Guitar Hero 3 is the perfect game for anyone who's been to a party, wrapped their tie around their heads and slid on their knees while shredding an imaginary fret to some classic AC/DC. (Own up, you know you’ve done it.) Guitar Hero started on the PS2 which was received very well. It was a bit of a risky business entering the rhythm game market with just a plastic guitar and a selection of cover songs. Then Guitar Hero 2 was released, the first Guitar Hero for the 360. The 360 version brought with it more songs and different characters as well as a cool looking guitar. Now, the Guitar Hero franchise is back with the third installment—how does it stack up?
For this installment, developers have changed hands. Harmonix, the previous developers, were bought by MTV Games to create Rock Band, a similar game to Guitar Hero but including drums and vocals. Neversoft, the developers of the Tony Hawk games, have picked up the baton. Let any fears about the new developer be put away because Neversoft have done a fantastic job. Neversoft were not given access to any previous code, so they built Guitar Hero 3 from the ground up.
In Guitar Hero 3, the aim of the game is to hit the coloured buttons on the guitar and strum in time to the songs you are playing. This all sounds pretty simple, but let me tell you it isn't on the higher difficulties. If you are new to the Guitar Hero franchise, start on easy. You will need to get to grips with the game. If you jump straight into medium or hard, you will not do very well and be booed off quickly. Luckily, Neversoft have made it so the lower tier songs are much easier to play. However, the higher tiered songs are mind-melting on expert. My fingers were in pain after attempting Raining Blood by Slayer on Expert.
The song list in Guitar Hero 3 is fantastic, easily the best in the franchise. You enjoy the game a lot more if you enjoy the songs and have actually heard of them, instead of being given a song by a Swedish band from the 70s that you've never heard of. My personal favorites include Reptillia by The Strokes, Helicopter by Bloc Party, Sabotage by The Beastie Boys and Even Flow by Pearl Jam. In addition to those rocking tunes, there are many more songs from groups such as Metallica, Kaiser Chiefs, Guns 'n' Roses and The Rolling Stones. The Sex Pistols and The Living Colour have both re-recorded songs especially for the game and Tom Morello and Slash have also composed their own guitar battles, which I will look at later. The good thing about Guitar Hero 3 is that the majority of songs are masters and there are hardly any cover songs.
Career mode is the main mode you will choose. You pick a guitarist and a guitar and join a band. You then work your way through different tiers of songs unlocking encores and moving onto new venues. All sounds very Guitar Hero 2 doesn't it? However, with Guitar Hero 3, you can battle three "Legends of Rock": Tom Morello, Slash and of course, The Devil. Battling them is similar to face-off mode, except with power-ups. These power-ups are collected and used like Star Power. You hit a chain of notes to receive the power-up, then tilt your guitar up to fire it off. These power ups will affect your enemies fret board and will probably make him or her miss notes. The aim of battle mode is to somehow get your enemies Rock Meter down to red. Some power-ups you can use are: “Broken String”, which causes one of your enemies strings to break so they have to tap that button to fix it; “Amp Overload”, which makes the fret board all blurry; “Difficulty Up”, which is self-explanatory. Battle mode, both offline and online, feels a bit like a game of luck. It is random as to what power-ups you get, so you may get rubbish ones while your enemy gets the best ones.
You can also play through Career mode with a friend. In co-op, one of you plays bass guitar while the other plays lead guitar. This is tremendous fun as you need to work together to maximize points. You also need to go through co-op mode to unlock certain encores which are special to co-op. The disappointing thing is, you can't play co-op career online. You can only co-op on a set number of songs. So to unlock the special songs you need a friend and another guitar...or a controller.
As I've mentioned twice now, Guitar Hero 3 has online capabilities. This lets you rock out online with friends or strangers from around the world. You get all the multiplayer modes from offline available to you and a full list of songs; you can just hop in a game and see who the better player is. You can even host a match and invite your friend into it. On many occasions, I've enjoyed it so much that I’ve started singing down the headset while rocking out, much to the dismay of my friend. You can also keep track of your stats, such as your highest scoring song, most played song, amount of tournaments played and more. This is very good for proving you are a rock God with more than just words.
Now let's look at the guitar itself, the Gibson Les Paul. This is easily one of the best guitar peripherals you can buy. It actually seems like you are playing a proper guitar. The best thing is—it's wireless! This means you can rock around the living room without tripping over any wires. It also has a detachable neck for taking to a friend’s house. However, I did notice problems with this. On a few occasions, the neck didn't connect with the guitar properly and I was unable to use the red note. To fix this, I just pushed the neck in a bit and it worked fine. It also has an improved whammy bar, more comfortable buttons and a strum bar that works a lot better. I compared the Les Paul with the Xplorer guitar from Guitar Hero 2 and found that the Les Paul was a lot more comfortable and natural to use. I definitely suggest splashing out for the Les Paul, even if you have the Xplorer controller, as the Les Paul is miles more comfortable to use.
The graphics of the game are pretty good. The cartoon cut-scenes, inspired by the style used in the Guitar Hero 2 advert, are brilliantly done and rather funny to watch. The character animation for the guitarists and vocalists are very good, but the crowd and drummer look very stiff and almost robot like in their movements. The venues are very good looking and a pleasure to play in. A lot of motion capture was used to recreate the movements of Slash, Bret Michaels and Tom Morello and overall they look very good. Audio is key to a game such as this and, as I have all ready stated, it's fantastic. The cheering crowd is very good, the music is superb and the clinking of a missed note is also solid.
I spent many an hour playing on Guitar Hero 2. Trying to beat all the songs on all difficulties was no easy feat. Now, I have found a better alternative. Better songs, better guitar, online play and co-op make this game a blast to play—a definite purchase for anyone who's dreamed of rocking out on stage.