Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Review
Walk This Way
It shouldn't be possible, but Guitar Hero: Aerosmith manages to simultaneously offer too much and not enough of the band in question. Basing a game entirely around the output of one has-been band that hasn't had a hit for a decade is a dubious enough notion in the first place, but it's an absolutely idiotic scheme when you ignore a lot of the band's most famous and most recent tracks. So while you get a fair bit of Aerosmith here, you don't get all of the tunes that you were expecting, and you also have to deal with a shortened soundtrack that even a less than stellar plastic guitar god like myself can strum through in day or two. Add in a bunch of third-rate songs from second-rate 70s and 80s acts and a series of incoherent Aerosmith video clips and you've got the worst GH game yet.
With that said, GH: Aerosmith does have one thing going for it over its most recent predecessor, GH III: Legends of Rock--more sensible difficulty. Where GH III was absolutely nutty hard on the higher difficulty settings, GH: Aerosmith dials the challenge back to pretty much what was offered in GH II. So while gameplay is identical to previous GH games in that you still match colored fret buttons on a fake guitar with colored circles on a scrolling fret board on the screen and strum away, the hammer-ons and pull-offs here are a lot easier on the wrists. Only masochists will have an issue with this, as Hard and Expert on GH III were so tough that they just about ruined the entire game. The only lingering annoyance here is the gulf between Medium and Hard. There shouldn't be so much of a jump. After the mild step up between Easy and Medium, you hit a wall of spread-out chords with Hard that's spectacularly frustrating for noobs. As with the earlier GH games, it feels like there's a difficulty setting missing somewhere.
Unfortunately, the trade-off for playability is a disjointed soundtrack. I've been a lukewarm-hot Aerosmith fan since high school back in the early 80s, so I was really disappointed that the game didn't include more of the band's output, and that the songs that were there were presented in such a garbled manner. Neither the band's 70s heyday or 80s-90s renaissance is really featured here. The campaign purports to take you through Aerosmith's entire career, with levels based on key moments such as the group's first gig at Nipmuc High School, their record-deal set at Max's Kansas City, and their big 1984 reunion gig at the Orpheum in Boston, but the songs for each segment are spread all through the band's career due to leaning on recently recorded live tracks and aren't fully representative. So you never get the feeling like you're progressing through Aerosmith's 30-year life on the charts.
At Nipmuc, for instance, you play a re-recorded "Make It" from 2008, "Draw the Line" from 1977, and "Uncle Salty" from 1975. At Max's, you play a re-recorded "Movin' Out" from 2008, "No Surprize" from 1979, and "Sweet Emotion" from 1975. I can understand why Aerosmith wouldn't have wanted to include the original "Make It" and "Movin' Out," as they were on the band's terribly recorded first album. But using new live cuts is a poor decision as they sound awfully modern and very different from anything dating from 1973. Using only a new live take on "Dream On" in the Great American Band level is another big let down, although at least this recording is more vibrant and nostalgia-oriented.