Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Review
After the phenomenal success of the first two Guitar Hero games, gamers have been eagerly anticipating the release of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. With high anticipation comes high expectations and thereís a lot of pressure on the game to meet those expectations, especially since this is the first Guitar Hero game in the hands of a new developer. After playing the game extensively and suffering through several bouts of ďGuitar Hero armĒ, I can safely say that most people will be happy with Guitar Hero III. However at the same time there are some things about the game that are a bit disappointing.
The basic gameplay has wisely been left untouched in Guitar Hero III. You still play guitar by hitting the fret buttons that match the colored notes that come down the screen toward you while strumming the flipper paddle that serves as the guitar controllerís strings. Hitting special starred notes in sequence will build your Star Power which can be unleashed to double your score for a short time by tilting the guitar. Your score for a song is based on the number of notes that you hit, with consecutive note streaks earning you bonus score multipliers. Miss too many notes, though, and your virtual audience will boo you off of the stage.
If you played the first two games youíll notice some enhancements to the basic game, all of which are pretty welcome. The hammer-on notes, those that can be played without hitting the strum bar, are a lot easier to identify and can be easily seen from across the room (where any self-respecting Guitar Hero player eventually finds him or herself during solos). The game has also added a consecutive note counter which while a nice addition is impossible to look at while youíre concentrating on the approaching notes. The counter will inform you when you hit milestone streaks such as fifty or one hundred notes in a row, which is a cool addition to the game despite the fact that it makes me start to think too much about my streak and inevitably blow it a couple of notes later.
As for the track list the game has stayed true to the series by providing a mix of songs from classic rock to punk to alternative. Song selection is always a hot topic of debate among the Guitar Hero faithful, but I think itís a testament to the variety of the track list that no one is happy with the entire list (personally I canít believe that anyone would consider the Beastie Boys to be guitar heroes). However when you look at the overall difficulty of the tracks itís a different matter. This version of Guitar Hero is the most challenging yet, and the tracks towards the end of the career mode will result in some aching fingers for those who like to play the game at the hard or expert level. The game also really needs to add a level of difficulty between medium and hard, as the jump between the two is quite significant. Players who are making the move up to hard not only have to contend with the addition of notes for the fifth fret button, but with a greater number of notes that come along at a much faster rate. Part of Guitar Heroís magic is that it has such a strong appeal to those who donít really play games at all. If it can become the object of obsession for my sister-in-law and girlfriend, then you know that it has a strong universal appeal. The game is decidedly slanted in favor of the hardcore player, though, and more than half of the game will effectively be out of reach to those just looking to have some fun playing some music.
The game has added a few modes, one of which is a godsend. Co-op career finally lets two players play through a career and unlock all of the gameís songs. In prior versions of the game one person had to power through the career before all of the songs would be opened up for co-op play. There is also a new two-player battle mode which is kind of fun. Star Power is replaced with power-ups that you can use to ďattackĒ the other player. You can change the difficulty on your opponent, disable one of his or her fret buttons, or double up all of the notes, to name a few. Itís too bad that this mode has also been used to add a new feature to the gameís career modes thatís not nearly as welcome: the boss battles.