Guitar Hero: Smash Hits continues the trend of releasing thoughtless Guitar Hero spin-offs started with Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. Guitar Hero: Metallica introduced a few welcome improvements to the gameplay of World Tour, but this game is nothing more than Guitar Hero: Metallica with new songs.
This game has two things going for it: the addition of drums and vocals to songs that were previously guitar-only, and the nostalgia factor.
The addition of the new instruments is a valid reason to want to try this game, but it should be noted that a whopping 12 (that's 1/4 of the entire tracklist) has already been released as Rock Band DLC. So we've been able to do vocals and drums on a lot of these songs already, with Guitar Hero not offering a substantially different experience.
This leads me to the tracklist. It's not a bad tracklist, but some inclusions (Hey You, Hit Me With Your Best Shot) and omissions (Sweet Child O' Mine, Carry Me Home, Hanger 18) are puzzling. How exactly did they determine what songs were considered "Smash Hits"? Should the game have been called "Guitar Hero: Easiest Songs to Relicense"? The songs on guitar/bass have been recharted and outfitted with the new gameplay additions like extended sustains, tap sections, open notes, which makes the songs more interesting in some cases, but the recharting can also be less fun in other cases. Some songs suffer from being master tracks, like Rock & Roll All Nite, which lacks the solo which made it so fun in GH3.
The nostalgia factor rest solely within the songs themselves, because the game has not tried to recreate the atmosphere of the previous games at all (with the exception of the look of the title screen menu). We have all the old characters, but we've had those since World Tour. They didn't even try to recreate the old venues, these venues are all new and have little to do previous GH games at all. We don't even get to unlock old GH/GH2/GH80 costumes for the characters that were in those games. None of the running jokes from the other games are there either (FREE BIIIIIIRD!!!) This doesn't seem old, but it doesn't seem new either. It feels recycled.
Why did we even need this game? Why couldn't have all these songs been released as DLC so that we could enjoy them on the main series (World Tour, GH5)? I read some other review refer to this as a kickass DLC pack, but I don't think he understands the point of DLC. With DLC I get to choose what songs I want, in this game you either buy them all or you don't get to play any of them. With DLC I get to have the convenience of not having to switch discs every time I feel like playing a song on it, with this I have to hang on to this extra disc or I lose the ability to play the songs on it. With DLC I don't have to go out and buy another game just to get a rehashed version of the previous game with nothing new to offer except the songs.
I have a few words on the achievements as well: impossible, tedious. Once you get past all the "gimme" achievements, it's either very hard or very time consuming to get the rest of them. You have to complete every song in the game to get credit for beating the game, but there are 5 careers to complete. You have to play every song in the game 5 times.
Then there's some of the secret achievements. First, 4 star Through the Fire and Flames on Expert guitar. Well, that's really hard but may be possible with a lot of practice. Next: 100% the Mosh 1 section of Raining Blood on Expert guitar. WHAT?! Raining Blood was the hardest song in GH3 career, the Mosh 1 section was infamous for causing people to fail out almost instantly, and they want us to play it perfectly, without any mistakes? Okay, next: 5* Raining Blood on Expert+ drums. Now they're just screwing with us. There's no way this is happening unless you have actually drumming experience, and not only that, double-bass drumming experience. A lot of these are unreachable by 99% of the Guitar Hero population.
This game is strictly a rental if you want to play these songs. It's the nature of these games that you'll play through them a couple times and then discard them for more deserving out games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero: World Tour. Don't give Activision your money for this, it'll only encourage them to release more stuff like this in the future instead of focusing on improving their main games and giving the customers what they want.