Review by Jurnco

"Rock Rock On"

Guitar Hero 3 has finally brought the highly praised franchise multi-console with releases for all major consoles and even the PC and Mac platform. For strict Nintendo fans and newcomers, this may be the first chance at getting a taste of the action. There's no better time to jump aboard as Guitar Hero 3 is just as good as previous guitar hero offerings, and that means a lot.

Guitar Hero is one of those “why didn't I think of that” simple game designs. The rhythm game is based around the included guitar controller which requires players to hold different fret buttons and strum along with the music. The white Les Paul guitar included with the Wii version is easily the best guitar hero controller to date. It has a clean, professional look to it and a solid structure and weight that make it feel great to hold. Of course the guitar is considerably smaller and more plastic than a real guitar, giving it a toy feel; not that that matters much. The Les Paul guitar is still the best yet, and the added wireless functionality (provided by a Wii Remote) is excellent.

A flashy guitar is nice, of course, but Guitar Hero really shines in it's gameplay. Those familiar with the previous two games should know exactly what to expect. Aside from a few minor tweaks, not a whole lot has changed about the game. Colored dots coordinating to the fret buttons on the guitar scroll down the center of the screen. These indicate what “chord” to hold on the guitar, then the notes must be strummed as the dots pass through a dock on the bottom of the screen. It's simple enough, but can be very overwhelming in practice. Fortunately Guitar Hero 3 has several difficulty settings to choose from so anyone of any skill level can play. Though seasoned Guitar Hero players beware, expert has been given a serious difficulty boost. Hard on Guitar Hero 3 is close to what expert was like in Guitar Hero 1. Sadly this also means that expert has been made so incredibly hard that it is no longer fun. There are insanely fast runs, and new to the series are three fret chords which can be incredibly difficult to pull off in rapid succession. These runs are made a little more bearable with the one strum feature which allows glowing white notes to be played without strumming if the note just before it was hit successfully. Every note can be strummed, but this feature makes a huge difference in some songs.

If notes are missed, the rock meter will slowly drop until eventually it is completely empty and the song is failed. Successfully hitting notes brings the meter back up. The goal is to stay in comfortably in the green area of the meter throughout the song. If no notes are missed, a multiplier will build up to a max of four times points earned. There are also star shaped notes scattered throughout the each song. Hitting these notes builds up star power. The current star power level is indicated by colored lights off to the side of the rock meter. When the lights turn blue, star power can be activated by tilting the guitar up. Star power doubles the current multiplier giving a minimum of tow times and a maximum of eight times. The debate here is whether to hold on to the star power until a really difficult spot of the song to help get through it, or use it up on a spot you can nail perfectly to get a high score. Actually it's easy to forget about star power completely except in those moments of desperation where streams of notes are scrolling past with only a few hits. Using star power comes at a bit of a trade off though, as all of the notes turn a shiny, glowing blue color which can be confusing as to which notes are what.

While Rock Band may have stolen the multiplayer spot light, Guitar Hero 3 has some very fun multiplayer options. There is both a two player cooperative mode and versus mode. Co-op is where the real fun is, as both players are working together; one taking the bass guitar and the other the lead. The bass guitar is inherently easier than the lead guitar, but it still provides a decent challenge, it just has a lot of repetition. Co-op is far superior to versus because both players can play through the majority of the song. Versus switches off chunks of the song between the two competitors with only a few spots where both play together. Yes it's a guitar face off, but yes it's also very boring. It's no fun watching the other person play the song, and you may as well just play with one guitar if that's the way versus works.

Guitar Hero 3 comes with over 70 songs to choose from. What the game hides though is that fact that some of these songs are only available in the career mode and/or two player mode. Still, there are plenty of songs. What's disappointing, however, is the poor variety. True there are songs from many different artists, but there isn't much variation in era. There area handful of songs from the 70's and 80's, but the majority of the tracks are from recent 2003-2006 years. Songs that haven't exactly proven themselves to the test of time, and could very well be un-cool in a matter of months. It would have been nice to see more “classic” rock like the Guitar Hero 1 soundtrack. The majority of the songs are still fun to play, and only about a fourth of them are either too hard or too annoying to be any fun. One of the problems with the songs in the game is that each set gets progressively harder. That's good for learning the game, but what it ends up doing is making the first few sets a little too easy, and the last few sets incredibly difficult. It would take some serious dedication to beat the last set of songs on hard, or the last few sets of songs on expert. Frankly the game is no longer fun at that point and just becomes work.

Closing Comments
Guitar Hero 3 is as good as any of the previous games in the series. This may be the first chance for some to get in on the franchise, and I say don't hesitate. The game isn't just an overrated fad, it really is a fun rhythm game. If you're a fan of rhythm games, Guitar Hero 3 is one of the greatest. The track selection is a bit disappointing in it's lack of classic rock, but there's still a lot to pick from and enjoy. The jump in difficulty from hard to expert is too much, and expert becomes more like work than fun.

Score: 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/17/07

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

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