conclusion, I suspect that only hardcore fans of Aerosmith will muscle through this – or people that have only played Guitar Hero 3 and don't know how bad Neversoft is at charting songs. I've given them two chances, buying both of their GH variants on release day. But this is the last time (unless they get Pink Floyd in GH4 :)). Someone needs to get through to them. These games are about the music. It has to feel like you are really playing the music. I can't be worried about the computer trying to break one of my guitar strings, or being forced to play lefty or any of that bullshit. And I can't be standing there wondering why you are trying to make is so impossibly frustrating for no reason at all.
I just want to play songs and enjoy the illusion. Stop breaking it with your shitty note charts.