Let’s see, I reviewed Guitar Hero II for the PlayStation 2 in November of last year, then the Xbox 360 version this past April, and now Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80s again for the PlayStation 2. You might think I’d get tired of this whole Guitar Hero phenomenon, but you’d be wrong. Seriously, how can you get enough of a good thing? This time around the music series takes us back to the 1980s, when New Wave and Big Hair Bands ruled the charts. So grab your guitars fellow rockers, they’re calling for an encore!
Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80s is more of an expansion than a full-on sequel. It’s essentially Guitar Hero II with a 1980s theme, consisting of songs from the decade, with fashions and artwork that reflect the time period. The mechanics of the game are identical to Guitar Hero II, which means it features a Practice Mode in addition to the new venues and multiplayer modes of its predecessor. The biggest difference, of course, is the song list, which consists entirely of tracks released during the 80s.
You could argue how Guitar Hero Encore’s track list ranks with respect to the previous two installments in the series. For me, Guitar Hero II featured a more, well rounded selection of songs. That being said, Rock the 80s features an eclectic mix of tunes, such as “I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock of Seagulls, “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Gos, The Vapors’ “Turning Japanese,” “The Warrior” by Scandal, “I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister, “What I Like About You” from The Romantics, “Ballroom Blitz” by Krokus, The Police’s “Synchronicity II”; the list of classics goes on and on. If there are any criticisms to be made, it’s not with the song choices, but rather the number of songs offered, and perhaps the quality of the recordings.
Let’s start with the number of songs. Guitar Hero Encore features 30 tracks. That’s six sets of five tracks. In contrast, Guitar Hero II offered 40 tracks, in addition to 15 unlockable songs. Guitar Hero II, minus the beautiful cherry red Gibson SG guitar controller, retailed for $49.99 USD. Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80s, which does not include any unlockable songs, retails for $49.99 USD. Do you see the problem here? You simply don’t get the same bang for your buck and in that regard, it’s a little disappointing.
Like previous installments in the series, most of the tracks in Guitar Hero Encore are covers, meaning the original artist's recording isn't being used. In most cases you can’t tell the difference, and that’s a testament to the excellent work of the recording team, however I found in Guitar Hero Encore that a lot of the songs had very muted vocals. The guitar normally trumps the vocals, but here it was especially noticeable that you couldn’t hear the lyrics of some of the songs. Also, I found the tracks in Guitar Hero Encore to be a little easier to play through than past installments. It was only during the “Furious Fretwork” set that it started to become challenging, than the tour comes to an end. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Anyone who has struggled making the transition from Easy to Medium difficulty, or Medium to Hard, will certainly appreciate the gentle learning curve in Rock the 80s. On the other hand, expert players will probably find this installment the easiest in the Guitar Hero series.
I recently criticized the PSP version of PaRappa the Rapper for not offering enough bang for the buck and I’m afraid I’m going to have to do the same here for Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80s. Considering it contains less than two thirds of the number of songs offered in Guitar Hero II, it really should have been at least $10 cheaper. Let’s face it though, Guitar Hero fans, much like myself, will have a hard time passing up another great set of songs to rock out to, especially those who grew up in the 80s and can appreciate the songs of that decade. To those individuals, I say this: rock on!