Some games take time to gain acceptance. This game started out a fledging curiosity, now the obsession has hit and everybody wants to play air guitar except with the a controller shaped like one. The game is Guitar Hero 3. This is the first installment that has hit every major console at the same time. This also marks the first time where they really pushed the concept of actual guitarists and musicians coming out to help such as Bret Michaels, Slash and the Sex Pistols. Some would describe it as a sell out especially since the team that made the original Guitar Hero was busy making Rock Band and the reins were left to Neversoft. How would they fare; could they possibly mess up what made the first two Guitar Heros so great?
As previously said in other Guitar Heros, graphics has never been the game’s strong suit. Many of the objects got a face lift and look better. The widescreen display and 1080p resolution is the greatest it has been. Problem is we as Guitar Hero enthusiasts never needed complicated graphics. We wanted notes across a plane and good music. Instead we get a muppet face male lead singer and a complicated star power bar. Actually the star power bar has been turned into some science experiment where you fill up incandescent light tubes when you hit your special notes. This becomes very confusing to followers of the series. Back to the muppet face male lead singer (and I don’t mean Bret Michaels when he’s singing Talk Dirty to Me). Your main lead singer is downright scary and not in a good way. All of the characters got face lifts but they should have kept them the same way as in the previous 360 Guitar Hero. Simplicity is better.
Where graphics fail, audio comes in and saves the day. If you want to jam to dozens of rock fused tunes, then this fits the bill. Paint it Black, Paranoid, even a little Cult of Personality among others fill the list. Actual artist involvement is more obvious here as many of the “made famous by” feel a lot closer to the originals. Master tracks seem to be more frequent as well and it shows for songs like Talk Dirty to Me and Anarchy in the UK. This is all presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound turned up to 11. Bang your head, pump your fist and jump for the throbbing headache (but in a good way) as you are immersed in the sound spectacle.
This is the third installment, however due to the commercialization of the game this might be your first rodeo. The people at Guitar Hero decided to include wireless guitars for the first time in a Xbox 360 pack. It is an extremely sleek and good looking black Les Paul. It has a wonderful design and actually comes in two detachable pieces that can be easily stored away. Once easily assembled you have 5 buttons that are your frets and a strum bar. Included as well is a whammy bar to hold down on those long notes for extra umph and points. This is easily the best guitar I’ve seen. I would venture to say even better than the first Guitar that shipped with the PS2 copy of Guitar Hero 1. It handles well and I don’t have any trouble hitting notes which is good because you still need your lightening reflexes.
The modes have slightly changed for this version and have mixed results. Naturally you have your single player career which is where most of the attention is focused. The co-op has been expanded beyond the simple play together scenario where you would just turn on quick play and strum until your hearts delight. An afterthought if you will. There is a whole co-op career mode where the songs have been rearranged and even new songs such as Beastie Boys “Sabotage” have been added (mostly as encores). Another thing that has been added is a battle mode. Basically what you do here is play a series of notes and try to outdo your competitor. This can be the computer (disguised as a famous rock god like Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine) or another person. But the trick is that you also get battle icons instead of star power which you can use against your opponent to get them to mess up. This includes messing up your whammy bar, increasing difficulty and even making the screen all blurry. I appreciate the Pro-Face off modes where you have to play better than your opponent. However, the battle mode smells of a boxing match not a guitar face-off. If I wanted my screen to be all blurry, I’d drink some Everclear and play Fight Night. This simply does not belong in Guitar Hero.
As feared, Guitar Hero’s difficulty has been increased. The mechanics for the difficulties are the same but the speed has increased quite a bit. Those expecting a walk through will be tested in even the first few tiers of songs. Mississippi Queen and Lay it Down while being in only the 2nd and 3rd tiers present problems to even experienced guitarists such as myself. Once you get through those songs it doesn’t stop either. One by Metallica as expected provides a furious challenge and we won’t even talk about songs like Helicopter by Bloc Party and Through the Fire and Flames by Dragonforce (unlocked for completing the career mode). It’s tough and this is the first time where I seriously thought about giving it a hard rating on the difficulty before sticking with average.
There are a huge amount of songs to play. As mentioned there are songs to play in Single Player and Co-Op that are different (hoping of course that you have a second guitar and friend to play). Not to mention that there are a good number of bonus songs (but no Anarchy Club :() to go through including bands like Killswitch Engage and Lacuna Coil. The welcome new addition this time around comes in the form of multiplayer online. Co-Op, Battle Mode, Face-Offs can all be played with a friend or random person on the internet. This presents a great level of fun as you can find somebody to jam along with for those without a second guitar or second person to play with.
As wonderful as multiplayer online and local is, achievements nearly drags this title to the ground. Now sure, a lot of people won’t even play for the achievements and probably shouldn’t in this game. But what Xbox has done by providing the achievements is create a scenario where we want to get as many achievements as possible for any given game. Furthermore, we have to feel like we can obtain them. The Long Road Ahead is a good example. The description reads “Complete all difficulties in Career, buy everything from the shop and complete 100 online matches”. Sure, okay it is possible but it might very well take you the rest of your life. Not to mention that it is overly complicated. I’m surprised that it doesn’t require you to floss your teeth while playing Black Magic Woman left handed. Then there are 2 separate achievements for Through the Fire and Flames which on even medium is an absolute nightmare. I won’t even go into the absolute silly achievements like playing through the career right and left handed, using a standard controller for your entire career or holding your whammy bar for every long note in Number of the Beast. If there are people who get 1000 for this game they need to go on tv or join a meeting with two or three initials in the name.
Guitar Hero 3 is going to be the first GH game that a lot of people get introduced to in the genre. It will sell like hotcakes and people all over the world will be wowed by it like DDR was when it first came into popularization. It could also signify the demise of the game into an ugly commercial form. The blatant advertising (thanks Axe, we couldn’t do it without u *gag*) to the over complication of things that just didn’t need to be messed with bring down this game slightly. The music still kicks and you will have a rocking good time if you go it solo. Double that fun if you have a friend rocking beside you or on your friendlist on Live. I’ve been reviewing Guitar Hero since the very first one hit the pedal a few years ago. Maybe that’s my problem. It’s a great game, no question. But I honestly miss Guitar Hero 2 when it was simpler. When it was more about the music than making it pretty. When it was more about banging your head than listening to the Sex Pistols and their experience with the game. Strong recommendation regardless for the music and the multiplayer. But don’t play for achievements and make sure your amp is cranked up to 11. Rock on.
- Song List for Guitar Hero 3
- Future DLC leaked on the Xbox 360 Leaderboards (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver and Boss Battles.
- Snackbar-Games.com’s Justin Last: “I’m harsher on Guitar Hero III than I wanted to be”