Guitar Hero II hands-on

Thursday 11 May 2006
Unofficial music business lore states that if an artist's first major-label album is a smash hit, the follow-up is almost doomed to underachieve. It happens all the time. However, ten minutes on the show floor at E3 is all we needed to know for sure that the Guitar Hero series, which gives you a guitar-shaped controller and lets you play rock god, is absolutely not going to fall victim to that age-old curse.

The thing the game does right is preserve everything that made the first game a chart-topper. Using the same guitar controller as before (though it will now come with more stickers and possibly new colour schemes), you 'play' the colour-coded notes that fall to the bottom of the screen by tapping buttons with your left hand and strumming a lever with your right. Do well, and you can tilt the guitar up in the ultimate pose and trigger the bonus meter. And you do it to some of the most timeless, hard-rocking music ever created by electronically-amplified mankind.

Above: Co-op players share the same star meter and can strike their axe-wielding pose together

You want the sing-along classics, you say? Well, how about Van Halen's version of 'You Really Got Me' - you've heard that one, right? Or perhaps you're into the tragically obscure Reverend Horton Heat? If you're not, you will be after the raucous 'Psychobilly Freakout'. We burned through both tunes - two players at a time.

That's the big addition, in fact. If you've got an axe plugged into both control ports, two players can jam together on the same song, with one playing the lead part and the other playing either the bass line or a rhythm guitar part (depending upon the song). You can even choose two separate levels of difficulty, so folks looking for more challenge can still hang out with their less-awesome peers. Oh, and the bonus meter is shared in co-op mode, so you both have to do the pose together in order to trigger it.

You'll also get at least two new characters and a ton more guitars with which to play some 50+ songs, including 'Strutter' by Kiss, 'YYZ' by prog rock kings Rush, Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs' and the Butthole Surfers' 'Who Was In My Room Last Night?'. Get ready people, because the band's getting back together.

Eric Bratcher
I was the founding Executive Editor/Editor in Chief here at GR, charged with making sure we published great stories every day without burning down the building or getting sued. Which isn't nearly as easy as you might imagine. I don't work for GR any longer, but I still come here - why wouldn't I? It's awesome. I'm a fairly average person who has nursed an above average love of video games since I first played Pong just over 30 years ago. I entered the games journalism world as a freelancer and have since been on staff at the magazines Next Generation and PSM before coming over to GamesRadar. Outside of gaming, I also love music (especially classic metal and hard rock), my lovely wife, my pet pig Bacon, Japanese monster movies, and my dented, now dearly departed '89 Ranger pickup truck. I pray sincerely. I cheer for the Bears, Bulls, and White Sox. And behind Tyler Nagata, I am probably the GR staffer least likely to get arrested... again.