Activision keeps churning out Guitar Hero’s as fast as they can produce them, and sometimes it’s a bad thing and other times it’s a good thing. Their latest Guitar Hero release is one many metal fans have been clamoring for, Guitar Hero: Metallica. The game brings with it a ton of promise and hype. After the availability of their latest album, Death Magnetic, for Guitar Hero III the fans have been wanting to thrash out with one of the masters of metal. Thankfully Activision has given them what looks to be one of their best Guitar Hero releases yet.

I’ll admit, I used to be a huge fan of Metallica. I’ve saw them in concert back when I was a wee lad and collected all their cassettes and then CD’s but after the self titled album I became a bit disenfranchised with them. I thought the had become too commercial, they sold out and I stopped caring. St. Anger only confirmed my suspicions even more and Death Magnetic didn’t help, still I had a soft spot for anything pre-Load. All their earlier stuff still captured me and I still listen to it all the time. Being a fan of the Guitar Hero/Rock Band genre I was excited and skeptical when I heard of the Metallica focused game. I said if it’s all their newer stuff I won’t waste my money, and early indications were that it was. As bits and pieces streamed out we heard that the set list contained songs from Load, ReLoad and St. Anger. I was disappointed, until Activision dropped a bomb. Also included were songs like “Orion”, “Fade to Black”, “Dyer’s Eve”, “Seek & Destroy”, “Sanitarium” and a lot more of the older stuff. That’s when it sealed the deal, I had to pick it up.

Luckily, the game delivers in many of the ways that gamers had hoped for. The track list is stellar, from the Metallica songs to the bands they chose to include. The presentation is probably the best we’ve seen and fans can check out a ton of stuff relating to the band, from Metallifacts to lyrics and videos involving Metallica. It’s more then just a game. Speaking of the Metallifacts, they’re perhaps the coolest feature in the game. VH1 Pop-up Video inspired segments allow you to watch the game play a song while various information regarding the song pops up along the bottom.

Visually the game looks great, the band looks and acts just the way you’d expect Metallica to. The quartet had gone into Activision for a series of motion capture sessions, and their movements have been transferred into the game quite well. Gone are the stilted animations that we had seen in the past, instead Lars is banging on his drums just like he would in a concert, Hetfields motions and singing looks like you’re watching a video and we’re also treated to Robert Trujillo’s well known helicopter spin. The folks at Red Octane really pulled out all the stops for this one.

Guitar Hero: Metallica is a full band game, just like its predecessor Guitar Hero: World Tour, You choice of instruments are the guitar, bass, drums and vocals. You can also attach a second kick pedal for the drums, giving you an even more authentic Metallica feel. There are also a couple cool new things related to the drum playing. The first is the Expert+ setting which turns on every bass drum note. Usually on faster music like this the bass drum notes are scaled back so that you can actually play them with a single pedal, but Expert+ gives you the full deal so that you can play with dual bass pedals. Now you can really act like Lars on the drums. There’s also a secret mode hidden away called Drum Over, where you’re able to turn off the required notes for a song and just play whatever you want.

With a game revolving around a lot of heavy metal songs you’d figure them to be a bit difficult to master, depending on your skill set it might be true. The game starts off with relatively easier songs, but as you progress you’ll find yourself coming across some very difficult songs the closer you are to the end. Songs like Slayers “War Ensemble” and Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” will really challenge your endurance and skills. Newcomers might have a bit of a harder time here than with other Guitar Hero titles as there aren’t any really simple tracks, but it’s a nice challenge to have.

The biggest complaint that can be made is the lack of DLC for the game. The only DLC that the game supports is the previous Death Magnetic DLC. That’s it, not another song. Other then that there aren’t really many complaints, ok maybe one, but that’s just a musical preference. I mean, do we really need a Bob Seger song?

Guitar Hero: Metallica is a great music game, perhaps one of the best Guitar Hero releases yet. You can tell that a lot of care was put into the production to ensure that it is both true to the band and its music. I was skeptical at first, but it quickly won me over. Having finished the game I still find myself going back repeatedly to see if I can outdo myself last time, or to view one of the many Metallifacts. This game appeals not to just Metallica fans, but fans of Guitar Hero or Rock Band in general. It’s well worth its price of admission.