As the first decade of the 21st century drew to a close, my anticipation for one particular rhythm game, Guitar Hero: Van Halen, reached an all-time high.
There have been quite a few rhythm games devoted to specific bands, but this one was at the top of my list. Move aside, Metallica. Even The Beatles paled. Why? Because Van Halen is just that good.
After having played the game devoted to the legacy of one of my favorite bands, I can't decide whether I'm filled with rage or sadness. Perhaps a combination of both, because this is just about the worst of all rhythm games.
It has one positive: There are some Van Halen songs. That's it. Please note some.
As for the bad qualities, let's sum it by saying the developer, Neversoft, apparently cared so little for this title that it sent a team of five interns to work on it for maybe three hours one lazy afternoon at the office.
It is not a step backward for the genre; it's more like an aggressive leap into a chasm of horribleness.
The graphics look identical to Guitar Hero 2, which was released for PlayStation 2 in 2006.
Even the layout of the game, specifically the Star Power meter, is flawed. Other games, including Rock Band, have nailed placement of all on-screen user interactions, GH:VH chooses to frustrate the player to death.
The Star Power meter makes absolutely no sense when used — it shuts off after a few seconds but still has power left? — and it is placed in the upper left of the screen, meaning the player whose notes appear on the right can never see it.
The development team did make it so you play as Van Halen's likenesses when you perform their songs, but they chose today's Van Halen members and not those from the glory days, or what they looked like then.
Why they chose today's appearances makes no sense, because they didn't include any song recorded since 1984. Yes that's right, they included Van Halen songs from 1978 to 1984 only.
The "bonus" songs, the ones from other artists that should complement Van Halen's style, are a mind-boggling, abysmal selection.
Neversoft decided to put Fountains of Wayne, Third Eye Blind, Weezer and Blink-182, to name a few, into this game. These bands have nothing in common with Van Halen.
The fact that Stacy's Mom made it into this game is shocking and depressing. It's clear that the developers had some licenses for a few songs lying around, so they just threw them into this game, similarity be damned.
The bottom line is this: If you're a human, don't buy this game. Ever.