Take a trip down memory lane in the latest Guitar Hero track pack.
For those who remember the halcyon days of plastic guitar-strumming, way before drums and microphones littered the living rooms across the world, Guitar Hero: Smash Hits is probably right up your alley. It's a collection of songs from Guitar Hero 1, 2, 3, '80s, and Aerosmith that are all master tracks and reworked to be playable with guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. The set list is good, as it contains almost all the classics that were in those games, but there's nothing new here: it's not much more than a 49-song expansion pack.
To compensate, Smash Hits offers up a story, albeit an incoherent one. You see, the God of Rock has something that resembles Tenacious D's Pick of Destiny, and for some obtuse reason, decides to show it to Team Guitar Hero, who were last seen chasing Metallica around the world and fighting the devil. The God of Rock proceeds to lead Team Guitar Hero on a wild goose chase around seven natural wonders, one of which is developer Beenox's hometown of Quebec.
Nonsensical story aside, the game still contains the tried-and-true gameplay of past Guitar Hero games, even more so for older fans of the series. While it is a bit weird seeing the guitar charts redone for songs from the older games, it is great to hear the master tracks for songs such as Queen's "Killer Queen" and Wolfmother's "Woman."
Master tracks and extra instruments aside, the only thing that appears to be new and different to this game is that all the songs are unlocked in Quickplay at the outset. This appears to be a growing trend in rhythm games, as Activision's Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits and Harmonix's The Beatles: Rock Band both feature a fully playable set list in Quickplay out of the box.
The Career mode features the same progression as the previous expansion pack, Guitar Hero: Metallica, which isn't as freeform as the Career mode in last fall's Guitar Hero: World Tour. Basically, you begin with access to one venue and six songs, and as you get high scores on the songs you unlock more venues and songs. If you beat all the songs in a venue, you unlock an encore. After the encore, you further the harebrained story. If you're very good at the game, you can unlock the first six venues by the time you get to the third venue, but in order to beat Career mode, you must complete every single song. This linear type of progression might be a little restrictive, but it works well with the expansion pack nature of the game.
The biggest bummer is that this is a standalone game, which means that you have to back out to the Wii Menu if you ever want to switch between this and any other Guitar Hero game. There's also no compatibility with World Tour downloadable content, which means all this game is good for is the songs in the package.
Regardless, Smash Hits is a great value if you can't get enough of Guitar Hero. You get 49 songs for far less than they would be if they were downloadable content. It's also a fantastic throwback to the older games, and fans of those classics will appreciate playing through old favorites like Ozzy Osbourne's "Bark at the Moon" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird." Still, it's a full-blown retail release with only about half of the amount of songs in World Tour and the forthcoming Guitar Hero V. If you are absolutely desperate for more Guitar Hero, then Smash Hits is worth it. Everyone else is better off sitting tight for the next full-featured release.