Luckily, the game delivers in many of the ways that we had hoped for. The track list is stellar, the presentation is top-notch, the band is very well represented, and, perhaps most surprising of all, there’s a ton of stuff for fans of the band to check out. While the game isn’t as immense as the franchise’s yearly big update, and while it generally sticks to the same tried and true formula of past releases, there’s just a feeling of care taken with the experience that makes it a must-play for fans of the band and metal in general.   


Click the image to watch the video review.

The title is a full-band game, just like Guitar Hero World Tour, so guitar, bass, drums and vocals are all part of the mix. Rather than the gig-based progression from World Tour, you’ll find something much closer to the original two titles where it’s a tier-based system, but instead of having to beat each song in a tier to progress, you need only meet a total star requirement. I actually “finished” the game after having only beaten 40% of the songs, so there’s a ton of leeway in allowing you to move on if you get stuck on something. Obviously there are incentives to go back and play everything else in the name of unlockables and so forth (including the band’s instruments), not to mention fun, but it’s unlikely that you’ll get stuck unless you choose a difficulty that’s way over your head.  Though it presents less of a challenge and winds up taking away a little of the reward for beating some of the game’s hardest songs (like Slayer’s “War Ensemble”), it’s nice to know that you won’t get caught up having to repeat the same track over and over to progress. Also, it means that you can almost skip right past the early stuff and quickly get to the big tracks, like “Master of Puppets” and “One”, if you really want to.  Speaking of the tracks, as I mentioned before, the set list here is absolutely killer, not only in terms of song quality but the overall enjoyment level with respect to actuallyplaying them as well. There’s just something about the way that these guys play their stuff that translates really well to a plastic guitar (if that makes sense). Plenty of fast power cords, blistering solos, melodic breaks that don’t bore you to death and just awesome riffs all around. Lars’ drumming also turned out to be incredibly fun, offering up cool bass work with some thundering toms here and there.  As for the song choices, the tracks span the entirety of Metallica’s career, pulling titles like “Seek and Destroy” and “Whiplash” from Kill ‘em All, all the way up to “Broken Beat and Scarred” from Death Magnetic. You’ll find at least a couple tracks from each of the band’s first five original albums (up through the Black album), with a scattering of stuff from the latest four, which is great news for long-time fans. My only complaint in the song selection department is that “Blackened” and “…And Justice For All” don’t appear here, likely because of their availability as DLC for Rock Band. Still, those seem to be the only two major tracks that I’m sad aren’t here. I’m sure everyone will have their personal favorites, but the available songs read like the quintessential “Best Of” track list for the band. Killer stuff all around. 


The band’s stage presence has been greatly transferred to the game.

My biggest complaint for the game is actually tied to the available songs, however, and it’s assuredly going to be a disappointment to many folks. The only DLC that the game supports is Death Magnetic - that’s it. None of the downloadable tracks for World Tour work here, which means that you’ll have to swap back to that disc to play the bulk of your library if you’ve invested in some new tunes. Really, downloadable content like this should be cross-franchise, and as it’s not, the game feels like it’s a little separated from the would-be pack.  With regards to presentation, as I had alluded to before, a lot of care was put into making sure this was a die-hard fan’s game. The band members all look great, sporting more realistic (though not entirely) looks than any of the characters previously seen in the franchise, including Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. The band came in for a series of motion capture sessions, and their movements have been transferred into the game quite well. Gone are the stilted animations that we had seen in the past, instead replaced by lifelike movements from James, Lars, Kirk and Robert. Great stuff here, right down to the camera work.