Players use a guitar-shaped controller (purchased separately) to simulate playing rock music by hitting notes as they scroll towards the player. Rocks the 80s is an incremental title in the Guitar Hero series, rather than a full sequel. No changes in gameplay from Guitar Hero II have been introduced to this game. As implied by the game's title, the game features a 1980s theme, consisting of songs from the decade and playable characters, fashions, and artwork that reflect the time period.
The game was not as well-received as the prior two Guitar Hero games, due to the lack of new gameplay features and reduced soundtrack. Rocks the 80s is the third and final title in the Guitar Hero series to be developed by Harmonix before they moved on to create Rock Band. The next major installment of the series, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, was developed by Activision's Neversoft division.
Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s was initially announced by EGM in January 2007 as Guitar Hero: 1980s Edition. Orange Lounge Radio claimed that the game would be released in June 2007, based on an Activision announcement, though no other source has cited this announcement. Activision officially revealed the first details of the game May 11, 2007, in addition to changing the game's title to Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80s. Only a few weeks later, the game name was revised again as Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s, as official artwork for the game was first released. Nevertheless, the word 'Encore' has been dropped from the title of the European releases.
All of the tracks, excluding "Because, It's Midnite", were released during the 1980s, as the game's title suggests; "Because, It's Midnite" is performed by the fictional "80s hair metal" band Limozeen from the Internet cartoon Homestar Runner. The song list includes tracks such as "Round and Round" by Ratt, "Metal Health" by Quiet Riot, "Holy Diver" by Dio, "Heat of the Moment" by Asia and "Nothin' But a Good Time" by Poison. Five of the songs are master tracks (performed by the original artist): "Because It's Midnite", "I Ran (So Far Away)" by Flock of Seagulls, Scandal's "The Warrior", Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock", and Judas Priest's "Electric Eye", while the rest are covers.
Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" was originally announced for the game and appeared in many preview builds. However, RedOctane announced that it would no longer appear in the final version. No official comment in regards to the song's removal has been given.
|Electronic Gaming Monthly||7.5/10 - 6.0/10 - 6.0/10|
|Compilation review site||Aggregate score|
|Game Rankings||71% (based on 31 reviews)|
|Metacritic||68% (based on 32 reviews)|
Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s was released to generally lukewarm reviews and has received overall less praise than the first two games in the series. Most critics agreed that the game's $49.99 price point was too high, considering the reduced soundtrack. GameSpot criticized the amount of songs with regard to the game's price. The reviewer commented that "thirty songs for $50 is a lousy value any way you slice it" and the game "feels like a quick and dirty cash-in." The reviewer also commented that the soundtrack was "eclectic," but "solid." Other reviewers, including 1UP.com, IGN, and Electronic Gaming Monthly criticized the game for its musical selection. GameSetWatch compared the game to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, saying that the game is "totally Harmonix's contractual obligation game" due to the bare minimum of changes made from Guitar Hero II.
On November 21, 2007, The Romantics filed a lawsuit against Activision, RedOctane, Harmonix, and Wavegroup Sound over the cover of the song "What I Like About You" used in Rocks the 80s. While the game developers did secure appropriate rights to cover the song in the game, The Romantics claim that the cover is "virtually indistinguishable from the authentic version" and thus would "[confuse] consumers into believing that the band actually recorded the music and endorsed the product". The lawsuit is requesting the cessation of sales of the game and monetary damage. On December 20, 2007, Activision was awarded a preliminary injunction to prevent blockage of sales of the game, though issues of damages are still yet to be determined. A summary judgment hearing was held on July 9, 2008.