Review by TyphoonGT
Guitar Hero returns to melt your face... but will you decide to melt yours first?
The original Guitar Hero was a very experimental move by Harmonix and RedOctane. Would it be a success, giving gamers a chance to not just play air guitar? Or would people laugh at it, wondering who in their right mind would play it? 4 installments later (Guitar Hero 80s was considered an "Expansion" to Guitar Hero 2), the answer is pretty obvious.
After a switch in developers (Harmonix left to make Rock Band while Neversoft took over to make Guitar Hero 3), GH3 is finally here.
The graphics in this game take a rather cartoony approach. The venues are all pretty detailed, and the audience looks a bit better than they did in the first Guitar Heroes. The rest of the band also looks much better than they did in the first games. What's neat are the little touches. For instance, during the intro to Raining Blood, there are strobe lights that flash to the beat of the drums. My main complaint is that the game has a fair amount of jaggies, at least for a music game. I realize that they didn't want to risk having sudden slowdowns in the middle of an insanely hard song, but come on. The PS3 and 360 could more than handle some anti-aliasing in this game. The guitarists and guitars all look quite nice though, which is the focus of the game anyways. And of course, you SHOULD be paying attention to the fretboard and not to the background.
Obviously one of the most important parts of this game, the only other part being gameplay. Guitar Hero 3 features 71 songs, a fair amount of them master tracks. What does that mean? Instead of shoddy covers, you get the REAL song as you'd hear on the album. And most of the covers sound great, thanks to the talented band behind it. There are only a few songs in this game that I don't really like, but the rest are great. There is also downloadable content. Most of these packs cost money, but in exchange you get more music. As of writing there is a Foo Fighters and Velvet Revolver pack available, each $6.25. I think the packs are overpriced compared to Rock Band's, but you aren't forced to get them. There is also a Boss Battle Track Pack, which features the three boss battle songs so you can play them outside of the boss battles, for free. The genres range from rock, to glam metal, to heavy metal, to punk.
One of the most significant changes to the gameplay is the timing window for notes. Veterans of Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero 2 will notice this pretty easily. This isn't a problem; without this window, some songs would be incredibly hard. In fact, I appreciate the extra window. It makes hammer-ons and pull-offs a bit easier to do, but they're still fun. Believe me, there is nothing quite like sliding your hand up and down the frets during the HOPO solos in Cult of Personality on Hard and Expert.
For newbies to Guitar Hero, here's the gist of how it works: You use a guitar controller (regular Playstation controllers work, but who wants to do that?!). This guitar has five fret buttons, each colored differently. You have a strum bar, which goes up and down. You also have a whammy bar, which changes the sound of held notes and lets you extract star power from held starpower notes. Naturally, there is a Select and Start button, a D-pad, and a PS button.
When playing the game, you have a fretboard that scrolls down the screen. On this fretboard, there are notes. They are each differently colored and correspond to the buttons on the guitar (lefties fear not, there is a lefty flip option). When these notes scroll over their note indicators at the bottom of the screen, you hold down the fret button and strum the strum bar at the same time. You only have to strum once per note; of course, on the really fast notes, you'll feel like you're going to break that strum bar. There are also hammer-ons and pull-offs, which require no strumming themselves but do require you to hit the notes before them. If you miss a note during a long sequence of Hammer-ons/Pull-offs (also called HOPOs), you'll have to strum one of the notes to start HOPOing again.
Star power is a special power that lets you get more notes and boost your rock meter. Your rock meter measures how well you are doing. It has three sections - Green, Yellow, Red. Ideally you should be in the Green at all times (except when you start a song, which always starts at the middle of the meter). If you miss notes, your meter goes down and into the red. If you hit notes, your meter goes up. Star power is gained by hitting star power notes. These are notes that look like stars. You see a chain of them, and must hit them all correctly. If you do this, 1/4 of your star power meter will fill up. Once your meter is filled at least half way, you can use star power. It is activated by tilting the guitar or hitting the Select button (conveniently located near your palm). Star power will double your score multiplier, leading to higher scores. If your rock meter is in dangerous red, activating star power will make notes be worth more rock meter boost if you hit them.
The game boasts a Career mode, where you play solo through a set list following a loose storyline. The game starts you off easy then starts amping up the difficulty. I warn you: Hard and Expert players, the last two tiers of songs will make you angry. One twist is that there are boss battles in Career, three to be exact. These boss battles pit you against the computer (Tom Morello, Slash, and a final character I won't spoil :) ). The computer by default hits every note. These boss battles are all in battle mode.
Battle mode is available online and offline. In it, players each play the same song (except in boss battles where you tend to trade off or play lead/rhythm). You get power-ups, which are acquired and activated in the same manner as star power. You can store up to 3 power-ups. The power-ups include "breaking" one of your opponent's strings, which requires him to press the broken string (fret button) a bunch of times. Another is the devastating Whammy attack, which requires your opponent to press his whammy bar multiple times. If timed correctly during a part of a song with lots of fast notes, this can make your opponent fail. You can also amp up the difficulty of an opponent's note chart (useless if they play on Expert however), or make their fretboard flip to lefty mode (or righty if they play lefty). Battle mode can make for some heated battles, but is a bit lopsided. A player on Expert who is extremely good can still lose easily to a player who is on Easy. This is because the Easy player has much fewer notes to hit.
In career mode you can buy bonus songs, buy new outfits for characters, buy new characters, buy new guitars, and buy new finishes for them. A bit gimmicky but fun nonetheless.
The game also has a co-op career mode where you and a buddy can play as a team (one on bass and one on guitar) through another somewhat loose story. You can also do quickplay, and practice mode. You WILL be using practice mode a few times, trust me.
The multiplayer options are nice for the most part. You have co-op, face-off (players can play different difficulties and trade off playing parts of a song), pro face-off (players play the same difficulty and note-chart), and battle mode. You can take all of this online, except for co-op career.
The online is less than stellar. Often times, you are unable to connect to matches. You cannot invite people on your friends list for who knows what reason; there is just no option. When you CAN get a match going though, it is quite fun.
Guitar Hero 3 is a worthy addition to the Guitar Hero franchise. The game packs plenty of great songs, has the same fun Guitar Hero gameplay, and should satisfy any music game fan. Definitely recommend it.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (w/Guitar) (US, 10/28/07)
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