BRB & Guitar Solos Forged in Hell

3 06 2009

It’s been a crazy week here at Ink Media HQ, with a change of office and lots of new business on the go. Unfortunately, we’re now internet-less for the next week, which is a major inconvenience but hey we’ll get through it right?

We have a major new project in the works with a shiny new client that we’ll be able to announce next week (it’s a biggie!), but until then, please enjoy Dave’s interview with Guitar Hero Metallica developer Neversoft, as published on http://www.square-go.com

…then buy the game, it’s superb! \m/

Interview: Neversoft talk Guitar Hero Metallica

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When California-based developer Neversoft announced it was working on a version of Guitar Hero based entirely on the rise and rise of Platinum selling rock band Aerosmith, fans of the series didn’t quite know what to expect. Some bemoaned the choice of band and got snippy because their favourite band wasn’t the focus of the game, while others saw a very clever progression of the series.

The game turned out brilliantly, delivering an in-depth charting of the group’s rise to fame, spanning their 14 album discography and including some great input from the band members. The template was now set for other bands to follow suit and Metallica, who had been quite unsuccessfully looking for the perfect video game crossover for years, had finally found their way to rock out in game form

Marrying Guitar Hero and Metallica really is a match made in heaven. You have a band that has sold an estimated 100 million records since forming in 1981 and penned some of the most influential and memorable metal tunes in history. Love them or loathe them, there’s simply no arguing that are the natural fit for the Guitar Hero treatment.

It all came about after a rather embarrassing sounding Metallica game was understandably canned. Lead Designer at Neversoft Alan Flores explains how it happened: “Metallica were very interested in doing their own video game. A few years back they had a deal to make a car combat game based on the band, but the deal fell through. Then, Guitar Hero got onto their radar because James (Hetfield’s) and Lars (Ulrich’s) kids played it and they saw what a cool way it was to introduce new people to their music. So, around the time we were finishing up Guitar Hero Aerosmith someone from Activision showed the game to Metallica and they saw what we could do if we focused a game on a band and they were totally on board.”

The deal was done and the game was set to be an epic compilation of some truly classic tracks that would eventually include 28 Metallica master recordings and 21 songs from guest acts, but with such a diverse roster to choose from, the team had to make some painful decisions regarding the final set list.

Alan explains, “It was very hard making those last few selections, especially for the guys in Metallica. For the first bunch of songs it’s really quite easy. Of course we are going to include classics like “Seek and Destroy,” “Creeping Death” and “Master of Puppets,” but when we got down to the point where we could only have two more songs and the Metallica guys had these five songs they really wanted in the game, it was tough. Metallica music is very personal to those guys. What might not be a big “hit” or a very well known song to us sometimes has a deep personal meaning to Lars and James, for example. I think, in the end, we wound up with an absolutely killer set list of not just great Metallica songs, but also great guest artists.”

Speaking of guest acts, the game includes a great range of artists including Mastodon, Slayer, Queen, Machine Head and System of a Down plus a download pack of Metallica’s latest album Death Magnetic. All of the featured groups are personal favourites of the band and most have shared a stage with them at some point over the years. Also, the venues for each stage are Neversoft interpretations of real-life locations that the band have played.

Needless to say, the Neversoft team are all big fans of the band and this shows throughout the game from start to finish. Alan explains how his team got the look and feel of the title nailed down, “We interviewed Metallica and got so much great information out of them. They told us about important moments on stage and venues they love to play. For example, they felt that we just had to include Donnington Park in the game and they also really wanted it to be one of the last venues because they felt like once they made it there, they had really made it. We also did full band motion capture for a couple of days recording the six songs that are played in each round. The band was really into it and I think it shows in their in-game performances. They’re not just faking it, they are really giving a full on performance.”

“Full on” is fitting as the way the band members move on stage is comprised of easily the slickest animation in a Guitar Hero game yet. For those who feel that this is something of a cash cow, think again, this is perhaps the most comprehensive package of tunes in the series so far, with the look, atmosphere and pacing that fans of heavy metal are sure to enjoy. Perhaps this is why the developer decided to include an all new ‘Expert+’ mode for drummers who love to hammer their kits to death.

Alan gives an insight into this brutal difficulty setting, “Expert+ was included in Guitar Hero Metallica because it is the only way to do Metallica music correctly on the drums. There are so many songs with double bass so if we didn’t have a double bass pedal we just wouldn’t be able to track the music correctly. The Guitar Hero fan base is definitely getting better at playing the game but there are some really tough songs in Guitar Hero Metallica. Don’t get me wrong, the game is still totally accessible to new and casual players who play on beginner, easy and medium, but if you are playing Expert or Expert+ on drums the game is going to kick your butt at the end. Watch someone try and play Slayer’s “War Ensemble” on Expert+ drums sometime. It’s insane!”

While the Guitar Hero series is a master class in how to make an accessible and vastly enjoyable music-based game, this latest instalment really does ramp things up to eleven. Everything from note placement, the visuals and the track list is faultless, with some truly iconic air guitar moments and rock karaoke gold now yours to perform. Expect parties and bedrooms across the country to get that little bit louder from now on.

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