When Guitar Hero was released at the end of 2005, people raved about how fun it was to play, the quality of songs, the enjoyment factor that came out of the entire package. Guitar Hero II added to this formula, completely changing everything from the songs to the menu design, and even added in a new co-op mode. It brought so much to the game that it was a worthy purchase for anyone who enjoyed the first title. Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the '80s will bring back some good memories of jamming out to some classic tunes, but there's not quite enough in the package to justify the price tag.
The game starts out in the same manner as its predecessor. And when I say the same way, I mean almost entirely the same way. The cutscene at the beginning of the game is the same, only more retro. The menu screens are extremely similar while some of them are, pixel for pixel, identical. This was a bit of a letdown when starting the game, but no one plays Guitar Hero for the menus. It's all about the tunes.
There's nothing quite like jamming to your favourite tracks, and this game does bring back the feeling of rocking out that the first two introduced us to. Five frets and a strum bar is all that's required here, leave your analog sticks behind. If things start getting a little frantic, bust out the star power to bring your meter back to the green, and you're all set. The 80s style is an interesting change, too, and invokes a sense of nostalgia for those of us who lived through the period.
Describing the quality of the song list is a tough thing to do, since the topic is very subjective. Some people are going to enjoy some songs, others are going to enjoy other songs. Some will actually know who Limozeen is. There are some tracks from the 80s that would've seemed ideal for the game, but were missing, and there were obscure songs that I had never even heard of. Still, any fans of the era will be pleased enough with the track list, but there may not be enough content to keep them going.
This leads to the greatest problem, by far, with this game: the content, and its lack thereof. First of all, there are only thirty songs in the entire game (contrasting to the total of 64 in GH2) in six categories of difficulty, ranging from Opening Licks to Furious Fretwork. This means there are no bonus songs to purchase either, a very startling feature to remove that cuts down the game's content over one-half. Additionally, instead of the previous games' large rosters of guitarists, there are significantly fewer choices this time around, all of whom have been in previous games (including the only purchasable character, the Grim Ripper). Their looks, of course, reflect the era. And, with only six categories of songs comes only six locations, again, all of which have been in previous titles and "themed" to suit to the era.
What's obvious about this title is that it's an expansion, not a full game. Normally, one would be able to overlook the rehashing of all the game's previous content, with new 80s appearances, but the short song list just makes it feel even like less of a full title. That can be overlooked, but the problem lies in the fact that the price tag hasn't changed, and so this half-game is selling at the price of a full one. At the time of writing this review, it doesn't sell in a bundle pack either, which means that anyone hoping to pick up an extra guitar with this game is going to be disappointed.
Fans of Guitar Hero's previous titles will, in all likelihood, still enjoy this game, and there's no real reason they shouldn't. There's a new song list of classic tunes (some more classic than others) to riff through, and all the features of the previous games. The fact that Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s has nothing more, and in some cases, less content than the previous titles, while still charging the same price, is the problem here. And, in the end, fifty dollars for only thirty new songs, and nothing else, really just doesn't cut it.