At about 30 minutes deep into my Games For Windows and Vista meeting, I heard a familiar riff coming from the next room. Cheap Trick's "Surrender" shook me almost awake (no coffee at this point) as I realized the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II was being played less than ten feet from me. While the Uno demo via Live was certainly interesting from a technical standpoint, all I could think about was when I'd get to try out that new white guitar controller and try out some new tracks.
Following my brief meeting with Peter Moore and Aaron Greenberg—more about that later—I was given the opportunity to play some games. What did I want to play? Lost Planet? No. Crackdown? Maybe later. Blue Dragon? Pass.
I needed to see Guitar Hero II in HD and click-click my way through some fresh songs.
The demo was two-player co-op. I took guitar, my guide took bass, and we burned through "Life Wasted" (as made famous) by Pearl Jam. Near the top of the set list, it was almost too easy on Hard. But since I've not heard a new Pearl Jam track in about five years, the newness of it gave me a bit more challenge.
I also started to notice the graphics. They've added some nice bloom lighting. Depth of field. Higher res menus and interface. For a game that's known more for its solid gameplay than its graphics, this game was starting to look damn good. No one will hem and haw when asked whether it trounces Gears of War graphically, but it definitely looks like an upgrade.
We only had time to make our way through a few other tracks. "Sweet Child O' Mine" just for fun. "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo" (as made famous) by Rick Derringer and "Hush" by Deep Purple because they were brand-spankin' new.
The new guitar controller feels good, with the fret buttons feeling just a bit more solid than the PS2 version. I'm not sure if this was a design change or just a guitar that hadn't been broken in, but the Microsoft rep agreed. They felt just slightly different. Hammer ons and pull offs were just a bit easier for me, which I came to know intimately during my bass duty on "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo". I also noticed that kicking on my Star Power was iffy, not unlike the controller that came with my copy of GHII.
The demo on the show floor also features Rancid's "Salvation" and The Toadies' "Possum Kingdom", but the following tracks were just confirmed by a Microsoft PR person.
Other tracks I didn't get a chance to try out included "Hush" by Deep Purple, "Dead!" (emphasis theirs) from My Chemical Romance and "Billion Dollar Babies" by Alice Cooper. That's a fairly solid line-up, with some tracks still to be revealed.As I told the MS reps, I'm going to have a very easy time justifying re-buying Guitar Hero II and two controllers.