If you had told me back in 2005 that the next big thing was going to be gamers jamming on fake plastic guitars I would have thought you were absolutely batty. While I saw the potential of the music genre, I had no idea just how much the guitar game sub-genre would take off. But take off it did. This year alone Activision has released two different versions of the game on the Xbox 360 (each with their own version of the fake plastic guitar) and a PlayStation 2 expansion disc that offered two dozen tracks from the 1980s. This is one of the best selling franchises of the year; influencing other companies to jump into the music genre. I think that it's pretty obvious that Guitar Hero has landed ... and it's here to stay.
But this year's Guitar Hero could have been a complete disaster. There's always reason to worry when your favorite franchise switches from one developer to another, especially if the new team has never worked on a music game before. This is exactly what happened earlier this year when series creator Harmonix was bought by MTV and Neversoft (who is best known for the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater franchise) took control of the project. Could Neversoft live up to expectations and deliver another great guitar-based game, or would this be the first Guitar Hero game worth missing? The good news is that Guitar Hero III is a rock solid game full of great music and a great sense of style. It may not be as novel as it was back in 2005 and there may be a few too many diversions from the core gameplay, but Guitar Hero III is a fantastic game that everybody who loves to rock out needs to pick up.
Despite the fact that it comes with a fake plastic guitar, Guitar Hero is a relatively simple game. In short, you have five fret buttons and a strum bar, as the song progresses notes will appear on the screen, it's your job to hit as many as you can. Occasionally you'll be asked to hit more than one note at a time (which makes a chord) or hold a long note, but that's pretty much all you need to know about playing the fake guitar. If you've played any of the Guitar Hero games before then you know everything there is to know about the gameplay mechanics of this third installment and those of you who are new should have no problem figuring out what's going on.
But let's be honest here, it's not the brand new gameplay mechanics that has everybody excited about Guitar Hero III. It's the music, and this year's installment features what is arguably the best track list of any music game. No matter what you're into Guitar Hero III has something for you. Do you like the classic rock? Then I have good news, because you get "Paint It Black" by The Rolling Stones and The Who's "The Seeker." Are you more into the modern scene? Then you should check out The Killer's "When You Were Young" or "Miss Murder" by AFI. Need something harder? There's always "One" by Metallica or "Raining Blood" by Slayer. And what if 1990s alternative is your bag? Then I'm going to point to "Kool Thing" by Sonic Youth and The Smashing Pumpkin's "Cherub Rock." And that's only part of the list, the 70+ track list features Kiss, Heart, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, Pearl Jam, Aerosmith, Guns N Roses, Scorpions, The Dead Kennedy's, White Zombie, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Muse, Queens of the Stone Age, and many, many more.
Best of all, there are only a handful of cover songs. A large majority of Guitar Hero III's music is from the original band, which goes a long way to make this package feel even more authentic. It's worth mentioning that two of the game's bands actually re-recorded songs for this year's Guitar Hero installment, which is an impressive feat considering that just a couple years ago the developer was having trouble convincing bands to even participate in the franchise. In the case of The Sex Pistols the remaining members reunited for the first time in years. Needless to say, the track list is strong enough to impress even the most hardened critic.
The "career" mode is played largely the same as all other Guitar Hero games. You will go from one venue to another playing four or five different songs and then being asked to perform an encore. This year's installment offers a few new additions to the standard career, most of which are pretty harmless. The first thing you'll notice is that the career offers you short cinema intermissions. These brief animated sequences don't offer much in the way of witty dialog (unless you consider grunting to be compelling conversation), but they have more than a few funny moments and sew the story up nicely.
Another new addition is the boss battle. I'll be honest with you, when I first heard that Guitar Hero III was going to feature boss battles all of my hair stood on end and I prayed to the heavens that everything was going to be all right. Thankfully these boss encounters are mostly harmless, even if they are a might frustrating (especially on the harder difficulties). There are three bosses in the story mode, one where you play Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave), one with Slash (Guns N Roses), and a final boss that I won't spoil (but I bet if you think hard enough you can guess who this celebrity is). This mode differs from the standard point-driven mode in one important way; you can attack the second player. Basically what you do is collect power-ups that you can use to injure the other player. The object is to get the opponent to miss enough notes and get booed off the stage. These battles aren't great, but I'll give Neversoft credit for trying something new.
With its strong track list, fun celebrity cameos, exciting multiplayer modes and interesting story, Guitar Hero III is a must buy for anybody who loves to jam at a fake plastic guitar. You won't find a whole lot that is new this time around, but Neversoft has done an excellent job of ironing out some of the kinks and making this the best Guitar Hero game yet.
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!