Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s

Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s

Activision, $49.99

Dear "real" musicians: For sure, Guitar Hero is bogus compared to the real thing. And plastic controllers are way lamer than honest-to-goodness frets and strings. But there's good reason behind the Guitar Hero craze consuming bars everywhere: Activision's top-selling, axe-grinding-simulation PlayStation/Xbox franchise is unabashedly addictive ... and ... dare I say ... hip enough for rock & roll.

But, unfortunately, when Winger and Poison get involved, the naysayers just might have a string to strum.

Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s' July release sounded totally tubular. The gameplay improvements Guitar Hero II made upon its predecessor were impressive. Plus, the niche-retro possibilities were endless: Hours of skuzzy, stonewashed rock equal radical.

But GH 80s isn't the bodaciously iconic experience it could be. While the track list features some sweet peeks down memory lane (Dio's "Holy Diver," Ratt's "Round and Round"), the anticlimactic set list never takes us into complete Tawny Kitaen-writhing mode.

With the same characters, special effects, and venues simply skinned with an Eighties theme, this expansion pack (without the bonus tracks of previous installments) isn't a serious sequel. And if you're already a GH II "expert," you'll master GH 80s easily in one session.

Considering Guitar Hero III's upcoming release and the holiday gift of the ultimate in innovative gaming -- Rock Band, competitor Harmonix's four-player mega rhythm game -- this appetizer might not be worth the price. With Rock Band's beast of a setup, you'll never need to go niche again. You'll have a new album to download every week. No doubt you'll hit on some righteous Eighties shred for your repertoire there anyway, without having to pay retail. Like, totally.

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