Guitar Hero 3 outplays, outshines predecessors

“The fateful day for pseudo-guitar players and wannabe rock stars has come and gone, leaving in its wake a continuous distraction from classes and homework and a reason to ignore significant others. That’s right, I speak of Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock. The latest installment in the series would redefine the genre if there actually were enough games in the genre to justify it being redefined.”

The fateful day for pseudo-guitar players and wannabe rock stars has come and gone, leaving in its wake a continuous distraction from classes and homework and a reason to ignore significant others. That’s right, I speak of Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock.

The latest installment in the series would redefine the genre if there actually were enough games in the genre to justify it being redefined. That being said, GH3 is a big improvement over what was already a good series and introduces enough new features to make the concept fresh again.

Functionally, the concept is the same. A song plays, you see notes stream down the screen, and you have to hold the correctly colored fret down and strum the note at the same time. Again, think of Dance Dance Revolution, only with a plastic guitar.

However, there are some features that GH3 offers that its predecessors have lacked.

First, there are now boss battles in addition to the regular encores that come at the end of a set of songs. It’s almost like playing against a friend in the sense that you are competing against a computer-generated guitar player. You get various powers to obstruct your opponent from hitting notes.

It’s a great feeling to have a guitar battle against Slash from Guns ‘n Roses, and feel like you’re better than him at guitar when you win, only to have him be so impressed that he feels like playing an encore with you.

There is also a cooperative career mode now. You and a friend play a song simultaneously, one taking over on lead guitar and the other playing either bass or rhythm guitar.

Both players must hit enough notes to avoid failing, and if either player misses enough, it’s game over for both players. This keeps you and a friend entertained while playing through the game and avoids the boredom of watching someone else play.

Plus, there are certain songs that can only be played while in cooperative career mode, so for those of you whose girlfriend nags you about how much you play with a plastic guitar, you now have a reason to include her in the fun.

Going from Guitar Hero 2 to Guitar Hero 3 takes some getting used to, though.

There is a broader array of note and chord combinations and transitions, and the timing of most of the songs changes much more often than in previous installments.

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are also more difficult than in GH2, but not nearly as difficult as GH1. You really need to pay attention to the notes on the screen as some notes must be strummed, even if it seems natural to hammer-on.

There are still four difficulty levels, but they have somewhat changed in composition. When GH3 offers Expert mode, it really means expert.

Easy mode is still easy enough for newcomers to the game to have fun and play without constantly failing, but Expert mode is difficult enough for people who thought they were good to throw their guitar across the room in frustration.

GH3 is by far the most difficult game in the series, making one wonder if the bands are actually able to play the songs themselves.

The song list in GH3 is amazing. First off, it’s huge: 40 songs throughout the main game and another 30 that can be unlocked, one of which can only be unlocked after beating the game. Dragonforce, anyone?

The songs range from being written by classic artists nearly 40 years ago to some of rock’s up-and-comers within the past few years.

Foghat, Cream, Tenacious D, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Disturbed, Slipknot, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Aerosmith, Weezer, Metallica, and AFI are only some of bands that are featured on GH3, so the song list has something for everyone.

There are more unlockable songs, guitars, finishes, characters, costumes and videos in GH3 than there have been previously, and for those of you lucky enough to own an Xbox 360, the game can be played online, as well, with even more downloadable content.

Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock is exactly what the series needed, and a must-have for plastic guitar enthusiasts everywhere.