Review by Jedimogg
2 steps forward, 3 steps back
Just a warning for people thinking about getting a Guitar Hero game for the first time, It will become an addiction. These games hark back to the classic video game era where playing games was all about achieving the highest score possible. You will play a song earning the highest score you ever have, but instead of focusing on your achievement you will focus on that one note you missed you know you will get next time. That would be frustrating if the game was so much fun to play.
Guitar Hero 3 is a solid game. Any fan of past games will likely enjoy this one. Neversoft knew they had a winner on their hands and didn't change the formula. However they tried to add a few new tricks with mixed results.
Guitar Hero 3 has the same solid gameplay of past games in the series. Playing the game feels relatively the same. Neversoft did slightly widen the window of time a player is allowed to register a note, which is necessary to balance the increased difficulty of some of the songs. It by no means make the game easy. It will still give Guitar Hero veterans a challenge.
The gameplay is improved with the new Les Paul guitar peripheral. Its the best guitar available. Its comfortable. The fret buttons and strum bar make much less noise than past guitars. The back button is again prominent, making palming it for star power a breeze. The biggest addition is that its wireless. However, this is the first of many places where an advance in the game also comes with some puzzling decisions. The wireless guitar will only use double A batteries or a rechargeable battery pack currently only available from red octane. Players hoping to use the battery pack they bought for the regular xbox controller will be disappointed.
Neversoft tried to spice things up by adding a bit of a backstory and boss battles. The very short interludes between tiers that try to add a backstory are superficial and add nothing. I would welcome a story that makes one feel like they are a guitar hero climbing the ladder from obscurity to stardom but these interludes don't succeed if that was the goal. They don't make the climb through career mode anymore compelling. The boss battle are a good start, but there are only 3 and they feel like a random additions that don't really gel with the overall career mode. I enjoyed playing them, but I wish they were integrated better.
The most important addition to Guitar Hero 3 is the online play, which is a mixed bag. Its great that players can now play each other in different game modes, like battle and pro-face off, but leaving out online co-op career was a major disappointment. This fault is doubled with the inclusion of songs that can only be unlocked through co-op career. Solo guitar heroes are left with trying to recruit a non-gamer to help them unlock these songs or resort to the unlock all code. Some of the game modes need more options too. Battle mode is fun, but only if both players are playing the same difficulty, which is not a requirement. Its frustrating to play on hard and lose to a player solely because they chose to play on medium.
When it comes down to it, the most import part of a music game is the music. (duh). Guitar Hero 3 has the strongest set-list of all the games and includes many more recordings by the original artist. But again this is an area where Neversoft found a way to miss a huge opportunity. The new songs are great, but there are issues with the learning curve. Past Guitar Hero games had a steady increase in the difficulty of the songs. Each tier was a little tougher than the one before it. With Guitar Hero 3 the increase in difficulty is uneven at best. The first 5 or so tiers increase in difficulty slowly and then there is a huge jump in the last few tiers. Players may feel like they are running full speed into a brick wall.
Other puzzling decisions include the lack of out of the box offline co-op quickplay. Its great this mode was added with a patch, but that still doesn't explain why a party game would limit co-op play to begin with. Neversoft also made changes to the onscreen graphics. Overall they are an improvement with clearer crisper graphics and color and the inclusion of a note counter. However the new star power meter is a step back with 6 light bulbs filling up to indicate star power. Its more difficult to tell how much star power you have and is just plain strange. Its just one more example of how Neversoft didn't really knock it out of the park with any of their improvements to the game.
Overall Guitar Hero 3 is a great game. The core gameplay is as solid as ever and it hasn't lost its addictive nature. But with every advance follows a handful of strange decisions, missed opportunities, and unfulfilled potential. I hope these faults are a result of Neversoft having to create the game and engine from scratch so they had limited time to tweak the small things. I also hope that now that they have the fundamentals down the next game in the series will follow through on the potential. In the end though, I highly recommend this game to guitar hero veterans as well as those have never touched a Guitar Hero game.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (w/Guitar) (US, 10/28/07)
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