Review by BuddhaPirate

"It's a Guitar Hero, but in the end that's both it's saving grace and it's damning curse"

Guitar Hero III, the latest in the Guitar Hero series, is playable, hell even fun, but there are so many little things about it's design, from the tabbing of the songs to the new Les Paul guitar, the game lets down on so many areas that I would say it's worth trying before buying or even waiting out for another guitar simulator (such as Rock Band) later. That being said my fellow shred heads, on with the review! (This review is based mostly on Hard and Expert difficulties, but a little medium thrown in there as well, both in Single Player and Co-Op)

The graphics are pretty, well the opening sequences are anyway. The actual environments are a mix of 3D pretty that, in all honesty, looks like spiffed-up PS2 graphics, with some things looking like they're missing textures (specifically the Grim Reaper's scythe, it has lime green and red feathers on it, it looks like someone forgot to texture it, and if not they really really messed up because it looks really bad) and 2D effects (cut scene stuff like gas thrown into the crowd, stuff like that) which overall makes a nice stylistic approach to the game, and honestly the point of these games is the music, but still, not very impressive. The in-game cut scenes are 2D comic-esque things that are amusing and look clean and neat, no complaints there.

The whole game is based on this soundtrack, it's Guitar Hero's bread and butter. That being said, I found the soundtrack very VERY hit or miss. Some of the songs are great! I love Monsters, I love Paint It Black, I love Miss Murder. But then there are some real misses, in fact some of the "biggest" songs in the game I found to be misses. I found Rock and Roll All Nite to be a huge disappointment. For a game thats game play is based on you playing guitar, there are absolutely huge! gaps where you play NOTHING during that song! Bulls on Parade, which I love and really loved playing, is repetitive and I found easy even on Expert. Black Magic Woman, while a great song to listen to, suffers from being a Santana song that doesn't highlight Carlos Santana's amazing guitar solos and jamming. It's a nice slow song, which I've always wanted in a Guitar Hero song, but it's just a poor choice if given Santana's song catalogue. There are many many more hit-and-misses throughout the soundtrack, and what's most disappointing is that I found there are very few stand-out songs in this game. But there's Number of the Beast! And One! And Dragonforce! Yah, there are, but most of the songs aren't good sit down and jam for a few minutes and have a lot of fun, they're very technical. There is no Jessica or Monkey Wrench in this title, the closest thing that comes to a fun, upbeat song that's just a blast to play every time you go through it was Miss Murder, which is unfortunate given how many songs there are in the game and how much you really WANT other songs to hold that spot too.

SOUND 8/10
The sound was good, but it's a rhythm game so if it isn't there are some serious problems. That being said, some of the songs' volume was very very disappointing. You can go from being able to hear everything nice to barely being able to hear your guitar while playing in Single Player, with some of the song's volume so low that I had to turn up my TV. In Co-Op, good luck hearing the secondary part at all on a bunch of the songs. I was playing bass for a few songs deaf because I just couldn't hear the part. All of the songs have a variable volume, which is really frustrating, master tracks and covers included. That being said, most of the songs' volume was close and I only really found the serious problem of not being able to hear my guitar in a few songs, so overall the sound design is pretty good.

I feel the ball was really dropped here. Now in all fairness, if this was the first Guitar Hero game, this score would be significantly higher, but since it's the third in a series where the first two were as terrific as they were, it's score was significantly reduced. Let's start off with playing most songs under any difficulty other than Expert. It sucks. Plain and simple. Most songs when not played on Expert, hell even some of the songs on Expert, are just tabbed poorly. Some of the tabbing makes the songs HARDER to play on lower difficulty settings. I know that I did significantly better on the first three tiers in Single Player on Expert than I did on Hard simply because the songs were tabbed better. This is such a big issue that I am almost surprised the game has been shipped at all: it's almost like the game wasn't play tested all the way through! (more on the whole game not being play tested later). Oh, there are also huge differences in difficulty between each difficulty level. Huge jumps. Absolutely huge jumps. Big enough to make you sit back and think that they just made the Expert tabs and then when satisfied cut them down without play testing them!

--- Spoilers Ahead, Skip To *** To Avoid ---

Moving from the tabbing to the actual game play decisions they made. I really like the battles, but there is such a variable difficulty to them that it is almost like they came up with a concept, ran with it, and didn't play test it! The first battle against Tom Morello is extremely easy, even on Expert. I have seen this guy play live. He's made his guitar do things that makes you do a double take to make sure it's a guitar he's playing, yet I can kill him off less than half way through the battle. Then you've got Slash. Yes Slash is great fun to play against but only slightly harder than Tom. But that's the problem! He was only SLIGHTLY better than Tom. Once you know the general idea how to kill off Tom, killing off Slash is a piece of cake! And that brings me to the battle against Lou. This was a great idea, a great IDEA. Playing against the Devil to The Devil Went Down To Georgia is such a great idea and it could have been implemented SO well. Let us begin with the fact that the Devil doesn't miss a note, that's fine, he's a frickin demon. Then move onto him getting more battle power ups against you just before you get yours so he can use them against you right before you can get one. Fine, he's a cheating bastard but I understand that choice. Then add in the huge difficulty jump from any other song you play on that level to that song, and you start to get really annoyed at the Devil's tricks. Then you take into account that some battle items just don't do anything against him, such as Lefty Flip. It doesn't trip him up for one note. Neither does Difficulty Up, and all of a sudden two of the five battle items are useless to you. This battle became very annoying very quickly, and the only thing that kept me going was the fact that the song is amazing. Then, after you've finally beaten the bastard, YOU DON'T EVER GET TO PLAY THAT SONG AGAIN! Okay, so that's not true, but if you ever want to play it again you need to play it as a Battle AGAIN and beat Lou AGAIN and you can ONLY do it on a difficulty setting that you've beaten him before on AND you can't play against your friends because it's not unlocked for general play. Seriously! The Capstone song of the game you can't play outside of the battle! The hell! How did Neversoft think that that was a good idea? Okay, done venting...

*** You're Safe Now ***
Thirdly, I really didn't like that I needed to play ALL THE WAY THROUGH Co-Op to unlock all of the non-bonus songs of the game! That is B.S. One of my favorite songs was the very last song in Co-Op, so not only did I need to beat the Single Player mode, but I also had to find someone to spend who knows how many hours with me in Co-Op to unlock it. On top of that! Let's say you play on Expert and you've played through all of the Co-Op mode with someone else on Expert, and now you want to play with your friend who plays on Medium. Guess what?! You need to go through all of Co-Op again! That's right! If you switch difficulties you no longer are credited with beating songs you've beaten! And that's the only way to play Co-Op in the game! This design flaw really irkes me and just leads me to believe that they didn't play test the game! Oh, and there are 45 base songs you can play in Quickplay and only 44 available in Co-Op after you've beaten it (I don't know what the missing one is, but seriously).

Finally, what my friends and I have dubbed the "Oh no you didn't hit that note" fatal flaw in Guitar Hero 3. We haven't quite decided if it's the new Les Paul controller or if it's the actual game play, but we have had some serious issues with us just not hitting notes even though we have, long strumming sections not registering as if we hadn't hit them when we know we have, and the favorite failing sections because the registration of our note hits aren't in time with the tab (as in they were in time with the audible guitar in the song, but not the tabs in the game). This becomes really frustrating, especially the last part, when you can feel (and hear because the Les Paul is very noisy) that you are strumming out of time with the song but in time with the tabs. Just very very sloppy, almost as if the game wasn't play tested.

Now here's a good idea, let's make it so the guitar neck can come off for ease of travel. I actually really like that idea, except that it makes the neck jiggle about a centimeter or so and during intense sessions all of a sudden you start to fail because your neck is shifting under your fingers, and with the Les Paul fret buttons that 1 cm is enough to mess you up. Let's talk about the fret buttons for a second. They are sticky. Really really sticky. On the PS2 controller (which I love to death) and the X-Plorer (which I really hated), you could slide your fingers up and down the buttons easy, not requiring much force to keep the buttons down. It was nice, it was easy and fun to play. The Les Paul you really need to push down because the fret buttons push back. I have had chord holds drop out and miss notes because the buttons pushed back on my fingers enough for them not to register. You really need to jam down on the buttons to get them to fully register; anything less and you run the risk of missing notes. Speaking of missing notes, the raised bar on the Yellow fret is almost not there! As in I can feel it and it's nice and there and gives me a sense of direction on the fret board on all of my other controllers even though they have hours upon hours of play on them, and the Les Paul's feels like it's been worn down. There are also new bars in between each fret that are just tall enough for you to rest your finger on them and think you're hitting a note when really you haven't pushed down far enough to get the guitar to register. Then we have the strum bar. It's noisy and clicky. It's annoying, and I've had instances playing where I can hear the strum bar louder than the guitar in the game. Now that's annoying. Then there is the girth of the guitar. It's thicker than my REAL Strat! Plus it's weird shape positions your arm on the big hump of the guitar high above the strum bar, making it that much harder to get to it and that much more uncomfortable to play. My arm has hurt after playing with the Les Paul, something that has never happened to me before playing Guitar Hero. The Whammy Bar also sticks out quite far and is a bit annoying. Overall just a whole bunch of poor design choices.

Overall, the game is, well, a Guitar Hero game. That's about all you can say. It has some good but more bad. The soundtrack, while mostly good, leaves little that is truly memorable and fun to play over and over again. The graphics, again while mostly good, are by no means up to XBox 360 standards, and that's just disappointing. The sound fluctuates, volume of songs differing so greatly sometimes that I needed to turn up my TV, and some parts were so low in the song that you basically couldn't hear them. Then add in the really really poor game design and play choices and the sub-par Les Paul that made me yearn for an X-Plorer and you've got a game that, if it was the first in the series would have been great, but since it's the third behind two amazing titles that had none of these flaws that popped up you get a game that could have been great, had it been developed by a team like Harmonix (haha, see, it's a joke because they were removed from the title and the game suffered greatly because of it). It's a good game. It's a Guitar Hero, but in the end that's both it's saving grace and it's damning curse


Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 10/30/07

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

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