Guitar Hero II - latest hands-on

RedOctane may have carved out a small niche for itself by making dance pads, but it was last year's release of Guitar Hero that put the company on the map. A surprisingly addictive blend of gameplay, good music and a sweet Gibson-inspired, guitar controller all added up to a resounding success. Now the company is back for round two, and this year's revision is looking better than ever thanks to a packed song list and the addition of a few requested features.

Numero uno on the list of improvement is the inclusion of a three-button chord. It sounds like a simple tweak, but moving that extra finger ups the challenge level by a noticeable degree. Mix in a fast moving song such as Rush's "YYZ" or Dick Dale's "Misirlou" and suddenly everyone who complained about Guitar Hero being "too easy" will be eating their words.

To help players master the difficult spots, an in-depth training mode has been added. Training allows you to play all (or part) of a troublesome song so you can master the chord patterns and jam like a true rock star on all of the game's 60 plus tracks.

About the only player complaint unaddressed in the sequel is the use of covers. While there are a few originals such as Primus' "John the Fisherman", the biggest titles are all covers. We asked about it and were told the problem is an archival one. In order for a song to work with Guitar Hero 's engine, a multi-track master has to be available and in most cases those master tapes simply don't exist anymore (undiscussed but undeniable is that the original recordings also cost more because you have to license both the song and that particular performance).