Review by bluej33

"You're no hero..."

Jimmy Page of the world-famous band Led Zeppelin is quite possibly one of the greatest guitar players ever. The loud, intense music, the crazy stage antics…seeing a Led Zeppelin show isn't just like listening to music; it's like watching a show. So who wouldn't want to be just like Jimmy Page? How cool would it be, to have so many fans and be so ridiculously good at playing the guitar? Well, Guitar Hero III for the Nintendo Wii tries to give you a chance to do just that…

The basic gameplay mechanic of Guitar Hero III is probably already relatively well know to you -- unless you've been living under a rock for the last year or two, when the series really picked up a ton of fans. But for all those cavemen out there, I'll explain it. The game screen has a sheet rolling toward you, with color-coded notes on it. As the notes pass the bottom of your screen, you must hold the corresponding color on the guitar controller and hit the strum button, for lack of a better word, on the body of your guitar.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it is. At first. The obvious appeal (or one aspect of it, anyway) is that this game is going to get progressively difficult. It features a number of difficulty modes and a gentle learning curve, which makes it easily accessible to Wii owners of all gaming skill. However, it's by no means an easy game, as the difficulty level will shoot up intensely as you progress further into the game.

Still, though, this spike in difficulty level isn't a huge problem. See, hardcore fans are going to love the difficulty, and make it a point to definitely play through it all. Casual gamers who decide to purchase the game might not ever even attempt to play through the higher difficulty levels, but they'll still have fun playing on easier difficulty settings.

Of course, a guitar alone is not enough to make you famous. So what next? You've gotta get some music! Well, while I'm not much a fan of this game, I've got to admit that the soundtrack is impressive. It includes more than 70 rock-n-roll classics, featuring such stars as Pat Benatar. Even if you're not a huge rock junkie, you'll still recognize a lot of these songs. Some of them don't have much guitar work, which are placed early in the game and are much easier; others, however, have huge amount of guitar-playing, and you'll end up playing just about every note in the entire song.

One comment about the music, however: somehow, a bit of a problem escaped the many layers of testing that this game surely underwent. Stereo sound was completely omitted, and the entire game plays in Mono. For the majority of us out there, including myself, this is no big deal. However, if you're looking to hook up this game to a surround sound system, you'll probably notice a significant drop in the quality of the songs.

I've thus far omitted one of the most interesting and critical aspects of this entire game: the controller. Yes, the Wii Remote itself is already the craziest (read: most innovative) controller on the market. But the Guitar Hero controller is arguably even…crazier? See, it's actually shaped like a guitar. There's a slot on the guitar for a Wii remote to snap in, which is also a pretty neat feature. As you play notes, you'll feel like you're actually playing a guitar. It's pretty cool, and the whole role-playing idea of the game is excellently done and well fleshed out.

Again, let me further extrapolate. There are a number of modes in Guitar Hero, but the most engaging is Career. You'll decide on your band name, your guitar, then you'll hit the road and get ready to rock. You proceed through a number of places to play, gradually gaining recognition and eventually working your way up to becoming a true “Guitar Hero”. It's not really much of a plot, but with the good music and physical guitar controller in your hands, it takes little stretch of imagination to actually believe that you're on the road with a band. You'll probably lapse into that sort of mentality a few times -- I know I did…

To progress through a song, you've essentially just got to stay alive. For every note that you miss, your life meter will go down, while it will increase for every note that you hit. If your meter drops down to zero, the crowd will boo you off the stage, you'll fail, and have to try all over again (trust me, this can get pretty annoying with some of the longer songs). You can increase your score (and your life meter) even more if you can keep up note combos. Hitting notes correctly in a row builds up point multipliers; hitting enough notes in a row can get you a multiplier of four -- the caveat is that as soon as you miss a note, the multiplier counter starts all over. After gaining enough star power (obtained by hitting star-shaped notes that come up), you can also tilt the guitar up to use this star power, which allows an additional multiplier of two on top of what you've already got.

There are also some pretty impressive multiplayer features for Guitar Hero III, a welcome addition by most Wii owners clamoring for some good online play. Local multiplayer is fine, but really just involves either competing for a high score against a friend or playing co-op, where one person is a lead guitarist and the other is a bassist. There's also online play, courtesy of Nintendo's WiFi Connection. The basic game modes are the same, actually, and unfortunately, the online aspect in this game just doesn't have the spark that past truly great online games have had. It's nice to be able to play anyone whenever you feel like it, but online -- multiplayer in general, in fact -- just feels a little flat here.

Up until now, pretty much everything I've mentioned about this game has been positive. Yet, as you probably knew before you even clicked on this review, I awarded Guitar Hero III a mere 5 out of 10. What went wrong? Why isn't it better? I'll answer with a single word -- two words, actually. Replay value.

To be blunt, it's horrendous. Absolutely horrible. Yes, there are people out there who argue that there's tons of replay value; you can play each song as many times as you like, there's multiplayer, and other crap. I'll by completely honest here, though: there's little reason to play Guitar Hero III's songs more than once or twice. Sure, they're fun. And yes, they sound pretty good. But the truth is, you'll realize not far into the game that you're pretty much doing the same thing over and over and over and over again. It never changes. There's no REAL variety.

And let's do a bit of quick mental math at this point. Let's just round down a bit to 70 songs. Let's then suppose that on average, each song lasts 4 minutes -- generous, trust me. For those of you that can't do that in your head, that's 280 minutes -- about four hours. Throw in another three hours -- again, being VERY generous -- to account for the time you'll spend playing multiplayer. And trust me when I say that you will probably not want to play through any of these songs again. Add it all up, and you've got scarce over seven hours. I'm sorry, but that does not, by any means, warrant a whopping ninety dollar (the game includes both the game disc and a single, overpriced guitar) purchase.

There was tons of potential here, yes. But to be honest, it was just one huge flaw that felled the giant called Guitar Hero III. The lack of any real variety just kills it…once you realize that you're essentially doing the same thing the entire game, you'll likely shake your head in disgust, and then never pick up this game again. For die-hard Guitar Hero fans (rock star wannabes?), Guitar Hero III may be a good one to pick up -- as the series goes, it's actually not bad. But sad as it is, this game just happens to be tremendously overrated, and unless you're willing to shell out nearly a hundred bucks for a game that will, in all honestly, likely yield you less than ten hours of gameplay, then you should take a pass on Guitar Hero III.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 11/29/07

Game Release: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (w/Guitar) (US, 10/28/07)


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