Review by Gruel

Reviewed: 05/28/08

Doesn't capture the greatness of the first two games, but yet another worthy entry in the series

After two groundbreaking and genre defining entries into the world of music and rhythm games (and a not so memorable 80s edition), Guitar Hero is back with a true sequel in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. The developer of the previous Guitar Hero titles, Harmonix is no longer on board with publishers Red Octane and Activision as they decided to join forces with MTV Games and EA to launch a new music game property, Rock Band. So with the developer slot for the third game of the series empty, in comes Tony Hawk developer Neversoft to fill the humongous shoes that Harmonix left behind.

Neversoft stuck with the same tried and true formula of the first two games, and sprinkled a couple new additions to the proven gameplay. Most noticeable is when progressing through the career mode, players will run across three “boss battles.” These bosses will be against real life band front-men Tom Morello and Slash, along with a final battle against Satan himself. While innovative in theory, the boss battles fall apart in execution. Players need to vanquish there opponents rock meter by using a series of power-ups that temporarily disable chords, amp up the difficulty, and other crazy shenanigans that will make the guitarist mentally freak out too. It’s not that the boss battles are too hard, they’re challenging no doubt about it, but for all the wrong reasons that ensured Rock Band got more play time than this once reliable series.

Other subtle, yet appreciated gameplay tweaks include a slightly longer gap for nailing hammer-ons and pull-offs, and the option to immediately go to practice mode from those final tier fret-burning songs in career mode. The standout addition to Guitar Hero III is online play. All worries of the tiniest bit of lag effecting gameplay can be put to rest, as I didn’t experience any in the couple dozen online duels I participated in. Activision has also stepped up its efforts in committing to downloadable content compared to their slim pickings in Guitar Hero II. They already have over a couple dozen songs available to download from artists such as The Foo Fighters, Dropkick Murphys, and more. However, it is worth mentioning the online leaderboards are seriously messed up. For people like me who crave to see how they rank against their friends, they are in for a rude awakening as the leaderboards have an incredible incomprehensible ranking system that I couldn’t grasp for the life of me.

Other than the occasional frustrating boss battles, playing through the career in order to rack up cash to unlock the usual array of characters, guitars, and bonus songs provides hours of intense shredding. Now the career can be played co-operatively with a friend. This is a very nice option to have; unfortunately some songs for quickplay must be unlocked by first accessing them through the co-op career. That may not be a problem for some, but this poses a qualm for people who don’t own a second guitar as they will not be able to have the complete Guitar Hero experience without the second guitar.

Neversoft had to redevelop the code from scratch since Harmonix held the rights to the Guitar Hero engine, but after playing Guitar Hero III that wouldn’t hit your mind as the game looks nearly identical to Guitar Hero II, just with some extra layers of HD coating. Be on the lookout for some abbreviated cut-scenes to tie the career mode together. I mean abbreviated because none of them last longer than a minute and they contain no spoken dialogue whatsoever, but they capture and personify the Guitar Hero experience, and are a joy to watch again and again. Guitar Hero III still possesses the same rock-out look its predecessors had, and it looks ten times as rocking in HD. Aurally, there is a big leap in songs in the main track list compared to previous games that are master tracks. Now the covers in previous games were usually pretty dead-on, but having that master track to rock out to only helps authenticate the rock experience.

Guitar Hero III is a worthy sequel and helped my mind forget of the quick cash in game that was Rock the 80s. If you’re a Guitar Hero fan and you’re debating on this or Rock Band, it’s going to be a tough call. Both have tremendous track lists (the edge goes to Rock Band only if you invest in downloadable songs, Guitar Hero III has a vastly superior default set of songs), but Guitar Hero has the slight edge as it aims more towards a complete guitar experience and Rock Band focuses more on a co-operative experience. If you can afford both, definitely go that route, but if you can’t then pick this up if you’re a Guitar Hero freak, or go the Rock Band option if you love jamming out with your friends. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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

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