Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock Review

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Publisher: Activision/Red Octane
Developer: Neversoft Entertainment


Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PlayStation 2, PC and Mac
Reviewed on Xbox 360

Having your arm fall off shouldn't be this fun. The Guitar Hero franchise has always been about ripping out amazing guitar riffs, or all about strumming a plastic guitar controller while pressing fret buttons, occasionally tilting the controller for star power. Regardless of how you feel about wearing the controller, the game has always managed to make you feel like you can actually play a guitar, regardless of your real talent, and the latest entry doesn't disappoint. New developer Neversoft (of Tony Hawk fame) hasn't remixed Harmonix's tried and true formula too much, adding only a dash of graphics and a few new modes. While not every new addition works out, the core gameplay is exactly what you expect, and with more than 70 included songs, you'll be rocking far into the night.

Rating:
Kevin Rice


Are You Ready to Rock?


Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock (GH3) should be instantly familiar to anyone that's ever played a Guitar Hero game (or even just seen one at Best Buy). A stream of notes comes down a fret board at you, and you press the corresponding, color-coded buttons and strum in time to the beat. Easy mode requires just the first three buttons, Medium uses four, and Hard and Expert modes require all five buttons, which means you'll be moving your hand around quite a bit. Simple stuff, right?

Like the previous Guitar Hero 2 and Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the '80s, GH3 ups the ante considerably in difficulty. While easy is still very easy, Medium is actually somewhat difficult in the upper set lists, and the jump from Medium to Hard is nearly a leap of faith. Working up to Expert is purely a test of reflexes and endurance. While I was able to complete the original Guitar Hero in Expert and most of GH2 in Expert, GH3 has me stymied about 25 songs in, at least in Expert mode. I have friends that can complete this mode (and get the beloved achievement for it), but it will take some serious practice time for most to get through everything, even on the Hard difficulty level. For veterans of the series, the Hard mode in GH3 is about the equivalent of Guitar Hero's Expert mode.

Stuck in Your Head


As a music-based game, GH3 lives and dies by the set list and for the most part, it delivers. There are a few bad choices (as in, I never want to hear Slayer ever again), and Dragonforce's "Through the Fire and Flames" is flat out ridiculous (otherwise known as "Through the... oh, screw this" – look on YouTube). However, Smashing Pumpkins' "Cherub Rock," The Killers' "When You Were Young," and many classic rock tunes (Ozzy, Iron Maiden, et al) all fit neatly in the package.

Neversoft says they added six people to their staff simply to come up with the note patterns, and it shows. Where GH2 and even Rock the '80s faltered somewhat was in artificially making the note patterns difficult, adding unnecessary fret button presses at inopportune times. GH3 corrects this. While the patterns get complicated quickly (look at "Cherub Rock" in Hard or Expert), they make sense, musically. There's also far less pattern shifting (playing the same thing with different patterns). For example, Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" has a familiar riff that plays throughout, always with the same buttons. Previous iterations of the game probably would've toyed with that.

A New Coat Of Paint


As expected, a new generation of consoles and a new developer will bring a new graphical style. While the series has never really been used as a graphical showcase for any system, it's always had a little bit of a comic style to it. For whatever reason, Neversoft has decided to go with a somewhat deformed, almost anime-style look for the band members. We're talking Lara Croft proportions for the women, and Jay Leno chins for the guys, but neither has a very attractive result. Your lead singer is one ugly dude, and poor Judy Nails took a trip to the whore store with a high-limit credit card.

The game is not ugly as a whole, and some of the new graphical touches are nice. For example, notes that can be hammered on or pulled off (played without strumming) shine brighter than the other ones. The score (and its associated multiplier) have been overhauled as well, and while it's minor, it looks nicer than the previous entries. And, of course, the game plays in High Definition with the right television/console combination. For all of these upgrades, the game also loads significantly faster. While there are still a few "words of wisdom" during the loading screens, they usually go by so fast that you'll only get a few words in. It's okay though – you're not missing much.

Modus Operandi


All of the usual modes of play are back, including Career, Quick Play, Face-Off, Pro Face-Off, Practice and online competitions. The main new addition is perhaps the one misstep that Neversoft made, and that's Battle Mode. You'll have to survive three of these throughout Career Mode, and for those who are into this, you can play it against others. However, these things quickly boil down to "who got the first power-up," – that’s who wins.

In essence, Battle Mode would be fun, but the implementation is wrong. What happens is that, instead of star power, hitting a stream of notes without error gives you a "weapon" of sorts, and you "attack" the other guitar player by lifting the guitar up vertically, a la star power. These "weapons" include things like string snaps, amplifier overloads, and note doubling. This could be fun, but the first person to "attack" is almost always the winner, as the other player has to struggle to recover from whatever you sent his or her way. This makes for about thirty seconds of a song and a lot of swearing.

In Career Mode, you'll go up against Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, Slash (does he even need a description?), and against the devil himself, appropriately in a heavy metal remix of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Morello and Slash both laid down custom tracks for these challenges, but both of them are easily beatable if you get the first attack in. Just time your attack for when they are getting the note stream for their attack, you'll break that stream, and you'll be through them on the first try. The mode is a wasted opportunity, and frankly, it's pretty boring.

Rock On!


That one complaint aside, GH3 is a worthy successor that builds on the original's popularity without really changing things up much. Some were skeptical that a new developer, much less one that's never done a music game, could keep the dead-on feel and great play of the original, but Neversoft stepped up and hit a home run. Everyone will have a few songs they can't stand in the set list (burn in hell, Slayer!), but it's varied and lengthy enough to satisfy nearly all tastes. (Sorry, Yanni fans.)

The difficulty level may scare off a few newcomers, as this is by far the most difficult iteration of the game yet, but with this game now showing up in sports bars and other places, it's more popular than ever. The new wireless guitar is flawless and fun to play, the new graphics are weird but mostly attractive, and the intensity is unmatched. Just be prepared to wear an arm sling after going through a few of these tunes.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on December 13, 2007 10:27 PM.

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