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Guitar Hero III Review

21 Apr 2008  by   Paul Younger
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Where can you find a disk with songs from KISS, Metallica and Charlie Daniels?  Guitar Hero III.  Guitar Hero was introduced several years ago on the PS2.  Essentially it was a new take on the rhythm/music genre.  I am not sure where this game-type originated, but the first titles I can think of are Samba De Amigo (Dreamcast, I believe) and Amplitude for the PS2.  Neither of those titles was particularly main stream, but over the years the coordination challenge has grown into a serious contender for gamer dollars.

Guitar Hero III is a made-for-next-generation title.  Although it is available on the PS2 (still a popular platform), it has sold ridiculous numbers on the 360, PS3 and Wii.  The version I played was on the 360.  I purchased the bundle with the new wireless guitar (yes, even reviewers have to spend some hard earned cash).
In case you are unaware of the mechanics of Guitar Hero, let me explain.  While the game can be played on a game pad, it is obviously intended to be played using a guitar peripheral.  The guitar consists of 5 color coded buttons and a “trigger” to strum.  In addition to the basics, there is a whammy bar used to speed power ups.
The game itself consists of animated backdrop of various concert venues and a fret board which extends out toward the bottom center of the screen.  As a song plays, combinations of notes appear as buttons to press in synch with the soundtrack.  Songs are eclectic, to say the least, and you may be playing a 70’s rock classic in set with a song you probably have never heard in your life.  Essentially this is something for every music fan, but few would call the entire compilation a dream album.  Thus, I am not sure I agree with the “Legends of Rock” subtitle.
Guitar Hero III does a few things differently than its immediate predecessor.  First, in the career mode, you can earn cash in the easy progression.  In the previous title, this was treated as more of a practice mode.  Thankfully, they looked beyond that and now reward the novice with something to look forward to.  I did not spend much time in easy mode in the last iteration, but certainly will do so here because I can earn cash to unlock items.
Another difference is the addition of a few boss battles that crop up as you progress though the career mode.  Previously, you merely had to play an encore song at the end of a set to progress to the next level.  Here, you are faced with a battle of the guitar heroes, where you meet up with some real life as well as fantasy characters.  I will not spoil the surprise for you, but the last boss and song is an absolute blast to play, and I promise your fingers will cramp!

There are some subtle differences to the note structure this time and hammer ons and pull offs are much more obvious and seem easier to pull off (in my opinion).  The hammer and pull notes have a sort of halo about them that really stand out on a high definition screen.  By the way, there was essentially no lag calibration needed for this title on my television (although GH II required a bit).
I will not bore you with a song list, as you have probably already scoured the net for one (I know I did).  There are 40+ songs in the main game and a ton of unlockable songs that you can purchase in the store.  So far, I have not noticed any downloadable content and hope they will be much better with this than they were with GH II.
Multiplayer is present in GH III, but I have not had the opportunity to play online (due to a recent move, my internet capability is a bit sporadic at the moment).  My understanding is that the entire game can be played through with a partner online, which sounds like a fine concept.  Time will tell if the execution works well.  Local multiplayer is the same as the previous version with the choice of guitar or bass if you are fortunate enough to have two guitars.
The graphics in Guitar Hero III are generally very polished and seem to be well thought out.  It is a bit more edgy than the last title, but in the direction of fun.  I imagine a few folks will be offended by some of the graphics, but, hey, this is rock and roll.  There were still a few moments of stagger during some songs, but the game quickly caught up with itself.  Progressing through the menu system is very quick and there are only a few noticeable load screens.  The character animations are great and I hope you laugh out loud as I did at some of what you see.  Truly enjoyable.

The sound in GH III is outstanding, especially through an HDMI system.  The guitar sounds are crisp and in the front enough that I never felt lost.  There were a few songs where I would have liked the lead vocals to be more prominent because I like to sing along when I play.  I guess I’ll have to wait for a different yet-to-be-released title for that, though. 
 
I have been surprised by some of the relatively poor reviews I have seen on the net for GH III.  I certainly think it is a better product than the first two.  Despite a last minute patch to address some quick-play options, it was clearly polished.  The only problem I experienced was weak response from my guitar, which, after a bit of frustration and panic, turned out to be the batteries included with the guitar.  Speaking of batteries, I made it through the entire medium difficulty level without changing the batteries.  I am not sure exactly what battery life is, however, but I have no complaints.
If you are a fan of the Guitar Hero series, GH III is a must buy.  If you have never experienced Guitar Hero, the time is right.  I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed with the song.  It is arguably the best party game around.  It is easy to pick up and play and enjoyable to watch someone else experience it.  Time will tell if Rock Band will knock it off its throne, but, for now, Guitar Hero is the game to play.

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