Released on December 22nd, Guitar Hero: Van Halen barley sneaks into stores before Christmas. To Van Halen fans, Activision is their Santa Claus, as they pump out a variety of hard-rock hits from early in their career. Might as well, Jump! This is Guitar Hero: Van Halen.

Guitar Hero: Van Halen will be a subjective score based on how much you enjoy the band, Van Halen. If you like Van Halen, and you own a copy of Guitar Hero, then this is an easy decision. If you're not too fond of Van Halen's brand of rock n' roll, then this game isn't for you. Usually with “band” driven music games this is the case, although GH: Van Halen is a little different because you are only getting half the bands career. This half is the early years, or the “David Lee Roth era”, which will please the majority of Van Halen fans, but what about Sammy? and all those who love all the albums spanning Van Halen's long, and successful career?

Even if you like Roth’s contribution better, he was out of the band since 1985 when Sammy Hagar came in to take over the lead vocalist spot. Heck, even Gary Cherone (Extreme) was in the band for a few years, while they only produced one CD, it still is a part of Van Halen’s history. If Guitar Hero: Van Halen would have included a full retrospective look at Van Halen then we would have a game, but what we have here is a small snip-it of the band, in an unenthused package.

Battle of the Bands
Compared to other music games GH: Van Halen will have to head to the back of the bus. When stacking this game up to other band based music games like 'GH: Metallica' or 'The Beatles: RB', Halen cannot compete. Heck, even 'Sing Star: Abba' is far superior game, well that might be going a little too far. Besides the music that Van Halen created, you only get a few facts about the songs, and the ability to unlock the band, and no other extras. No videoclips, no interviews, no nothing. This is ultimately disappointing, for both the casual fans, and die-hards.

Into the Game
Getting into the game you have the typical Guitar Hero layout. Where you will spend most of your time is the career mode, rocking through the set lists and unlocking new songs and venues. Nothing about GH: Van Halen is different from what you know. So into the game, you start up with some Van Halen numbers which branch out to other artists between Halen set-lists. I’m not the biggest Van Halen fan; actually, I’ve never owned any of their albums. However, knowing a lot of guitar players who love Eddie, and being a metal-head in my youth, I recognized almost all the songs. There are a few ‘lesser’ known songs, but the majority are popular enough that other non-Halen fanatics will know them.

The Other Acts
The other artists on this disc is strangely put together without ties to the actual band. I’m not sure if any members of Van Halen had input on picking the other songs on the disc, but when looking at the list including 'Fountains of Wayne', 'Third Eye Blind', and 'Blink-182', it seems doubtful. Since most of the Van Halen music is from the late 70s, and early 80s, the majority of the other songs should have come from this time period. There are few rockers on the disc, but it feels more like the record companies wanted to sell a few more albums than showcase the artists’ music from that time. Scanning over the list of songs on the disc, only  four songs come close to this time period.

Hot for Halen
Back to the Halen on the disc, several shredding songs will challenge the Guitar Hero pros, and pay tribute to Eddie Van Halen’s mad skills on the fret board. This where things pick up, and if you are a fan of Eddie’s work than you will be glad to hear, “Eruption”, and “Hot for Teacher” tap-tastic leads coming out of your speakers. GH: Van Halen is not too hard on the easier settings (easy, medium) so don’t be scared off just because it is Eddie. As far a famous Van Halen songs go, I would have to put 'Jump', 'Panama', 'Everybody Wants Some!!', and 'Runnin’ with the Devil' near the top of the list. These songs are fun to play, and showcase why Van Halen was, and still is one of the world’s most popular rock bands.

For once I miss the 1980s
Now, the Van Halen associated with the music is the Van Halen of yester year. The flamboyant stage show, the spandex, the high kicks, and Michael Anthony’s big Jack Daniels bass guitar. What you get in GH: Van Halen is the reunited Halen with Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang on the bass. Now Wolfgang isn’t new to Van Halen as he has been on stage in some capacity since 2004. However, it is not the picture of Van Halen most people get. It would have been really great to come through the years with Van Halen, or at least share in that era of Halen that was arguably their glory years. Watching a reunion concert seems to cheapen the experience because after all this is a “game”. Later in the game you will unlock a somewhat vintage Eddie, Alex, and Roth, but without Michael, the who experience seems a little too late to the game.

Becoming a Platinum Artist
For all those who want to earn a few new Trophies/Achievements, you will need to be ready to put in some extra hours. The gold achievements like ‘5150’ have you completing every Van Halen song on every instrument. That one is not too hard, it is more time consuming. However, snagging the 'Guitar God' you need to rip though all the songs on 'Expert'... oh yea, hard, plus more time consumption.  Aside from being able to play “Eruption” on expert, all the achievements are achievable if you have the time, and a few friends who don’t mind helping you rock out to the some Halen. Are Trophies/Achievements a motivator to buy? Well, sure depending on how addicted you are. Guitar Hero: Van Halen will give you a nice little boost, and if you love Halen anyway, it is a done deal.

Guitar Hero: Van Halen showcases the early years from Van Halen’s long history as one of the worlds top rock acts. However, compared to product like 'Guitar Hero: Metallica' or 'The Beatles: Rock Band', GH: Van Halen does not feel complete. The innovations from Guitar Hero 5 are not included, the gameplay is extremely barebones, there are no noteworthy extras, and you only get a few years out of Van Halen’s long career. Really this Van Halen game needed a subtitle of “The Roth Years”, to be more accurate... and not “Diamond Dave”, the spandex wearing-long haired Roth you remember, this is the reunion tour Dave. Activision could have done a lot better, and I think Van Halen, and its fans deserve better. As a free promotional game, it is passable, but as a full out release, we are expecting a little more.

Gameplay:6.0, Graphics:7.0, Sound:8.0, Innovation:4.0, Mojo:6.0 Final: 6.2 / 10

Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 12.25.09

  • Eddie has finally arrived!
  • if it had to be any era, at least early Halen
  • unlock the band, and all of Eddie’s guitars
  • only part of Van Halen’s career
  • If you like any Halen past 1985, it is not here
  • look of the band is the current look
  • over half the songs are not even Van Halen songs
  • the majority of other artists have nothing in common with Halen
  • none of the new features from Guitar Hero 5
  • not many extra

Similar Games: Guitar Hero: Aerosmith (7.8) | Green Day: Rock Band (8.4) | Guitar Hero: Metallica (9.0)


Guitar Hero
Van Halen


Red Octane


US Release
December '09


PS3, X360

1-4 Players
MP Versus
5.1 Surround
HDTV 1080i
D/L Content
U/C Content