Thursday, September 06, 2007

Victory strikes again

I finally did it: I completed Guitar Hero 2 on hard mode. "Carry Me Home" was the final stumbling block. I'm not entirely sure how I made it through, in fact. I'd never even made it past the intro riffage before. It's not a good song.

I know this isn't terribly impressive to at least two of my expert-level readers, but I'm pretty proud for a couple reasons. One is that I had never played beyond medium difficulty at all until shortly after I picked up the 360 version, so playing that fifth fret button was all new to me. Second is that I don't typically stick with things that don't come easily, so taking this kind of time to accomplish something is uncharacteristic.

More important, I think it speaks to Guitar Hero's quality that I have continually found time for it over the course of five months. Sometimes it's frustrating that I have to drop a game I enjoy in order to move on to the next one. As great as, say, Rainbow Six: Vegas was, once I no longer had an obligation to play it, I stopped. (Had to make time for Tomb Raider Anniversary, you know.) Since I picked up Guitar Hero 2 in early April, I've reviewed well over a dozen other games, including three that I've given equal or greater scores to. And yet I keep coming back to it in a way that I won't to The Darkness or even BioShock.

Mostly, that's because those more complex single-player games will require an extraordinary amount of effort and dedication every time I sit down with them. It would be hard to revisit them for less than an hour and feel like I'd gotten the full experience. They require a commitment that Guitar Hero doesn't, and as a result I've paradoxically been able to commit to Guitar Hero as I have to few other games. If I were trapped on a desert island, I'd want those immersive, narrative games to pass the time. In the life I live now -- the one that juggles a day job, a family, and friends -- I'll take Guitar Hero.

3 comments:

avixe said...

That's a really interesting point – GH manages to be both simple and complex at the same time, even for two simultaneous players. The seminal example for two-player simultaneous gaming is the fighting game, but they never really cracked the skill-level nut: usually the better player simply sets a handicap, which is ugly in that it doesn't really reward anybody. In GH they make the gameplay more complex, but in a way that bystanders can appreciate. That's far, far more effective, and tends to make people stretch for the harder difficulty in order to show-off. Very cool.

As you said, GH also manages to be both impulsively and compulsively playable - impulsively in that it contains short "rounds," compulsively in that it provides huge rewards to returning players. It's pretty ridiculous that the game can improve manual dexterity, but there's no doubt that it does. Bill Harris pointed it out back when the first GH came out: as a player advances through the difficulty levels, "[he] can feel [his] brain rewiring."

Mitch said...

The "brain rewiring" comment is exactly the right way to describe how it feels to jump up a difficulty. When you start on easy or medium, it sure doesn't feel like you're missing anything. It feels like you're playing the song. Then you go up to hard and suddenly you realize how much you were missing before. You're playing more notes, employing more subtle techniques, and of course sliding your hand up and down the neck.

One of the most amazing things to me is how boring medium difficulty seems now. Not how easy -- although it is that -- but how little it feels like I'm playing the guitar. It used to feel almost one-to-one, and now hard mode feels that way. I imagine I'll experience this all over again if I can ever get my head and hands around expert difficulty.

Johnson said...

One of the most amazing things to me is how boring medium difficulty seems now. Not how easy -- although it is that -- but how little it feels like I'm playing the guitar. It used to feel almost one-to-one, and now hard mode feels that way. I imagine I'll experience this all over again if I can ever get my head and hands around expert difficulty.

You're exactly right. This is why, when a new one hits, I start playing on expert from the get-go. I've managed to go back and play through hard and medium on the Xbox version, only for career score, but it's generally...tepid, and best done when one isn't in the proper frame of mind to pass things on expert.