Review by kiriyama2

"Legends is such a loose term."

So here we are, less than a year since the release of the second Guitar Hero game. Shorter time than when that expansion Rocks the 80s came out. So I suppose when you get to it, there's been three Guitar Hero games this year. I know some people will try pull that “GH2 came out on the PS2 in November of 06” card, but that's still less than a year ago. I would make some big hubbub over this, but the last Guitar Hero game rocked, so the fact that there's already another one is amazing. By the rationale of the last one being awesome, this one must be awesome. Right? Oh, the original developers aren't involved, they went on to something different. This one's done by Neversoft, the people who've churned out Tony Hawk after mediocre Tony Hawk game. Well, this doesn't bode well, changing the dev teams seems like something that could kill a franchise (yes, I'm still harping on Call of Duty 3). But then again, these are the guys that made that vastly underrated Gun game, so it could be good. Well fortunately, it's still good, just not as good as GH2.

After having bought two guitar controllers I figured I shouldn't buy another guitar shaped controller for my 360. But hey, I bought the bundled version anyway. After all it's a wireless guitar, and let's admit it, the Les Paul is an awesome guitar. It feels nice and sturdy in my hands, but in one perplexing design choice Red Octane decided to make it so the neck is detachable. Which I suppose I can see where they were coming from with this, a lot of people were probably dragging their controllers around, and this'd make it easy to transport. Unfortunately, the thing is often times it'll cause you to miss several hammer-on and pull-off sequences because the game will decide that hey, you weren't holding down red or whatever. Also, more than once random buttons (for instance RED) would refuse to work, despite holding it down and trying to ram the damned neck into the base as far as humanly possible into the body, and it still wouldn't work. The thing that fixed it? Accidentally hitting it on a nearby coffee table. Perhaps I'm just a bit picky, but if I spend almost fifty dollars for a damn controller is shouldn't be susceptible to random breakdowns. Still though I suppose I'm a sucker for it's lustrous black sheen, and it's all around sexiness. It's also still got that random slot near the headset plug, that still serves no discernable purpose.

The game has got a noticeable graphical overhaul since GH2. The character models look more realistic (and dare I say it, more attractive), and decidedly less action figure like. The singer is quite wonderfully animated and he looks cool, something that I've noticed that's interesting is the fact that when he's singing he doesn't just look like his mouth is just flapping open and shut to look like he's attempting to sing, he actually looks like he's enunciating the words and lyrics. Perhaps I was just overanalyzing it, but it looked quite realistic. By contrast however the drummer looks a bit more stiff than he did in the last game, which really seems odd, but hey, I call ‘em like I see ‘em. Also, this might just be a bit of a aesthetic quibble, but it looks like the majority of the characters that have returned from the previous Guitar Hero game have been beaten senseless with the ugly stick. I mean sure they look realistic, but why would I want to play as say Izzy Sparks who looks quite hacked out, or the guy with the ugly spiked mohawk? Also what the hell happened to the characters of Pandora, and Clive Winston? Sure you've got some new J-Pop girl, and the new Judy Nails is some sort of horrific amalgamation of Pandora and the Judy from 2, but I wanted the originals. If they had gotten rid of the Grim Ripper, well, let's just say there would've been trouble. Also joining the cast of characters is Slash from Guns n' Roses, who looks like the spitting image of the real Slash. Down to the big wonderful hat. Also there's that guy from Rage Against the Machine, and Bret Michaels, you know, the singer from Poison. The backgrounds have been given a bit of sprucing up, taking you from such glorious venues as someone's backyard, to a bar, to a prison, and a large theater in Britain. These look quite good, especially the British auditorium, if for nothing else other than the automated dragon that adorns the background. Then you've got the changed rock meter, which I suppose is just fundamentally the same, it just has a different text font, and looks a bit rusty. Then you've got the score counter, the star power meter, and the multiplier. With the new thrilling addition of a handy little meter that shows how many notes you've hit in a row. Annoyingly the game has the tendency to flash a little “X amount of notes hit” thing on the top of the screen, which can actually distract you and cause you to miss. I'd be lying if I said this didn't happen to me, because it did. It's particularly frustrating when you've got a really high streak going then suddenly it flashes up there causes you to miss and destroys whatever streak you had. Of course all the guitars are exactly like their real-life counterparts. Which surprises me not at all. I especially dig the specialty axes that you can buy in-game, they look quite spiffy.

Of course the audio is really the meat of the game. And the game doesn't fall apart here. Sure it might be as robust as the set list in Guitar Hero 2, but it's got the sheer gall to call its soundtrack to be legends of rock. I mean sure it's got the worthy stuff like Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones, and Rock and Roll all Nite by Kiss (which is a really good cover, might I add), but come on. Tenacious D? AFI? SONIC YOUTH? They're so called legends of rock? Don't get me wrong the soundtrack is largely good, I enjoy playing the song Lay Down by Priestess as much as the next guy, but calling the virtually unknown Priestess a legend of rock? That's just daft. For that matter, though I wish no offense to Rage fans I fail to see how Rage against the Machine are “legends of rock.” One thing the audio has going for it is the fact that a good number of these songs are the master recordings, and not lukewarm covers. Sure some of them are, like Paranoid, the cover artist did a decent enough job, but it's not Ozzy. There's just something about these cover artists, where they sound almost like the real deal, but there's something just wrong enough about them to establish that they are, in fact, not the original artist. I seriously want to know why Red Octane or whoever secures the license can't just get the damned masters for any Heart or Alice Cooper song. Also Stevie Ray Vaughn, Dead Kennedys, Blue Oyster Cult, and White Zombie should be angry over the cover artists who did their songs, they frustratingly sound nothing like the originals. They were able to get Slayer, Iron Maiden, and Aerosmith to supply the originals, but they couldn't get WHITE ZOMBIE to do it? Slash and that guy from Rage also supplied an original song to the game, which they sound pretty good, but they're not great. Which I suppose just supports my gripe that the games soundtrack is a bit lenient on what is considered a legend of rock these days.

The gameplay is basically unchanged from Guitar Hero 2. Except for the fact that the medium difficulty seems to be a tad easier than it was in GH2. Maybe I just got that thing called skill, but hey, whatever. It's difficult enough that you won't breeze through in a couple hours. Something new they've added to the game is a new “battle mode” which is fundamentally just the face off mode from 2 to see who loses the quickest. Basically when the game decides to throw one of these boss fights at you it's just an exercise to see who can make who lose before the end of the song. As much as I like these, they happen only three times throughout the entire game. Battle mode can be quite the disorienting affair. Instead of the star power that the game normally gives you, you instead get “battle items.” These range from a broken fret, where you'll have to jam on that particular button a number of times to be able to use it to a item where you‘ll have to wiggle the whammy bar until you can continue playing the song, to a lefty flip (flips the onscreen button placement), to an utterly useless thing called amp overload. Oftentimes if you don't get any one specific item early on in the match you will lose, which is quite frustrating when your friend or whoever grabs a bunch of double note and whammy breakers, and you lose like that. Hard mode in this game is downright murderous. Sure it seems easy enough, but when you hit the last two venues the game just seems content to just kill any sort of progress you're likely to see. It can be done, sure, but initially you'll break your fingers just trying to three star a song, only to fail ninety eight percent of the way through. Something that this game's got that neat is the new online multiplayer. Sure they're fundamentally just the same multiplayer modes from GH2, and the battle mode. It's a fun mode, and it works because it's just the same as playing against a person in the room with you, only with the convenience of not having to be in the same room as someone to play against them. Something changed from GH2 is the fact that this game offers a cooperative career mode. Sure it doesn't differ from solo career that much, but I like the option, and it does offer a moderately different set list from solo career.

Continuing the trend from GH2 the game offers downloadable content. At the time I wrote this review there were four track packs, and five individual tracks for download. Unlike GH2 several of the downloadable songs were actually available for free. Which I think is just awesome, sure one is only the boss fight songs, but that's alright, I wanted to play The Devil Went Down to Georgia without having to do an annoying boss fight. I just got to say, I certainly hope they release the DLC for this game more frequently than they did for GH2.

I'm sure that the majority of this review seemed like I was being harsh on the game. Despite the fact that the game became downright impossible near the end I liked it. Good times were still to be had, even if it did feel like it was punishing me for not being close to good for its standards. Seriously, was it just some sort of cruel joke that Neversoft decided to put in just to test gamer's tenacity? I can just imagine someone sitting there while coding this and saying “you know, let's just throw in a bunch of ridiculous hammer on sequences and make a bunch of chords they won't be able to hit. And let's lump them together to make it nearly impassable.” Want proof? Just try to beat that Dragonforce song on Expert (and I hope all you people who begged for a Dragonforce song are happy with your impossible song). I just don't think it was as good as Guitar Hero 2 is, maybe because that one was my first Guitar Hero, and thus has earned a special spot in my jaded gamer's heart. But I do recommend it, fun is still to be had here, it's just that I think GH2 and Rock Band are better than this.

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 8/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 8/10

On one last note, I seriously have to debate the “Legends of Rock” moniker. If Dragonforce, and Tenacious D are legends of rock, then I'm the king of Norway.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/01/08

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

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