Rock till you drop in 'Guitar Hero Metallica'

Music game fans looking for something edgier than Michael Jackson or Duran Duran can now rock out with Activision's Guitar Hero: Metallica, the latest in the best-selling rhythm series.

Despite the steep $60 price tag, it's not a full-blown sequel as with last year's Guitar Hero: World Tour— but this new disc proves to be a highly entertaining game best played with a group of friends.

Crank the volume and let your hair down with Metallica's celebrated catalog of tunes ranging from their early work (Seek & Destroy from the band's debut disc in the early '80s) to the commercial ditties of their self-titled 1991 Metallica album (Enter Sandman,Nothing Else Matters ) to newer tracks including Frantic and My Apocalypse. Nearly 50 tracks from the group's 28-year history are here, most of which need to be unlocked, as gamers jam as the L.A.-based fab four, led by vocalist James Hetfield.

Guitar Hero: Metallica also features more than 20 songs from other artists personally selected by the band, including Foo Fighters, Judas Priest, Queen, Motorhead, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Thin Lizzy.

In case you've never picked up (or observed) a Guitar Hero game before, these music-based challenges let players jam along to some of rock's greatest hits over the past 40 years, using guitar/bass and drum-shaped peripherals, as well as a microphone to sing, karaoke-style. Whether you're playing solo or with friends (in front of the same TV or via the Internet) your goal is to rack up points by hitting the right note (or drum) at the correct time. Play well and the virtual crowd goes nuts and you can unlock additional venues and tracks, but make too many mistakes and you're booed offstage.

As with its predecessors, there are multiple solo and multiplayer modes to try, whether you're looking for a quick song or two to play before heading out for dinner or to sink some time into a lengthy career mode that has the gamer work their way up through multiple venues, collecting cash and unlocking additional goodies including videos of Metallica playing live and interesting Metallifacts. New to Guitar Hero: Metallica is an intense Expert+ drumming mode (which lets you use two kick pedals, just like Metallica founder Lars Ulrich), some new online features (including a 4 vs. 4 Battle of the Bands mode).

Guitar Hero: Metallica is quite good, but you most definitely need to be a fan of the band (and heavy metal music) to enjoy it. Therefore, this game doesn't have the same mass appeal as the 80+ song Guitar Hero: World Tour, which covers multiple genres and decades, but it sure is a blast to ride the lightning with Metallica's music.

Contact Saltzman at gnstech@gannett.com.

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