Just to get it out of the way. I love Van Halen in general. Both the David Lee Roth era and the Sammy Hagar eras of the band both had some amazing songs which I absolutely love… and let’s just pretend that the Gary Charone era didn’t happen. So, when I heard about this game, I was looking forward to the game with great anticipation. Then I learned that there wouldn’t be any representation of the Sammy Hagar era on the album because the band was currently touring with David Lee Roth, and my interest waned a little bit. Then the track listing came out and I found that they were taking the same take of mixing Van Halen songs and songs by other bands, like they’d done with Guitar Hero Aerosmith. That caused my interest to wane a little bit more. Then I found out what songs they were including, and any plans I had on buying the game when it came out (or pre-ordering Guitar Hero 5 to get the game free) were canceled.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t want to play the game. This just meant I wasn’t chomping at the bit to get it. So, now I’ve finally played it, and while I had some fun, this really isn’t the Van Halen band game I wanted.
Frankly, this game is even a step back compared to Guitar Hero: Metallica & Aerosmith. Metallica & Aerosmith both had a narrative framework for their career modes, one following a band that wants to open for Metallica, and the other following Aerosmith’s career, respectively. This has no such framework. Metallica had downloadable content in the form of Metallica’s Death Magnetic album. This has nothing. Metallica and Aerosmith had videos you could watch, with official bootleg video from concerts and interviews with members of Aerosmith, respectively. This has nothing. The “guest tracks” for Metallica had direct connections with the band, whether it was a song that Metallica covered, that the band in question’s bassist auditioned for the spot that went to Robert Trujillo, or that a member or members of the guest band were friends with a member of Van Halen. Very few of these songs have that sort of direct connection to Van Halen.
There are a moderate number of bands that could support a Rock Band: The Beatles type format. I don’t know about Green Day – I was never a big fan of them. Led Zeppelin actually wouldn’t work as well for this concept, because of their relatively short career, compared to both Van Halen, The Beatles, or even Green Day. On the other hand, Van Halen is perfect for that format – not only because of the narrative of the band’s career but also the musical changes in style from the Roth era to the Hagar era. The fact that Guitar Hero: Van Halen is not that game kind of says everything. It’s not the game that Van Halen fans will want – they’ll want some sort of Rock Band: Van Halen game. The game we got is also disappointing for Rhythm Game fans looking to play Van Halen songs, because they’d want more Van Halen.
So, all in all, this is a game that disappoints just about everyone.
If Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, or Wolfgang Van Halen is reading this (as, with all due respect to David Lee Roth, it’s your band, not his), I plead to you, to get out of whatever exclusive contract you signed with Activision to get Guitar Hero: Van Halen made, and see if you can get a better deal with Harmonix and EA. In particular, see if you can get them to make a Rock Band: Van Halen game, covering the band’s entire run (sans the aforementioned Gary Charone bit), with all sorts of fun little bits about the band’s history, like photographs and fliers from the band’s prior career, possibly clips from radio interviews, maybe even early music videos from the band’s career. Something to make it special for Van Halen fans.