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Games

Learning to Dance for Flannigan's Ball

Checkpoints take brief looks at downloadable and independent releases. Today we throw back a couple o' pints and take on the Dropkick Murphys Guitar Hero III track pack.

Publisher: Activision
Genres: Music/rhythm
Price: Free!
Multimedia: Dropkick Murphys Guitar Hero III Track Pack
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Number of players: 1-2
ESRB rating: Teen
Developer: Neversoft
US release date: 2008-03-13
Developer website

Given that Monday was St. Patrick's Day, it only seemed appropriate that I would pull on my greenest sweater, throw back a couple o' pints o' Guinness, and play some serious Guitar Hero.

Before last week, such a proclamation might have seemed like a complete and utter non-sequitur, but last week saw the release of the three-song Dropkick Murphys pack for the can't-possibly-argue-with-it price of absolutely free. Now, we can use our fake plastic guitars to get in touch with our Irish sides...because what could possibly go better with a Boondock Saints / The Departed mini-marathon than some Irish boys shouting at you?

Problem #1: All three of these tracks are from the most recent Dropkick Murphys album, The Meanest of Times, which isn't really such a bad thing, but they've got a hell of a legacy that they could be drawing from at this point. I know they're trying to promote the latest album, but they've now released four of that album's tracks as playable songs across two different Guitar Hero games. Part of being Irish is drinking to the past, yes? Would it really hurt to pretend the band existed before 2007?

Problem #2: The songs are largely chord-mashing tests of endurance. Aside from the very fun chart for "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya" (which benefits greatly from its traditional roots), there are lots of chords coming at you fast and furious; chronic down-strummers will have carpal tunnel by the time they end.

There is a tangible benefit to downloading these tracks via the Xbox Live downloading service: the expert-level chart for "(F)lannigan's Ball" very well may be the easiest Guitar Hero III song with which to break the elusive 500,000-point mark. That's 10 GamerScore points just waiting to be snagged. It's actually quite smart for Activision to release, for free, a track that seems so ready-made for passing such a milestone. It's easy in games like the Guitar Hero series to feel like you've hit a plateau, that you're never, ever going to get any farther in the game, that your fingers just aren't quite coordinated enough to blow through "Through the Fire and Flames" or stay on target long enough to pull a 1,000-note streak. To put in a song that makes it comparatively easy to pass one of those heretofore pretty-damn-difficult milestones is a psychological boon for the frustrated. It's the type of thing that tells the intermediate player, "no, seriously, you are getting better. Come back. Lars misses you." And then, just like that, you're hooked again, thinking that maybe, yes, this is the time you're going to beat "Raining Blood" on expert.

It worked on me.

If nothing else, the note charts in the Dropkick Murphys pack beat the hell out of the insanely easy "Dream On" chart that they released to promote the upcoming Guitar Hero: Aerosmith release. Plus, you just might get one achievement closer to total Guitar Hero domination. You can't put a price on that, and so they didn't. Take the time and download it. What do you have to lose?

7

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