Review by vwbuggyman
"Another solid installment in the GH series"
The Guitar Hero series returns, this time to an HDTV near you! If you've played either of the first two installments, you're familiar with the basic concept of gameplay and can skip the following paragraph. If not, here's why the game plays so differently from any other game out there, and why it comes in a very large box.
Since the PS2 guitar controllers are not compatible (short of a laggy third-party USB adapter) with the PS3, currently Guitar Hero III (now referred to as GHIII) only comes bundled with a guitar and cannot be purchased disc-only. This guitar-shaped controller has five "fret buttons" on the neck, each with it's own color: Green, Red, Yellow, Blue, and Orange, in that order. On the body there is a "strum bar", which is baisically an elongated up/down switch. While holding one or more fret buttons and flicking the strum bar, you play a note in the game. For the PS3 edition, there are four indicator lights to show what slot the guitar is assigned to, and a PS button, and a 8-way directional pad to navigate the PS3's XMB. To play the game, you select a song in a variety of modes, but the gameplay is always essentially the same. A "fretboard" appears onscreen, and is constantly scrolling. At the bottom of the board, are the five fret colors. As the song starts and notes appear, they scroll down as colored dots, corresponding to which fret button needs to be pressed. You press that fret, and flick the strum bar as it crosses the line of dots at the bottom to play the note. You get the hang of it quickly, and the game offers tutorials and an Easy difficulty for new players, using only 3 of the 5 buttons. You continue playing notes unti
The PS3's LesPaul shaped controller is nice looking, with a glossy black faceplate. These faceplates can be changed (sold separately, of course) to feature various bands or designs. The game itself looks great, and supports the standard 720p HD output. The background camera of your show is again well done, and, if you can take your eyes off the fretboard long enough, packed full of quirks and funny sights as usual. The lead singer of your band looks goofy and has an absurdly large chin, and the drummer's movements are very robotic and jerky. Otherwise, the game looks great. Menus are easy to navigate and straightforward, using the strum bar to go up/down, and the green button to accept, red to go back.
The controller not only looks great (while it's far from looking like a real guitar, it looks a little more respectable than the goofy toy-looking ones of GH1), but it's also very functional as well. The frets are large and have a good amount of separation, with the middle (yellow) one having a ridge to identify it by feel, so accidental button presses are rare. The bundle comes with two sticker sheets to dress up the guitar if you choose. The guitar includes a shoulder strap, inferring that the game should be played standing up. IMO standing up to play is a little easier, since the guitar is a little awkward to hold while seated. The whammy bar seems a lot sturdier and smoother (it's claimed to be a lot tougher) than on older guitars. The controller runs on two AA batteries, which are included in the bundle. For the PS3 version, the bundle includes a USB receiver dongle which goes into an available USB slot on your machine. This works fine, but can be a little confusing. You can't turn the PS3 on with the guitar, since the receiver isn't active until the machine is powered up. If you use a sixaxis controller to turn it on, that is assigned as controller #1, and the guitar gets #2. Then you have to re-assign the guitar to #1, otherwise it won't control the game. The easiest way is to press the power button on the PS3, then press the PS button on the guitar. You need to either restart or re-assign controllers if you wish to play a different game afterward. This could have been worked out a little better, such as having the controller be Bluetooth so it could connect directly to the PS, and eliminate the dongle.
As you'd expect, the music is top-notch. About half of the 70some songs are original masters, with the remaining being a cover version (these are detected by "as made famous by" before the artist's name). However, the covers are very well done and stay pretty faithful to the original sound, so no points lost there. Only little hitch is that with the advent of HD and home-theater gaming, lag between the audio and picture can occur, depending on your setup. People playing using the built-in TV speakers should be fine, but if you run through an amp or a speaker system, you might need to calibrate lag, since the music will be behind the onscreen notes. The game has a utility to compensate for this, requiring you to flick the strum bar when you hear a click.
As with all GH games, it has virtually infinite replay value. The game's difficulty is widely adjustable from easy-medium-hard-expert, allowing players of any skill to pick up a guitar and have fun. It's a great party game, and a few songs are only found in quickplay and 2 player cooperative mode. You can buy unlocks, such as new bonus songs, videos, guitars, and costumes for your onscreen avatar. Plus the PS3 version features downloadable content, which will include new songs and other content, this will even further expand the life of the game. In addition, the guitar controller will be compatible with the upcoming Rock Band as well. The game does get rather difficult on the hard and expert settings, so the new player will get a lot of use out of the game, you won't just breeze through on easy and be done.
I, and apparently many others, have had online connection issues with the game, such as getting "session not available" errors and poor signal quality. Some of these have been linked to home router firewalls and issues, but some remain unresolved. Hopefully a game update will fix these issues.
While the bundle does carry a premium price of $100, it's well worth it. The game is very fun both in single player, and on/off line multiplayer. Considering games you can beat in 5 or 6 hours run for $60, paying a little extra for a LOT more game isn't a big deal.
Final: Highly recommended.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/31/07
Game Release: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (w/Guitar) (US, 10/28/07)
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