On March 29th, 2009, the world’s largest metal band became playable characters in their own Guitar Hero game.

Metallica had long been spreading their brand and music into more commercial settings, but an entire Guitar Hero game at the height of the game’s popularity was another level of risk. More importantly, the game was Activision’s second attempt to base an entire game around one artist, as opposed to the shuffle format of providing single songs from a variety of artists. Guitar Hero: Aerosmith had done just fine, but Metallica was internationally known to the young audience who were more likely to be playing Guitar Hero games.

The title brought a few new features to the table that helped maximize the authentic Metallica experience. Motion capture was used extensively for the game, ensuring each band member’s unique movements and mannerisms were present in the gameplay. It made the experience enjoyable, especially for diehard Metallica fans, because things like Robert Trujillo’s crab walk and Kirk Hammett’s posture while soloing were spot on. Not to mention, the stages in each progression of the Career Mode matched scenes you would see at a live Metallica show, making the entire thing feel like a play-along concert.

Another feature that was loved by many was the addition of an Expert+ mode that enabled double bass drum pedals for the drum controller. Lars Ulrich utilizes a double bass drum pedal setup on nearly every Metallica song, so it added to the innovative experience. The Battle Mode feature was also adapted slightly to mimic the dual lead guitar style of Metallica. Rather than take turns playing things back and forth like in Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock, battle participants would take on James Hetfield’s rhythm style and Hammett’s lead parts interchangeably.

It’s hard to believe this type of attention to detail went into a game featuring a fairly niche type of music. For example, metal has always been an inclusive genre that is a selective taste. Nevertheless, the game was the most successful Guitar Hero to date, mostly due to how much detail went into making it authentically Metallica.

For a band that has transcended genre and even music, Metallica has stayed true to their sound for the most part. A game ranging from their Kill ‘Em All years in the 1980s, all the way to the Death Magnetic album release in ’08, was quite an undertaking. Activision killed it, and 10 years later, it still stands as a shining highlight in the Guitar Hero-styled game craze.

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