Love/Hate: Rhythm Games

Guitar Hero was an amazing experience back in 2005. Activision and Harmonix knew that gamers were all hyped up for better graphics with the coming 360, so instead of trying to make a power house of technology, they just used creativity.

Who would know that four years later, we would be getting ready for the launch of the 18th Guitar Hero game this week (number may be exaggerated)? I can’t say that Guitar Hero isn’t a game that I love, but I also can’t say that I don’t hate the series.

Now, I never got into the craze in 2005 as I was an idiot (I stopped caring about PS2 for some reason). When Guitar Hero II was finally ported to 360, I got pumped. I bought it immediately after getting home from college (with money from sold books) and played it for a solid four months straight. After that, I had to get ready for school again.

It turns out my college friends were huge into the game, too. Forget studying, Guitar Hero was the way to go. Only a few months into the semester and we were treated to the glorious (and ridiculously difficult) Guitar Hero III. I was ecstatic.

Every night for the next seven months, I played this game. I even gave the rival, Rock Band, a try. I loved that as it had different songs. “Wow, I love these games. They can never get old, regardless of how many they put out.”

Those are honest to goodness thoughts I had at one point. While I didn’t care about Rock the 80’s, I think it was around the time Guitar Hero: Aerosmith was announced that I began to notice something. Guitar Hero is Neversoft’s new Tony Hawk.

Neversoft are some of the laziest developers in the game industry (a tiny bit of hyperbole there). Instead of going back to the drawing board with each game, they simply slapped new songs in and just kept going. This kind of short cutting wasn’t going to cut it for me.

I still ended up buying the next game in the series, World Tour. I even got a little excited for Metallica as I love the band, but how can I keep this up? I began joking that we would eventually see about 8 or 9 Guitar Hero games in a year.

It turns out that is actually true for 2009. Metallica, 5, Band Hero, On Tour: Modern Hits, Van Halen, Smash Hits and even DJ Hero if you include the guitar sections. How has this happened to what used to be one of the most innovative ideas in gaming? It is absolutely ludicrous how many titles have come out in the span of four years.

Harmonix was the original developer and they left after the third Guitar Hero game to pursue a similar title with a different direction. While at first I thought Rock Band was a better game (including drums and mics to let more people in), it turns out that money talks more than innovation.

A sequel was inevitable (and was actually far better than the first game), but DLC started pouring out into the hundreds (and has actually surpassed 1,000 total songs). This wouldn’t be so bad if the DLC was actual content that the masses wanted.

Harmonix seems to just dump content into their game to say, “We have X. We’re so cool!” Not only that, the songs that were in Guitar Hero originally have eventually made their way over to Rock Band. Nearly every song from III is up for DLC and a bunch of the songs from World Tour are included.

To make matters worse, Harmonix decided to copy Neversoft’s lead and start making band based games. Sure the Beatles are worthy of a game like Rock Band, but Green Day? Where does it end? They even have an AC/DC Track Pack and a bunch of random discs containing DLC.

This is coming…be warned!

Harmonix was supposed to differentiate their games by allowing people to expand their libraries through DLC. What happened to that concept? Why release a disc when it just clutters up space in game store shelves?

The point is money. Money talks more than anything to these people. What was first a superb idea is now something that makes me sick to my stomach. I thought that some day I would look back on my college years and think of all the fun I had with friends, goofing off on Guitar Hero in one of gaming’s best periods.

Instead, I’ll always look back on how much of a sucker I was. I hopelessly bought the Guitar Hero games like a religion. I even downloaded DLC like it was a disease. I’ve wasted hundreds of dollars on this crap and for what? For me to look back at Harmonix and Neversoft as evil.