Activision kicks out the jams in its third edition of the ultra-popular Guitar Hero. Gamers around the world can feel the satisfaction of rocking out on a six stringed axe without even learning a chord. It’s time to put up, or shut up in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
I was astonished when I received the knowledge that I would be reviewing the new Guitar Hero game from Neversoft Entertainment. Since I’ve never played Guitar Hero in the past besides dabbling a few times, I can finally feel up to date with the rest of the world knowing I’m going to become a virtual guitar god. In Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, I’m welcomed to the jungle by cover artist Slash and prepared to dive bomb my way into the annals of rock stardom.
Being a student of the six strings myself I was forced to forget what I know about guitar, in reality, and focus on the remix of five coloured buttons. Guitar Hero takes away the freedom from the real instrument and replaces it with a form fitting barrage of rhythm based notes without the accents of a real guitarist. This makes Guitar Hero challenging even for musicians. Some even argue, the less you know about playing guitar, the better you'll fare in Guitar Hero. The perplexing fact about the game over the real deal is that its easier to play some of these songs in real life then in Guitar Hero and vice versa. This is apparent when you fail at a simplistic song like "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and successfully blast through the arpeggio sweeping of Eric Johnson, or the sloppy shredding of Vernon Reid in Living Colour.
The core gameplay of Guitar Hero 3 remains unchanged from the previous versions. If you haven’t seen or played guitar hero in the past the goal is to match the button presses on the guitar controller with the on screen icons. This sounds easier than it sounds because Guitar Hero 3 is one tough game. Mastering Guitar Hero shouldn’t be taking lightly and like any musician knows, practice makes perfect. On easy, Guitar Hero isn’t too hard to walk all over even when you’re down to the line in a Ralph Macho like guitar battle. Turn the difficulty up a notch to Medium and you now have to worry about another button, crank it up more and now you’re gaming skills need to be stepped up as all buttons are rocking at an excelled pace.
Progressing in Guitar Hero 3’s career mode follows animated rags to riches story with a band rising up from the backyard, to become worldwide mega rock stars. The story line is split into five segments that balance master songs and a few laughable moments in the story. If Guitar Hero needs a pointer on where to improve it would be in the storyline and Guitar Hero 3 approaches this mildly with the inclusion of a co-op career mode. Adding co-op is excellent given that you know someone who wants to jam through the game with you. This doesn’t fix the shallow feeling of the story, it only ads some value to an aspect that needs to overhauled to include a more personal experience. Creating your own character, or more storyline paths would be a nice and simple addition that could go a long way.
Besides the Career mode, practicing, and jumping into a quick game Guitar Hero 3 finally features an online multiplayer mode. This feature includes a co-op mode, the returning face-off mode and the new battle mode. This follows the formula of the career mode guitar battles with a focus on power-ups and note hitting techniques. In the career mode you’ll battle against, Slash (Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver), Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave) and Lou (the devil) and online the battles expands to anyone worldwide. The power-ups that help, or hinder your performance in the battle mode included braking strings, flipping the guitar to the opposite side, amplifier overloads, jamming the whammy bar and more. To grab a power-up you need to hit the accented note in the song and then tilt your guitar up to activate it. These battles take a little away from finding out who has the real true skill replacing it with an arcade substitute with tricky strategies to ambush.
From one platform to another you’ll gain small differences that balance out each version. The Xbox 360 can go online and download patches ahead of the other consoles. Yes, there is already a patch! Xbox Live also makes it easy to link up and play with friends online which is an aspect that is missing from the Playstation 3 version. Suffering battling online against strangers who could be a guitar hero master is a little unsettling rather than jamming with a few friends. For the Nintendo Wii feel safe with online support including friends, but as you already know the online services from Nintendo can’t hold up to the Xbox Live Network. The Nintendo version of the guitar controller works in conjunction with the Wii remote which gives gamers the cool sensation of the rumble and the speaker on the controller. If I had to pick, I would go with your favourite console, and if you own them all consider the advantages of Xbox Live over the other systems.
Now that I’ve explained the gameplay, let’s get to main feature of Guitar Hero, the music. Guitar Hero 3 will have you burning skulls in no time if you enjoy your metal head-banding music. I’ve been known to rock out a few of the included songs in real life along with seeing a number of the artists live, so you can easily see that the metal has a certain appeal to guitar shredders world wide. A few of the included metal tracks include newer bands like Slipknot and Disturbed, and then slips into the old school with some classic White Zombie, Black Sabbath, Metallica, Iron Maiden and the ridiculously challenging Slayer. Stepping into the odd Guitar Hero 3 gets creative with a classic showdown with the devil in a remixed distorted guitar of the Charlie Daniel's Band, The Devil Went Down to Georgia. Running through this guitar transposed song will surly give gamers a little respect to a musical genre you might not have enjoyed before... and yes, I’m talking about Country music.
Showcasing other genres is something Guitar Hero 3 is good at with a diverse list of artists who move from classic rock, to alternative rock to punk, blues, glam rock and more. Keeping the attitude in check is the 1980’s “Holiday in Cambodia” from the Dead Kennedy's and “Anarchy in the U. K.” from the notorious Sex Pistols. Alternative roots also branch out with Sonic Youth playing “Kool Thing” and Smashing Pumpkins in their Siamese Dreams favourite “Cherub Rock”. The blues are represented by one of the best, the late great Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride and Joy”, and blues rock from Aerosmith with “Same old Song and Dance”. If need to rewind a little further in the timeline, the classics Pete Townshend and the Who, and Eric Clapton and Cream provide that classic fuzz box rock. These few numbers are only the tip of the iceberg, in total Guitar Hero 3 has over 40 songs that will keep you busy hitting red, blue and green for hours.
A good portion of these songs are redone by the original artists which is amazing given that the Sex Pistols returned to the studio to re-record Anarchy for the U. K, for a game no less. Aside from the master tracks you will have to deal with covers trying hard to duplicate the original song. Black Sabbath is one band that can’t be duplicated, and if you’re a real fan then you will notice the difference. For the non-fans of some of these bands you’ll never know that Pat Benatar isn’t singing “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, so its really comes down to your knowledge of the song if you’re turned off by covers, over the obvious better choice of the master tracks.
In the graphics department, Guitar Hero 3 never has, and never will stack up against other visually intensive games. The graphics are updated from pervious versions and keep the same cartoon level of interest. The modeled characters like Bret Michaels, Slash, and Tom come somewhat close to the real deal, however they are cartooned. Naturally the Nintendo Wii’s visuals don’t stack up to the other consoles, but this doesn’t affect the gameplay. Guitar Hero 3 visuals in the positive lend towards its bright colours, excellent animated cut-scenes and its own unique style. I hope that the visuals get an improvement one day. There are areas I wish they would fix like clipping, the smoothness of the animations including the lip synching of the singers. Oh yes, and there is the funny omission of the guitar strap from the game... hmm... I didn’t know the Guitar Center sold hovering strapless guitars. Compared to the quality of the audio and the low amount of time you have to focus on the band on stage, Guitar Hero 3 works well enough to grab the cover of Blender.
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock tunes up to challenge gamers to become a guitar god. The new selection of songs, updated visuals, co-op multiplayer and online mode should give you enough reason to upgrade from your warn out copy of Guitar Hero II. Guitar Hero 3 is addictive and fun for all gamers, including those who don’t regularly play games. Guitar Hero 3 has its own unique magic that has found its own niche at the top of the charts. If you haven't experienced this solid rock performance, purchase a ticket and get ready for the button pressing time of your life.
Gameplay: 8.5, Graphics/Sound:9, Innovation: 6, Mojo:9 Final: 8.5 / 10