Guitar Hero: Van Halen

This expansion fails to properly categorise the band's achievements, making it nothing more than a glorified track pack

Activision Guitar Hero: Van Halen
  • Activision Guitar Hero: Van Halen
  • Activision Guitar Hero: Van Halen
  • Expert Rating

    2.50 / 5


  • The Van Halen songs are challenging and recapture the greatness of the band


  • Half-arsed presentation, limited extras, random assortment of ancillary tracks

Bottom Line

Even though I am not their biggest fan, I still felt like Van Halen deserved much better than this effort.

Would you buy this?

If you're an obsessed Guitar Hero junkie like me, you probably have a list of bands you're hoping Activision will turn to for standalone Guitar Hero titles. Slayer, The Pixies, and Led Zeppelin are among many others that top mine own personal wishlist; Van Halen, on the other hand, isn't. I'm not a particularly big fan of their music and I was disappointed that they were chosen over bands more worthy and deserving. That didn't stop me from squeezing a few cheap thrills out of their standalone expansion, but the slapdash effort did little justice to Van Halen's music.

What's most disappointing about Guitar Hero: Van Halen is that you play as the older, present-day version of the band members for most of the game. Rather than reveling in the big hair, tight neon spandex, and over-the-top guitar showmanship of the band in their prime, the game forces you to play as the aging rock dinosaurs of today. It isn't until the last tier of songs that you finally get to play as the band in their full cheesy old school glory and beating the game does unlock the classic version but that's a feature that should have been available from the start.

The lackluster presentation also makes the game feel more like a glorified track pack than a true homage to a band once known for some smokin' guitar rock hits. GH: Metallica were both loaded with animated scenes offering story tidbits about the bands, some historical info on their musical careers, and other cool extra goodies for hardcore fans. You don't really find much of that at all in GH: Van Halen. There's a stock Van Halen-themed loading screen, some authentically designs arenas to rock in, a smattering of lame pop-up video trivia, lyrics sheets, and a cute mini-game where you play some of Eddie Van Halen's signature guitar licks but it doesn't do a good job of archiving the band's history. The barebones presentation really hurts the game and the opportunity to showcase Van Halen's place in music history was wasted.

But the music is spot-on at least. Of the 45 songs included, 25 are Van Halen cuts and they will definitely give veteran players some finger cramps on Expert. Unfortunately, the remainder of track list is padded by songs from random bands like The Offspring, Third Eye Blind, and YellowCard who don't fit the overall theme of the game. In fact, an overall lack of cohesiveness is a common theme throughout the game and you can't help but wonder what the point of it all was. Activision mailed out a free early copy of the game to people who pre-ordered Guitar Hero 5 a few months before the street date and it feels like they rushed Guitar Hero: Van Halen in order to use it as a freebie. That's unfortunate because those extra months clearly would have been much better spent putting enough polish to do the source material justice. Even though I am not their biggest fan, I still felt like the band deserved much better than this half-arsed effort.

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