In a way, Guitar Hero: Metallica should have arrived sooner—the very phrase “guitar hero” conjures images of fleet-fingered shredders like Metallica’s James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett. Their style is Guitar Hero’s raison d’être; Activision could have started with Metallica.
With the arrival of Guitar Hero: Metallica, it’s easy to feel like the series has fulfilled its destiny, and the game reflects the auspiciousness of the occasion. Compared to other entries in Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero World Tour, Metallica is a step up across the board, from the realistic depiction of the band onstage to the organic note progressions. Although the quartet’s faces still look lifeless onscreen, their performance quirks are impressively natural, from Rob Trujillo’s half-squat bass-pounding to Lars Ulrich’s habit of kneeling on his kick drum between songs.
That would all be moot if Guitar Hero: Metallica lacked a strong set list, but the career-spanning selection focuses on the hits—”Master Of Puppets, “Battery,” “Seek & Destroy,” etc.—and skimps on little-loved albums like Load and St. Anger. (It does add 21 songs by other artists selected by the band.) Considering that it’s Metallica, players may expect a more challenging game, but Guitar Hero’s various difficulty settings keep it approachable, while the new Expert+ mode rewards prodigies. That said, the songs can feel noticeably different on the same difficulty level; “The Unforgiven” may be a breeze on medium, but “Hit The Lights” is another matter. Regardless, Guitar Hero makes it easy to progress through the game; players readily earn access to new venues and songs, which reduces burnout and boredom.
Beyond the game: Guitar Hero: Metallica rewards fanboy obsessives with extras, the coolest of which provides factoids and backstory about songs as they play.
Worth playing for: The ecstatic fun of blowing through some of Metallica’s thrashier or more complex songs.
Frustration sets in when: Learning those same songs, which can stretch on for an eternity. The new double-kick pedal—a Metallica exclusive for the Expert+ level—is more gimmick than tool. It can drop notes, which quickly kills a song at that level.
Final judgment: Guitar Hero has reached its apex. It may be downhill from here.