It's a perfectly commonplace thing for a large video gaming company to constantly churn out sequels to a popular game series. Sometimes this can lead to some of the best games out there, as is the case with some of the Final Fantasy games, but other times it can lead to that dreaded ailment called sequelitis. This terrible video game based infestation takes once great game series, drills them into the ground and turns something once pleasurable into something of pure pain. Things that once held meaning become lifeless and dead, colors become muted, life becomes pointless and all things come to an end.
It's kind of like getting married actually.
On the cover this seems like a fantastic idea. You get a whole bunch of the best tracks from all of the pre-World Tour games, even the horrible Rock the 80's expansion, all redesigned to be played by a whole band. However in reality this whole thing is absolutely a mess every step of the way thanks to a number of terrible design decisions. Some of the things that were changed have improved certain aspects of the game while others are just absolute game killers.
The main problem that arises almost immediately is two-fold; the difficulty is uneven and the note charts have been almost totally redesigned. Obviously these two problems are very much interlinked. It seems to be a symptom of a game being handed off to a new design team that the difficulty level spikes at a ridiculously frustrating degree.
It seems that when developer Beenox took the reigns of this game they decided to totally redo the note charts. This has led not only to the songs being reordered by difficulty (Smoke on the Water went from a tier one to a tier three song on guitar) but many of the parts that made songs enjoyable to play are no longer present. Some have been preserved but others, like Beast and the Harlot, have been totally decimated by these changes. Normally this sort of reimagining of a game would be a great idea but since Guitar Hero II was released this console generation on the Xbox 360 it's too easy to look back and realize how the songs were mangled. Even some of the songs released as recent as Guitar Hero III seem to have been changed although these aren't quite as drastic as the older ones.
Even more annoying is the fact that the difficulty level of these songs is totally unbalanced. Some of the songs in the first tier are harder than songs in the later tiers, a few of the encores being considerably harder than songs that came before it if not harder than the later songs. It literally bounces around like a hyperactive ping pong ball, flipping all over the place while you're just trying to fight your way to the next set list.
One of the main advancements in Guitar Hero: Metallica was the fact that the game was no longer stuck to the strict set list advancement from previous Guitar Hero games. If you really hated a song in a particular set you only needed to play enough other songs to unlock the next set. These could come from earlier sets or even later ones, allowing you to pick and choose what you wanted to play to advance. This allowed you to skip out on songs that you really loathed while still being able to advance through the set list.
Apparently taking the franchise in a positive step forward wasn't seen as good enough and thus it was immediately gotten rid of. At first it looks like this is exactly how the game will play out but just before the end of the game things just stop. Suddenly you have to complete every song in every set list, unlocking each encore by doing so, to finally unlock the final set. It's ridiculous to see such a drastic back step especially when the system is half used. Why give the illusion of freedom in how the game plays out when it's really not there? It's even more frustrating than simply taking out all of the freedom in general.
All of the master tracks sound fantastic but they made a poor decision in making two of the tracks live tracks. These two sound terrible and bring down the audio quality of the game immensely. The rest of the tracks not only sound fantastic but the differences between them and the covers from the previous games might account for some of the different note charts. However this doesn't make much of it any easier to swallow.
One of the points that people like to tout is that with 45 songs in the game for only $60 you're only paying a bit over a dollar for each track. This is considerably less than if you were to download these tracks individually which would come up to almost $100. However this is under the assumption that you like most of the tracks contained on the disk. For this reviewer only around 22 of the songs were of any real appeal. This means that going to purchase the game is around a $20 waste.
Frankly if this game were released at a lower price point, treated as an expansion instead of a full priced game, it would be an incredible value for what you get. As it is they're asking far too much of the consumer here. When you buy a true Guitar Hero or Rock Band disk you're getting over eighty songs on the disk. Even if you only like half of these songs you're still getting far more for your money than you get on a disk like this. If there were some way to export songs from Smash Hits to your World Tour, or Guitar Hero 5, library then this would be a fair value.
As it is this isn't a worthwhile value for your money. Accept that this is just Activision trying to milk the Guitar Hero fans for their money and wait for the price to drop so you can get it on the cheap. Then the high price point isn't much of a problem.