Get your shredding on! -..
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
Let me start off this review with the following: I am the last person you will ever want on your team in any contest that involves music knowledge of any kind. You see, I fail at hearing in my left ear, so I have a hard time catching words in songs or even distinguishing between instruments. The latter is also due to the fact that I never tried to join any musical groups of any kind, so my ear (singular) is very untrained. Therefore I just kind of shied away from music in general. This is one of the reasons that I never got into the musical game genre thats been sweeping up casual gamers left and right. The other reason would be having to buy and store yet another peripheral that will get used for only so long. Well here we are with Guitar Hero III out and just a few days away from the release of Rock Band, and although it took me awhile I jumped on the bandwagon and bought GHIII for Xbox360 two days before it was released thanks to BJ's Wholesale not caring about the street date. Oh and don't feel sorry for my lack of hearing, it also equips me with selective hearing, which can be pretty handy. Did I do the laundry you ask? What do you mean you told me a week ago?
Now in all honesty I did play the original Guitar Hero for about 15 minutes back during one of my WoW clan parties, but aside from those 3 songs, I was a complete newbie jumping into GHIII. Thankfully, years of gaming have trained my fingers to do almost anything I wanted and I was able to wipe through Easy with no issues at all, I mean, it is EASY mode. Next up came Medium where I struggled a bit more, failing numerous songs as I got closer to the final boss battle. Finally, after too many drinks, 6 hours of continuous play and the surround sound cranked up I beat Lou to finish off medium...at 5AM. Then it happened, moving my entire hand to try and hit the orange button. Oh for all that is holy do I suck at hard so far...
It was after failing 'Slow Ride' on Hard for the fifth time that I realized I really must enjoy this game. You see I beat Easy in basically one sitting, only to complete Medium in two sittings. I wasn't rabid about playing by any means, I never played by myself and except once it was always with multiple friends passing the controller back and forth. But I certainly feel that I have come along way, this is due to the fact that these few sittings have generally been 3-8 hour marathon sessions. Now as I said there is actually a game in here that I enjoy, as well as so many other people who became addicted before me. My goal is to beat hard, and then complete the Dragonforce song on Medium and if possible Hard, and then I will probably put the title down. After all I don't want to end up like Stan & Kyle.
These games can certainly be hard to review especially since the gameplay is obviously incredibly repetitive and this is usually the main part of a game I like to look inspect. To break it down in its lowest aspects its simply hit these buttons when they tell you, over and over again. But really players should be striving to not only get better and move up in difficulty levels but to 5star songs to garner the most cash. Then take the cash and buy all sorts of new crap including costumes, guitars and extra characters such as Tom Morello and Slash. So aside from finishing all the songs with the highest scores possible, the game really comes down to making the money to buy all the unlockables possible. Normally I don't go for unlockables that don't offer anything in the way of added gameplay but in the Guitar Hero series the unlockables are so integrated into the core mechanics of the titles that it doesn't come off as frivolous busy work.
Visuals & Style
The visuals have progressed one small step forward from the GHII release a few months ago but really do they matter that much in this game? The Southpark graphics would have been good enough, the fact that the game looks a bit better than the previous iteration is just icing on the cake for me. As for the art style, I really dig it. The game comes off as being a long video for the Gorillaz right down to the satirical cutscenes that are shown between sets. The cutscenes themselves are generally good for a chuckle as are many of the stage designs that your fake band will play on. Stages are so well designed that they even have real ads, but since they are tastefully done, and placed where you more or less expect them to be nothing bad comes of it. And in all honestly I would rather see an ad for Red Bull or Axe whatever than some made up ads.
Lastly but probably the most important is their song selection, in case you forgot this is a music game. New developer Neversoft compiled and organized a nice list of tracks that include true Legends of Rock songs although I would have preferred a different Metallica song, and the addition of Tool, but thats really just personal preference. Not to mention the fact that I doubt Tool would allow such a thing. Although Neversoft had never done a game like this before they certainly managed to nail the pacing of the songs. Early stuff is nice and slow, with few tricky sequences, even as you move up in difficulty they are generally easy to pass. As you move down things get more challenging at a good rate, adding quick taps, hammer-ons, power-downs (terms I never knew before for your information) as well as just tricky combinations. Aside from later difficulties adding in notes that the guitarist wouldn't actually be playing (see Dragonforce – Through the Fire and Flame) everything about the core mechanic of shredding the plastic guitar is pretty spot on. Before you know it the earlier songs become a joke. So easy that you'll laugh at yourself for ever thinking they were difficult.
My main complaint with the title is that there's no import mechanic whatsoever. Now I know for sure that Neversoft has the ability to do such a thing since the PC rip-off of GH, Frets on Fire has the feature but there's probably two very good BUSINESS reasons why Neversoft didn't bother. First off is the RIAA, they hate things that they can't control. If anyone could import a song and slap some notes to it their backers wouldn't be making money off it, and OMG it MIGHT be an illegally obtained song. So the RIAA may not like that feature and if they don't then they could easily stop Activision from getting the rights to many awesome songs. The next issue is simply downloadable content. They are already charging $6.25 each for three-pack songs of the Foo Fighters and Velvet Revolver so why let people do this for free when you can get more money from them? Like I said, it makes business sense for them but it still pisses me off.
In the end the title has a lot of legs to it. The addition of Battle Mode offers a bit of multiplayer fun, although stacking attacks and using them all at once seems pretty damned powerful. The Co-op mode also lets you rock out with friends although its nothing like what Rock Band promises to offer. Sadly I haven't been able to get any online Co-op or battle going, every time I have tried to play the games failed to sync up. Live would find a competitor but we would never get to compete, the sync would just crash. Haven't bothered to really look into it yet, seeing as I still can't beat Hard.
With the imminent release of Harmonix's Rock Band some people maybe worried about picking up GHIII. Its certainly a reasonable thing to be weary of but GHIII will at the very least get you ready for playing in your sad little virtual band. For those who grabbed the bundle you WILL be able to use the controller in Rock Band as well, so its not a total lose seeing as there is only one guitar in RB's bundle. To be honest, this was actually the exact thinking that caused me to buy GHIII in the first place and as a bonus I enjoyed the game and recommend it to anyone with an interest in the growing genre of music inspired games.
-Solid song selection
-Wireless Guitar Bundled
-Battle Mode/Boss Battles
-Lack of designing/importing songs yourself
-Notes don't match with song in hardier settings
Constructive Criticism Wanted!
As I mentioned above I felt that writing this review was a bit weird. Now I do check my work for errors and try to make it sound as nice as possible and this review is no exception. But to me the GHIII just doesn't fit into the mold that your review most games with. Being an amateur writer with no professional training I am totally open to any constructive criticism one may want to give me to help improve my writing. As you see I did add a new feature to this review, the quick synopsis of what I liked and didn't like at the end, in an easy to read bullet form. My next thing I hope to add is screenshots to console releases to go along with their PC brethren. When I get time I am going to try to figure out how I can get my TV to output to a computer (it has various ways to do so) so I can grab some screens. The console reviews always seem so barren and I don't want to steal other screenshots like some more disreputable people/sites do.