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New and improved 'Guitar Hero'

November 13, 2007

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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Guitar Hero 3: Yeaaahhh!!Ever since Harmonix, the developers of 'Guitar Hero', moved on to work on 'Rock Band' fans have wondered if their beloved franchise would become mired in mediocrity. Faux axe wielders can rest easy. Not only has Neversoft improved upon the work done by Harmonix but they have introduced some new additions to 'Guitar Hero' as well.

As soon as they start strumming through their first 'Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock' song, veteran players will notice some subtle but refreshing differences. The screen no longer does the shake, rattle and roll deal when you activate "Star Power", the load time for each song is drastically shorter, the techniques of hammer-ons and pull-offs are brightly lit to make insane sequences easier to complete, there is a counter displaying your current note streak and frequent pop-up messages alert you to your progress such as target note streaks.

Be aware that the game does have some frame rate issues when 'Star Power' is activated, especially in co-op mode. For a brief moment, the game will sometimes sputter. It is not a debilitating glitch but it can be distracting.

Guitar Hero 3: we even have dragonsThe major gameplay variation between previous editions though is the level of difficulty. Novices who are strapping on an artificial axe for the first time are probably gonna find themselves overwhelmed fairly quickly by the harsher than harsh learning curve. 'Guitar Hero 3' is not a title that has been dumbed down to be more "accessible" for the casual gamer and that is a good thing. One of the criticisms in the past has been that Easy mode was so unchallenging, rookies didn't feel they were actually playing any of the songs since there were so few note streaks to hit. Neversoft has changed all of that but in doing so they may alienated newbie players who may become frustrated.

New to the game is the 'Guitar Battle' mode in which you must defeat Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave) and Slash (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver) in a showdown using 'Battle Power' instead of 'Star Power' to make them flub as many notes as possible so they fail a song. The attacks include turning single notes into double notes, changing the difficulty settings and forcing your opponent to hit the Whammy Bar to stop the attack. While bringing in real-life rockers adds some novelty value, the battles themselves are short and not so sweet as whomever builds up 'Battle Power' the quickest is usually the victor. Ho-hum.

Neversoft has also expanded the multi-player mode to incorporate face-offs and co-op games on Xbox Live, options that were not available in the 'Guitar Hero 2' edition. The new-fangled Co-Op Career mode has its own special cut scenes and distinct Encore songs.

Cut scenes, you say? Oh, yeah. The Career Modes do have a bare bones storyline told with 'Heavy Metal' type animated sequences. They are not very descriptive but they do provide for a few chuckles.

Guitar Hero 3: the Les PaulsIf you pick up the all-inclusive 'Guitar Hero 3' bundle, it comes with a Gibson Les Paul wireless guitar controller which is a substantial upgrade from the X-Plorer model. Once you give the wireless controller a strum, there is no going back to the X-Plorer model. The one sticking point is the detachable neck which while good in theory when it comes to storage, can potentially cause a real problem if it doesn't lock into place properly or becomes loose for some reason at a later date. With that in mind, we could have done without the detachable neck and it should not be incorporated into future designs.

Presenting the largest and most diverse 'Guitar Hero' song listing thus far with over 70 songs to play through and with 70 per cent of them being master recordings, there's something for every rocker to raise their fist and yell about. The classics are represented by such offerings as the Rolling Stones' 'Paint It Black', Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid', Cream's 'Sunshine of Your Love' and Santana's 'Black Magic Woman'. More current tunes like 'When You Were Young' by The Killers and 'Reptillia' by The Strokes compliment the modern classics such as ''Sabotage' by The Beastie Boys, 'Number of the Beast' by Iron Maiden and Metallica's magnum opus 'One'. This reviewer was supremely disappointed there were no Rush tunes and wonders how the greatest rock band in the world could be slighted in such a way but we digress.

Guitar Hero 3: Got to get me Jimi!Even though the song listing is impressive, the overall quality of the covers is lacking with 'Legends of Rock'. Those familiar with Foghat's 'Slowride', Pat Benetar's 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot', 'Holiday In
Cambodia' by The Dead Kennedys and Cream's 'Sunshine of Your Love', will notice the dreadful deviations right away and they are not pretty to play through. What takes some of the edge off these miscues is that the 'Guitar Hero' series as a whole has now reached the status that Tom Morello, Slash, original members of the Sex Pistols and Living Color's Vernon Reid all made contributions to 'Legends of Rock'. One wonders what could be in store for the fourth chapter in the series and if we will continue to see more big names and less cover songs. Fingers crossed.

Every year, gamers rightfully complain about how the latest version of this or that doesn't offer anything new. That cannot be said for 'Guitar Hero 3'. With all of Neversoft's improvements, including sharper graphics, 'Legends of Rock' is more than a new 'Guitar Hero' song list. It is a better game and we cannot wait to see what Neversoft does for an encore.

Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Activision, Red Octane.
Developer: Neversoft.
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Official Site: http://www.guitarherogame.com/gh3/

Rating: 9 / 10

 
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