Developer Harmonix and publisher Red Octane made history in 2005 with the release of Guitar Hero for the PS2 proving that you didn't have to dance like a geek to enjoy music games. Now with the sequel, Guitar Hero II, due in stores this week FiringSquad got a chance to chat briefly with Red Octane PR rep Bryan Lam about the game that is all set to rock harder than the first.
FiringSquad: First, the original Guitar Hero became a sleeper hit. Were Harmonix and RedOctane surprised by the response?
Bryan Lam: We always felt Guitar Hero would resonate with a particular audience of gamers, though its popularity has definitely grown much larger and quicker than what we initially thought it would be. Now with the millions of fans worldwide clamoring on every news item, it has certainly taken on a life of its own.
FiringSquad: When the time came to work on the sequel, what were the development team's main goals?
Bryan Lam: The main goal was to take the same insane rock experience that everyone enjoyed in the first game, and really turn it up another 11 notches. Why mess with something that isnít broke? So with the designated lead time for development, licensing of songs, the addition of a slew of new content and features, we really tried to expand further on the game play experience to be even more addictive than the original! The ability to develop a successful sequel and improve the game by leaps and bounds is extremely rare these days, though we believe Guitar Hero II has accomplished just that.
FiringSquad: What sort of feedback did you get from fans of the game and from rock guitarists that made it into the final version?
Bryan Lam: Youíd be surprised by how many rock bands are enthralled with Guitar Hero, and is their favorite game. Just the other day, the guitarist from New Found Glory called my direct line and asked what songs made it into this yearís set listÖI thought that was pretty crazy. Then I was reading through SPIN magazine last month, and Panic! At The Disco was talking about how they play Guitar Hero every chance they get while on tour. I can go on and on about all the different bands that are obsessed with it and want to be a part of the game, though thatíd take an extremely long time.
To be honest, in regards to feedback, we listen to absolutely everyoneís ideas, and itís truly a grassroots and wholly effective effort. After taking everything into consideration, almost every feature that our fans have asked for, weíre now providing them in Guitar Hero II. Iíll get into more detail later about our new features, though briefly, weíve added in a new practice mode, pro-face off, co-op mode, and a host of new songs, characters, venues, and unlockable content.
FiringSquad:What differences are there between the controller in the first game and in Guitar Hero II?
Bryan Lam: The most obvious is the color, as itís now Classic Red. It still has the same familiar Gibson SG shape, though there have been some minor improvements such as the fret buttons being slightly raised, the strum bar has been tightened, and the chord has been reinforced because players were just rocking out too hard and yanking out the wire! Though these differences certainly arenít anything major, itís subtle enough for the hardcore Guitar Hero fan to notice and appreciate.
FiringSquad:The game has a new practice mode. What can you tell us about the new addition?
Bryan Lam: It was definitely a much needed and requested feature! If you were able to conquer Bark at The Moon on expert within the first ten thousand tries, then you deserve some major props. Though admittedly, I know I was real close to slamming my guitar on the ground more than a few times! With practice mode, players will be stoked to now be able to pick different songs, select specific sections of that song, slow it up to four different speeds, and master it until they get it right.