Review by Dogg

Reviewed: 12/25/07

Rock out with all your blocks out.

I'll begin this review by slowly making one point: I didn't quite like Guitar Hero II. Its gameplay mechanics, simple yet addictive nature, and total innovation to the music gaming genre was an amazing accomplishment indeed. If so, why was I let down? Ahh, well I blame the music; annoying, redundant covers and a poor song selection hampered much of my playing time to just playing the same few songs over and over (and there's obviously something wrong when I'm playing Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Freebird' a dozen times over). I also was taken aback by the steep learning curve for, with a few exceptions, the transition from Medium to Hard was something almost miraculous to conquer. However, I trodded along and out of the sheer curiousity to pluck my little red SG guitar out from its box and "rock out" again, I figured Guitar Hero III was an almost logical progession. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed.

Though the title, "Legends of Rock," seems a tad inappropriate, Guitar Hero III is a much faster and more improved Guitar Hero entry. There's less covers and the difficulty becomes more manageable; I can finally finish the entire Hard campaign without being bored to death by the music. Of course, that's really where my admiration for this game begins to shine in all its obvious glory: I simply like Guitar Hero III's soundtrack. There's something here for everybody, as the selection ranges from classic rock hits to more modern-day songs. Rather then playing some obscure Rolling Stones cover in Guitar Hero II, here you could play the amazing acoustic and sitar-laden "Paint It Black" in all its entirety. There's the Strokes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Killers, and even Muse to satisy your cravings. And as for the covers, yes there a few. However, they all sound amazing; Black Sabbath is finally done right in "Paranoid" and I can hardly tell the difference between the "Sunshine of Your Love" present here then with the actual Cream version.

This game, as you probably know, wasn't handled by the original Guitar Hero developers (who moved on to make the multi-instrument package that is Rock Band), but rather the guys who developed the Tony Hawk titles. But it's no matter; this is still familiar territory as well as you can probably remember it. In fact, the game plays easily. You pick up the guitar peripheral and hold down the colored keys as shown on the screen and strum down on each of the notes. There's five colored keys in all and full mastery of this mini 'fretboard' is required if ever you plan to tackling the later difficulties. The songs themselves aren't too hard, though expect to struggle on a few as you move up the ranks. The game, however, encourages constant practice and it's much more interesting to practice song fills and sections this time around for some strange reason (I blame the songs and their kick ass quality). There's plenty here for Guitar Hero vets too; I challenge anyone to go through the bonus DragonForce song "Through the Fire and Flame" on Hard and Expert without feeling like their arm is ready to fall off its socket. Try keeping up with the notes of the solo on Metallica's "One"; you'll struggle and struggle till eventually you begin hitting those notes and feeling that rewarding sense of accomplishment.

That's another reason why I like this game: I feel rewarded for once, unlike Guitar Hero II's sometimes sloppy presentation and lame in-game humor. It's a much more solid single-player experience; sadly, the PS2 version lacks online play unlike its next-gen counterparts. However, the multiplayer shines just the same. You can choose to play cooperatively with a partner as you play through the game and even unlock bonus co-op songs, like the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage." Then, you can even choose to play head-to-head against your friend (or opponent) in Face-Off or Pro Face-Off and battles. In Face-Off , you'll both play through a small section of the song one by one as one tries to surpass the other. Pro Face-Off, however, makes both players go through the same notes together; much like you would in the basic single-player campaign. The idea of Battles is new to this Guitar Hero and it's an interesting little diversion for the while it lasts. Both players must basically survive the song, all the while throwing power-ups to the other with the hopes of distracting the player long enough to make them fail the song. It doesn't quite encourage you to hit all the notes for points as in the other game modes, but it is a breath of fresh air and the single-player campaign itself does good to prep you for these Battles (offering guitar duels with guitarists Slash and Tom Morello, for instance, to show you this mode works).

Graphics are standard fare. If you saw Guitar Hero from its inception to its 80s edition, you'll have an idea how this one looks too. Not much has changed but neither does it matter. You'll rarely get to marvel at the characters onscreen since you'll be far too busy concentrating on hitting more and more notes. If there's a slight problem is that this game's loading times start becoming a distraction here and there; they're practically littered everywhere but it becomes pretty manageable after a while. Also, something needs to be done about all those ads present early on but alas this will probably become a norm, it seems, in these kinds of games in future editions. The game itself sounds great; nothing ever seems to get lost or shuffled in the mix despite the focus being on the various guitar sections of the songs.

Overall, I applaud Neversoft and the direction they've taken the series. Though the series is being milked for all its worth, there's still great fun to be had and the song selection is an improvement in every way imaginable. It's not a perfect package, but for the user, who like me, still hasn't upgraded to the bigger, sexier next-generation machines then this'll prove a notable placeholder till that day arrives. You can use all your previous Guitar peripherals from previous games, saving you money from having to buy the full package over again, and go and proceed to simply rock out with your block out. Get to it, and turn the volume knob up to eleven, Guitar Hero rocks this time around.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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

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