Review by SenorCactaur

"Difficulty Hero III: You'll Have to Be a Legend"

As someone who enjoys rhythm games, the Guitar Hero series has always been one of my favorites. I played the first two games quite a bit, and was looking forward to the third one.

With the transfer from Harmonix to Neversoft, the game took a bit of a different direction. Some for the better and some for the worse. While the core gameplay is still pretty much the same, some things are different. However, it seemed like Neversoft was intent on making this game absurdly difficult. This is good for some, but certainly changes the previous Guitar Hero game's reputation in that it's no longer recommendable for everyone.

Also, this is not going to be a review with someone who judges the games setlist based on personal taste. In fact, anyone who makes a review as such shouldn't really be using their own personal taste in their review, though some people do tend to let it get in the way.

Onto the review...

GRAPHICS
A nice step up from Guitar Hero II, GH3 offers more professional-looking graphics. The "notebook" song select list has been changed to a much neater and organized list, which includes the song, artist AND year. The backgrounds are detailed and nice-looking. The characters all look great, especially Slash and Tom Morello.

The scenes in the story mode are decent, but it seems they were meant to look cartoony. However, it seems a little lazy that they didn't animate the actual guitarist you play as for the scenes, and only the band members who you don't play as. It seems like it would've done a lot if they had simply taken a little time and made some animation for the guitarists in the scene.

SOUND/MUSIC
As I have mentioned before, I think people who would review this game letting their own personal bias on the songs get in the way are looking at it wrong. The game's soundtrack is set so that more people can enjoy it. While some "purists" get angry at The Killers, AFI and Slipknot being in the game, these songs appeal to a more modern crowd. There is a nice mix of classic rock songs and modern songs, with metal, punk, and other styles all being presented.

That said, the setlist is very well set up. There's music everyone can enjoy, regardless of what you're into. The 40+ songs on the main setlist are very diverse. It's definitely a great list of songs to listen to, and they really did a good job. However, there is one problem, in that it's not as large as it could be. The main setlist actually has LESS songs than the 360 version of Guitar Hero II, even with the Co-Op exclusive songs, which there's no excuse for. The amount of songs should be expanded, not made smaller.

The bonus songs are MUCH better done than the previous Guitar Hero games. Harmonix tended to fill up the bonus song lists with their little pet bands like Freezepop, Bang Camaro, the Acro-Brats and Honest Bob. Unfortunately, they've decided to do it once again in the upcoming Rock Band. However, Neversoft decided to use songs that people have actually heard of and might actually WANT to play, with artists such as Killswitch Engage, Rise Against, Senses Fail and Lacuna Coil, as well as giving us some nice international songs from bands from Spain, Germany and England, including the Kaiser Chief's big hit Ruby.

GAMEPLAY
The gameplay is pretty much the same as the other Guitar Hero games. Start a band, play through the sets, beat all the songs. They've decided to make it a little more in-depth by adding a story. Your band starts out small, and gradually gains fame under an agent, and eventually ends up playing for their souls. A nice touch, especially with the end boss battle.

The boss battles are decent. Tom Morello was a bit too easy, however. The battle against Slash seems a bit better, as he puts up more of a fight. However, the battle against the final boss is a bit ridiculous. It rarely comes down to skill, but luck. You need to get the right power-ups to win, and regardless of how well you play otherwise, there's no guarantee you'll win. This could've been improved a bit more, such as with a simple thing like the boss missing notes if you hit enough of them.

This brings us upon the biggest flaw, the RIDICULOUS, I'll say it again, RIDICULOUS difficulty. Especially in later difficulties, the note charts are stupidly inaccurate, adding extra notes for good reason. Songs like 3s & 7s, Before I Forget, Stricken and so on are made more difficult than they really should've been, adding extra notes for no apparent reason and strange combinations of notes and charts. The most obvious song is Paint It, Black on Expert, where you are quite clearly playing twice as many notes as you are actually hearing. There is no excuse for this. As someone who played Expert in Guitar Hero II and had 5-stars on more than half the songs, I had to go back down to Hard, where I was still failing songs in later tiers. Raining Blood's solo should've been hard, but not that hard.

Fitting the theme of being excruciating difficulty are the achievements, which are the most ridiculous of all. Some of them are downright impossible unless you're some kind of amazing player who spends 12 hours a day on the game, such as hitting every note on 20 Expert songs, getting 200k on a very song with no Star Power (extremely difficult), winning 15 straight Ranked matches online, beating Hard or Expert with a regular controller, and winning 15 straight Ranked matches with a standard controller. These are just tedious and overly difficult, and leave a big whole in your achievements.

One other unfortunate thing is "Co-Op Exclusive" songs. While it gives incentive to play Co-Op mode, the exclusive of Co-Op Career on XBox Live means not everyone has access to these songs. However, this is partially remedied by an "Unlock All Songs" cheat, it still seems a bit wrong that they intended for some songs to only be played by people who know other people with the game. Another similar gripe I have is that you can't play the Slash and Morello originals or The Devil Went Down to Georgia regularly, but only in Battle mode against the boss. While a patch is going to be sent out to make it so that you can play such songs normally, it still seems like something they should've done in the first place.

The online modes are good or bad, depending on which mode you're playing and who you're playing against. Pro Face-Off is fundamentally flawed, as it doesn't truly come down to who's playing better. If someone were to look up the best "Star Paths", or where to activate the Star Power, they have a better chance of winning against someone who didn't, even if that person plays better and hits more notes the whole song.

Battle Mode, on the other hand, is much more fun. Instead of Star Power you get attacks to launch at your opponent, up to three at a time, which you can strategically save and use. While this is fun, it's mostly the people that ruin it. People who are capable of doing Hard and Expert difficulty will pick Medium, just so they'll have an easy time winning. This puts you at a serious disadvantage and is overall just unfair. Sure, you could pick Medium, but it makes the match slow and boring, and will almost always go to a draw. They had no way to weed out people playing lower difficulties, so no matter what you could end up playing against a jerk playing a lower difficulty for an unfair advantage. Also, if there's no winner at the end of the match, instead of making it easy and awarding the win to whoever did better, you have to start the song all over again in a sudden death match, which is just fairly silly. But, if you can get someone playing the same difficulty, Battle Mode is quite fun.

The Les Paul guitar is pretty good, with a comfortable shape that's easy to use. Some people have had problems, but I haven't experienced many problems. There was at least one occasion where it didn't seem to work for a few minutes, but other than that the problems have been limited.

One last small personal issue I have, is that without Create-a-Character, they should've at least added one playable Hispanic guitarist. There are guitarists for African-Americans and Asians, but not for Hispanics, which is unfortunate, especially with songs by Hispanic artists finally making it into the game.

While it seems like there's more gripes than praise, it's because the gameplay is the same as always and remains as enjoyable as ever, despite the shortcomings, and there's not much to say about it.

OVERALL

Guitar Hero III is a decent game that is slightly bogged down by some inconveniences, and seriously hindered by bad difficulty decisions However, with a solid setlist, good gameplay and new online modes, Guitar Hero III is still worth playing. If you are one of those gamers who likes everything super hard and don't mind very high difficulty and overly hard achievements, go for this. However, if you are just looking for a fun time without getting frustrated, you may want to forego GH3 and opt for Harmonix's Rock Band. instead.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
You'd need to be a legend to do everything they ask of you in this game.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/14/07, Updated 11/27/07

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


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