Review: Guitar Hero

Normally I’m not much of a game player. My idea of a good game is Time Pilot: one joystick, one button, and the objective is to shoot everything. Your bullets don’t hurt any good guys, only bad guys, so you can basically descend into a frenzy of carpal-tunnel-inducing button mashing.

This year I got several non-traditional video games for Christmas. One of the games that I’ve really been enjoying is Guitar Hero, a PlayStation 2 game from Harmonix. (Disclosure: The lead programmer of Guitar Hero and I were in grad school together. But don’t take my word for it; other people like it too.)

What’s special about Guitar Hero? First, it comes with neat guitar controller with five colored buttons on the frets. When you see a note come at you on the screen, you push the button for that note. It’s easier than it sounds, at least on the lower levels. On the early levels, the game is easy enough that you can strut around and show off as you play “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones. If you nail certain notes, you gain Star Power, which can let you rack up extra points. To start using your Star Power, just point the guitar toward the sky–the controller has a motion sensor built in.

It’s hard to describe, but the game really pulls you in, especially if you take turns with 3-4 people. A group of us spent most of Christmas Day playing it, which resulted in this:

We won!

But my absolute favorite part of the game? It also comes with stickers of flames, stars, etc. Instead of using the stickers on the mini-guitar, I slapped a skull-and-bones sticker on my laptop so it looks totally bad-ass. Unless you’re going through airport security, and then you feel a little sheepish.

I’d definitely recommend Guitar Hero if you play video games. What video games are you enjoying now?

(Yeah yeah, I’m still traveling and not approving new commenters, blah blah.)

80 Responses to Review: Guitar Hero (Leave a comment)

  1. Definately Asteroids and I have the firefox ‘pong’ extension.

  2. I’d own you anyday mr cutts πŸ˜‰ hehe

  3. Pong, eh? Hmm…

  4. I only play Flying Shark on Mame emulator.

    Shoot shoot shoot πŸ™‚

  5. As you were talking about 1 button games and old joysticks it reminded me that the best ever game in the world is coming back this year to the XBOX,PS2 etc….

    OK – You Americans prob wont care but Senible Soccer is coming back – yay πŸ™‚ – Cant wait.

    Matt – I think you mentioned before that you were ok with soccer – this game has legendary status amongst some so you might want to check it out when released in a few months.



  6. I used to be a huge gamer but Sega was the last machine I bought.

    One day the games just got boring as I like the rapid fire shoot ’em up space epics and the rest of the world went kick boxing.


  7. Still Snood, my alltime favourite video game. I’ve been thinking about getting a PS or an Xbox to upgrade myself on the gaming front, now that they have guitars and all as input devices.

  8. Call me old but I think most new video games are far too complicated. When I’m travelling I always take my trusted old Nintendo Gameboy with me to pass the time and the only ever game I still play is the classic “Tetris”.

    For me it is so addictive as I always want to beat my last score. I would set myself targets to achieve but once you get past 1 million it becomes really hard.

  9. Ah, games. One of my past times. πŸ™‚ Having grown up with a dad who was really big in to computers, he had his trash 80, but got me a vic 20 and one game, jupiter lander. I would play that for ever. I also remember spending hundreds of dollars in the 80’s on games like Frogger, Tempest, Dragon Slayer, Donkey Kong and so on. I became so addicted to games that by the time online gaming hit the scene, I was a seasoned vet. Currentley I play anything from the Battlefield series from EA games, bf1942, bfv, and bf2. Those games are really fun, especially if you use team speak. However, I still have a sentimental fondness for the classics and built my own 5000+ game arcade cabinet, takes quarters and everything. Covers the 80’s and 90’s. When I am not doing SEO, i am playing a 3d shooter or popping 25 cents in to my arcade. πŸ™‚

  10. Man I loved Time Pilot, gotta admit my al time favorite was Zaxxon with those 3-D graphics

  11. I prefer ‘computer games’ rather than ‘video games’. In that case Call of Duty has been the best. AOE3 is good if you are a computer genious and can get it to work.

  12. Got this game for Christmas and loved it.

    After getting blisters on my fingers from playing it to much, I had to take a break for a while.

    If you like Rock music and have secretly dreamed of being a Rock Star, this is the game for you!

  13. new fav of mine is sid meyer’s pirates. It was an old genesis game way back in the early 90’s, and they just re-released an upgraded version for the xbox.

    Come on, who doesn’t enjoy sailing around, sword fighting, and saying “arrgh!”

  14. Madden is the best two player game ever created.

  15. “I Wanna Be Sedated” has one of the best music videos ever. Sorry, I mean “best video EVAR!”

    Other classic Ramones must include Substitute and Out of Time.

    From Substitute I simply adore the lyrics;

    o/~ I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth.
    The North side of my town faced East and the east was facing South. o/~

    Google Lyrics search anyone? Or would that risk the wrath of the musak industry?

  16. Any of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. I can’t get enough. Probably because I’m too old to skate anymore, and THPS is the next best thing.

  17. I’m pretty much sick of the tony hawk series after T.H.U.G 1. It’s gotten old and stale and redundant as hell. They need to stop. I have enjoyed the games (namely 2, 3, and 4 – the ones that actually have skateboarding in them) over the years but it’s time for neversoft to do something else.

    Matt – I’ve been looking out for Guitar Hero but can’t find it anywhere. It’s been getting great reviews and I’m a closet air guitar champ so I hope to get my hands on it soon.

  18. One game that I could recommend is Everquest. This is an online game by Sony. I must say though that if you are a very competitive person AVOID this game. It can become very addicting. I have seen people new to the game get involved in it and forget all about their real lives.

    It is a very challenging game and also a very social game. I would personally recommend this game to those who enjoy a challenge and have the next 3 years to play : )

  19. Zaxxon was great. I hated trying to get through stuff not knowing how high your ship really was though.

  20. The best game ever is Mario Bros 1. I am 23 now and I can’t get the song out of my head!

  21. “Everquest”
    That game may be fun, but you are correct, it is a very addictive game.

    Do a google on evercrack and see.

    for those that want the link:

  22. Everquest.. So many good and bad memories at the same time. I’ve triumphed of my addiction 2 years ago and still consider re-installing it on my computer and play again!

    Well, I’m lying, I never de-installed it, I couldn’t convince myself to do so, but I swear I haven’t played it since I stopped!

    Anyway, like Valentine, I’m back to less dangerous stuff.. Tetris the way to go (as well as the original Mario and Zelda)!

  23. TIME PILOT!!! Best game EVER!

    Thanks for the memory rush, Matt. Who’s the lead programmer of Guitar Hero? I must have gone to grad school with him too…


    PS Yeah, I keep hearing great things about Guitar Hero. My friend on the faculty here just bought it at great risk to our SIGGRAPH paper effort…

    PPS Feel free to kill this comment…was mostly a lazy way to write you. Hope you’re doing well! I enjoy reading your blog occasionally.

  24. Matt, when’s the GoogleBox coming out? =)
    All the best games are on xbox360 right now. My favorite game right now is Ridge Racers 6. The online races are intense.

  25. Dave and Buster’s in Mission Valley should be on your SD list of places to hit. Ahh, having a nice young lady bring you a beer while you play video games. That is living.

  26. Come now… one can’t really beat nethack. It’s been around for a couple of decades, and doesn’t need much more than a terminal to run πŸ™‚ It extended grad school for me by a good year.

  27. One of the absolutely fun games that I have played in the past year has been God of War.

    The game is a bit ‘adult’ since it is pretty violent, and has an adult mini-game (tee hee). Regardless, it is rather original in its fighting system. The moves are fun, and everything about the game is just cool.

  28. I sound like a 16 year old in the last post…I’m really not! πŸ™‚

    Should that be cause for embarrassment? lol

  29. not quite16 yet eh?


  30. There is only one game “Half-Life” (and it’s sequel)!

  31. Guitar Hero rocks. Literally. I can’t remember when I had so much fun with a group of adults sitting around playing a video game together. (Actually I can — Mario Kart Racing over a decade ago…)

    If you’re looking to buy it, don’t spend $145 (no kidding!) for it on eBay — the maker,, sells it online for the actual price of $69.

    Oh, and I’m with Ryan. Sid Meier’s Pirates is still supercool. So is Katamari and Lego Star Wars. Okay, back to the Search Engine Marketing job…

  32. SOCOM2 Owns All.. nuff said

  33. I’m currently playing Call of Duty 2 (PC). Already beat it on normal and hard and now going for veteran difficulty – also deathmatching online. What can I say…I love first person shooters and WW II. Combine them both and I’m in heaven.

    God of War is probably my pick for best game of 2005. Absolutely phenomenal in all categories except game length – it’s short and sweet.

    Holding out for the PS3 – I’m thoroughly unimpressed with the 360 at all (so far). The launch games are a complete joke. The launch itself was embarassing for both microsoft and game retailers – not to mention a slap in the face for those who pre-ordered it months ago and still didn’t get theirs on launch day. Surely a juggernaut like Microsoft could do a better job than this. I’m calling you out, J. Allard.

  34. Gotta play Bomberman 4 or 5 on SNES with a few buddies.

  35. SingStar Party 2 is the must game if you have a family full of wannabe pop idols πŸ™‚

    I was a singer/guitarist by trade and believe me even i struggled to hit the right notes. The game is a blast.

  36. I plan to get myself a copy of Quake4 and throw down pretty soon. Any game the involves thought is extremely boring, running around blowing up stuff rocks.

    The thought of Matt slamming on a axe just makes one fall of their chair in laughter…Muhaha! Got a video clip of this? Pictures? Come on Matt you snapped a shot of the screen, let’s see-um! =P

  37. The best racing game is Nascar Racing 2003, when your in a big pack 3wide it can be quite the rush. Papyrus is no longer around, but the comunity does some cool updates. I’m orginally from New York city but redneck games can be fun.

  38. Check out this post about problems with the AdWords Budget Optimizer:

  39. Battlefield 2. I’m surprised nobody mentioned it as I’m only playing the online demo (up to 64 players online) and I’m already thinking I may need to go through a 12 step program to stop πŸ˜‰


  40. Goldeneye for N64 set the stage for First Person Shooters. It started the whole first person shooter entourage, then a couple years later counterstrike came out and it took the stage. XBOX then comes out with Halo and Halo 2 and here we are. The only game that PS2 has that comes remotely close to competing is Grand Theft Auto. I think it is weird how people find the game offensive since it is a game of free will. You don’t NEED to shoot someones brains out, or pick up a hooker, drive to the back ally, watch the car bounce vigorously for 30 seconds… let her out.. run her over… collect the cash… thats entrily up to the type of person you are… If your a true gentleman you would walk one of the old ladies that calls you an ass**** ever so calmly across the street as some enraged driver burns the red light and splashes your brains all over the road.

    OK, so I am wrong it has potential to be bad. But that is because the lack of parenting behind what children should play and shouldn’t play. I mentioned to a woman online about the game…and I was like really… how old is your child… 6 years old… I was like well I don’t think you should let your child play a game where one of the missions is called “waste the wife”…. she had no clue about the game.

    Warcraft 3 is as addicting as Everquest… so if you have gaming addiction problems… cross this game off your list πŸ˜‰

  41. not quite16 yet eh?


  42. Thanks for the review, as a result I’ve decided to pick this up as a birthday present for a friend. My favorite comment from one of the Amazon reviews is “When you start really nailing the songs, you forget that you don’t really know how to play a guitar. You just start ROCKING!”.

  43. currently playing HalfLife2 .. (again!)

  44. Going retro

    Command and Conquer

  45. Civilization IV. Many people say they feel a huge difference between it and the earlier versions, I don’t. Not yet anyways. Of course I love the earlier Civilizations and it all started when I played the original on Super Nintendo. I love the thought of building my own civilization only later to destroy all humanity with my nukes and Mech Infantry (of course I have never been able to do that… always have to go for the cultural victory or space race).

    It’s a great game if you are into Strategy based games. I haven’t had the chance to play multi-player yet, but I’m assured it’s amazing. I’m not so sure about how well it plays against people you don’t know as many try timed turns only giving 20-30 seconds making building anything other than military is hard to do as well as trading. I’ll try playing with some friends sometime, but will never give-in to the 20-30 seconds/turn to build a civilization.

    (Yes, I’m finally back from ‘vacation’)

  46. I love “Hot Shots Golf” on my PSP and it’s even more fun if you play it with a group of SEOs via WIFI on a plane ride. Though nobody managed to control the plane, yet. πŸ˜‰

  47. Continuum. Very cool, early-3D game where you had to “bounce” an object through a series of increasingly-complex, randomly generated “rooms.” Sounds weird to describe, but it was actually quite difficult and engrossing. Not to be confused with Subspace Continuum.

  48. Matt

    Any more info on Big Daddy – I posted on WMW my comments that my homepage is getting crawled and some pages linked from the homepage are getting crawled – eg it looks like Google is correctly crawling my site after a long period of problems.

    These pages dont rank very well at the moment – but hopefully crawling and ranking will improve with time…

    Would this be the sort of signs I should be looking for after problems that my site might have had.

    I would appreciate any feedback you are able to give – thanks πŸ™‚


  49. I seen that guitar hero game earlt this year at the digital life expo here in NYC Everyone was on line to play it.

    I myself have not played a game since my Atari 2600 broke 20 years ago. Think I still have some activision games around here somewhere.

  50. I’m addicted to Project Gotham 3 on the Xbox 360 at the moment. It looks amazing but it plays great as well. πŸ™‚

  51. I don’t have time for RPG’s. I like the Rush series of driving games. You can just pick it up and have fun even if you haven’t played for a year

    The Star Wars Lightsaber Battle Game looks really cool and gets good reviews at Amazon. You battle 2-D characters on the screen with a wireless lightsaber. Supposedly it tracks very well. We got he kids one for Christmas but they’re too distracted by Battlefront II & Call Of Duty.

  52. Come on Matt, we know there are pictures of you playing that thing, let’s see them! πŸ˜‰

  53. Is a mullet required? πŸ˜‰

  54. Oh what a wonderful day it was when the mayor approved my police uniform. I have no idea why I get those funny looks. Guess the guys are all wondering where I put my badge.

    Resident Evil Baby..all the way!

  55. Heh. Did I mention a Google Lyric search before anyone else?,GGGL:2005-09,GGGL:en&q=sabotage+&spell=1

    Okay. I know you guys were probably miles into a music search project before I said anything but it is very cool to see music in the onebox. (Though I may have the magic cookie and not everyone may be able to see these little blue notes in the SERPs there).

  56. Thats a great work! What a wonderful list of songs that i have ever seen.I love it cause i like rock music. I m waiting for the Guitar Hero III.

  57. Multimediaboy

    That game IS Bad-Ass
    I’m about to beat it on Expert mode man and I M only 13!!!

  58. I don’t have time for RPG’s. I like the Rush series of driving games. You can just pick it up and have fun even if you haven’t played for a year

    The Star Wars Lightsaber Battle Game looks really cool and gets good reviews at Amazon. You battle 2-D characters on the screen with a wireless lightsaber. Supposedly it tracks very well. We got he kids one for Christmas but they’re too distracted by Battlefront II & Call Of Duty.

  59. Bought a new PC just for games and video editing recently. Enjoyed reading about everybody’s favorites. I noticed a local EB games store with some demo machines had a big sign that said “NO GUITAR HERO” – meaning no one could play it. People were driving the store employees nuts. My favorite game was an old PC game called “Outwars” . Ist person alien shooter. I was so addicted to it I finally had to break the CD in half to get back to SEO and web development. Right now its Gettsberg and World Poker Tour (with only the background sounds on.)

  60. I wish you hadn’t written the review on Guitar Hero. I just bought a new box for games and video editing, and a new car – I can’t afford any more toys right this minute! I was rereading this blog and now I’ve got Guitar Hero on the brain. I’ve got a nice surround sound system that could really pump out some electric guitar. I used to play the guitar a thousand years ago – Guitar Hero sounds like a great way to play like a rock star. Now if they could throw in the lifestyle with including groupies, etc., they could get a lot more than a C-note or whatever it is for the game!

  61. Yeah Asteroids was the first video game I ever played on the Atari 2600 I got for a grading present. I loved it, I found games now a days are just to hard, I mean I play to have fun not to get frusterated.

    Man I sound like an old fart!

  62. Nobody played pac-man??, hows that possible. What about dig-dug, ever heard of that one?

  63. Like Mauricio said Mario Bros is the best game ever built, although i never got past 3 levels :). But it was fun and it still is if only i could get copy of it again for pc.

  64. I seen that guitar hero game earlt this year at the digital life expo here in NYC Everyone was on line to play it.

    I myself have not played a game since my Atari 2600 broke 20 years ago. Think I still have some activision games around here somewhere

  65. still have updates… is really mullet required? i do try for this game to find something new where i never try this game so far.

    thanks matt for introduction to new commers.

  66. Pong? I used to play that a while…got boring in like; 10 minutes. xD
    My all time fave game is like the sims and guitar hero and w/e. (what/ever, if anyone doesnt know what w/e means.) =)

  67. last system i got was the X-Box, got it like 3 yrs ago =)

  68. OH OH OH! I played pac-man and dig-dug! i have this game that has like 10 old games in 1 like pac-man, mrs pac man, dig-dug, galaga, galaxian, pac-world and w/e! =)

  69. ps3 by far is the best Ive seen for graphics. Mind blowing!

  70. Exciting but hard to play and it takes too much time!

  71. I have been hooked on EA’s Fifa Football (that’s soccer to the US readers) for years, currently I play it on Xbox 360 but started out on SEGA.

    Since online play came along my football gaming life has had its highs and lows depending on whether I am on a winning or losing streak.

    The fact EA also have an online world ranking makes the pursuit of glory even more addictive, the highest I ever got was 237th in 2006, but currently I am languishing well outside the top 10,000.

    I have destroyed many a controller and vowed never to return, but I always do, I have searched on Google for a Fifa Football Support Group, but it doesn’t seem to exist – is it only me?

    Earlier this year I even swapped my copy of Fifa 2007 for another game (Call of Duty 3) as I was having a very bad streak and struggling to get used to the new 2007 control system…a week later I went and brought another copy!

  72. big deal i’ve beat it on every difficulty meaning easy,medium,hard,and expert.

  73. Hey, guitar hero is awesome! I really really really love this game. Aside from blizzard computer game titles this owns. I am recently playing wow a lot too, is where I get all my cheats if ne1 is interested. Keep up the reviews!

  74. I myself have not played a game since my Atari 2600 broke 20 years ago. Think I still have some activision games around here somewhere.

    : )

  75. Guitar hero is a seriously cool game, and it’s taking off in a huge way. So much so, that they’ve released a sequel – one dedicated to 80’s guitar-god rock only. Lol, that sounds great.
    Seriously though, I wish I had the time to play computer games. I remember the days when I used to spend hours on Wing Commander. Now, THERE was a game. Of course, it was one of those games you had to spend solo (no one else can play) but that game always had me permanently hooked. I remember a few years ago being hooked on Freelancer as well – a Wing Commander type game (From the same designer.) Since then, I haven’t been able to play a thing, and I sometimes miss spending useless hours of time in front of a computer game. Sigh.

  76. Well. I just got this. and I’m the best in my WHOLE family so far. When we had this chalet, there was this whole line of people wanting to challenge me at Guitar Battle. I smoked all of em. hee hee.

  77. Dude Guitar Hero is like the awesomest game ever!!! even though i’ve only beat easy and medium on guitar hero still rocks!

  78. Guitar Hero is a good one!

  79. i do try for this game to find something new. I never try this game so far. thanks Matt