Guitar Hero II successfully mimics the experience playing a real guitar. Your goal is to press combinations of any one (or more in the case of chords) of the five fret buttons while simultaneously flicking the strum bar. This action must be timed and sequence accurately to the song that you are playing. You are graded on how close you match the song's rhythm and notes. There is also a whammy bar that you can use to gain bonus points in a long sustain (or just to show off). The gameplay includes other more advanced techniques including three-button chords, hammer-ons, and pull-offs. New to Guitar II is the ability to flip the controls so that you can play lefty like Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain.
The game includes many songs (see the complete track listing) belonging to any one of four difficulty levels. Songs can be played in single player or multi-player modes. In the case of multi-player, you have a further choice of battling head-to-head or playing in co-operative mode wherein one player plays lead and the other takes rhythm.
There is a single player career mode where you play as lead guitarist in a band that is scheduled for eight gigs at different venues. You must play a set of three or four songs (depends on difficulty setting) at each venue (plus encores) to make it to the next gig. Along the way, you earn money that can be put towards upgrades of guitars, guitar finishes, your fashion sense, characters, bonus songs, and videos.
Differences between the PS2 and Xbox 360 versions
The Xbox 360 version was released several months later, and, therefore, includes all of the features and of the PS2 with some notable improvements. Also, the included guitar has changed from an SG Controller based off of a Gibson SG Standard to the X-Plorer controller reminiscent of the Gibson Explorer.
Summary of what's new for the Xbox 360 version:
- improves on the visual aesthetic of the game by making it HD and adding some new lighting effects
- the sound is improved as well as the game can be played as Dolby Digital 5.1
- Exclusive new songs and bonus tracks
- Downloadable content (look for "Dead!" - My Chemical Romance and "Possum Kingdom" - The Toadies at launch)
- Xbox Live! leaderboard - see how you compare with the world
- Achievement - unlock achievement as you thrash