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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Guitar Hero III Review (Xbox 360)

What do you get when you take a series that is virtually flawless and endlessly addicting and combine it with a developer who is known for ruining a virtually flawless and endlessly addicting series? You get a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, Neversoft, the studio responsible for the rise and fall of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, has decided to take that recipe and throw it out the window. Since acquiring the rights to the Guitar Hero name, Activision has seen to it that Neversoft be in charge of creating all future games in the franchise. And for a built-from-scratch first effort, they succeeded beyond my wildest expectations! Guitar Hero III not only continues the tradition of great music rhythm games, but it adds in some much needed features and game modes that really make it a must-own for any Xbox 360 owner!

First off, let's discuss the changes that Neversoft made to the game. The art direction in general takes a much more "hardcore" approach, as characters like Judy Nails go from being sweet little rocker chick to big-breasted, pierced alt rocker. Most of the other characters have undergone similar changes, most of which are for the worse. The original games had a very cartoony type of image to it, and Neversoft tries to recreate that with more edge, but they end up looking like they're trying too hard to make the game hardcore. Fortunately, this is a music game so graphics will ultimately take a back seat to the gameplay and music.

Gameplay-wise, Guitar Hero III picks up where II left off. New game modes have been introduced into the series, including Co-Op Career (a long-needed mode that features songs you can only unlock through it) and Battle Mode, which allows you to gain attacks (rather than star power) which you can then launch at your opponent to make them fail a song. The last person standing wins! The first time through this mode can be daunting, but after a while it quickly becomes a welcomed addition to the franchise! Also included this time around is full Xbox Live support for Face Off, Pro Face Off, Co-Op, and Battle Mode (unfortunately Co-Op career is not available for online play at this time). The system works great too, and in my dozens of matches online, I've only experienced brief lag once. There's something thrilling about going to battle with someone you've never met and throroughly embarassing them! This feature was well worth the wait, and will undoubtedly add hours upon hours of play to an already addicting game.

Of course, the real strength of a music rhythm game will always rest in its soundtrack. Fortunately for us, Guitar Hero III rocks one of the most comprehensive and diverse soundtracks ever put in a video game. Neversoft has finally figured out what Harmonix never could; you can have difficult songs on the game that aren't metal (i.e. Muse's "Knights of Cydonia" or QotSA's "3s and 7s")! Add in the fact that a large portion of these songs are master recordings, and the game's music just sky-rockets to a whole new level! And while Gutar Hero III's soundtrack is clearly the best in the series, it is not without it's missteps either. For example, "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys is a great song, but it really doesn't belong here as there's very little guitaring going on in the song. Overall though, the diverse collection of songs in the game almost assures it's acceptance by those who may have been hesitant in the past, as there's definitely something for everyone!

My complaints with the game are few. My largest gripe is the new Red Octane wireless controller which is very pretty, but has given myself and other gamers some problems. For me specifically, some of the fret buttons will occasionally stop working during a song and you'll need to stop playing, disconnect the controller, and reconnect it for it to work again. This is a huge drawback, but hopefully they can get the bugs worked out in later models. Another small complaint is the lack of a matchmaking system for online play. I play on expert, but I'm more of a low-mid range expert who doesn't stand a chance versus someone who's been playing the game for a few years now. In the end, however, these complaints really overshadow what is a phenomenal game and a great first effort for Neversoft. I highly recommend it to anyone who may be on the fence about it. $99 for a video game is steep, but the hours and hours of enjoyment you'll undoubtedly get out of Guitar Hero III are well worth the price. Buy it now!

8 out of 10 Stars

1 comment:

tate said...

PROS: There are some really great songs on this new installment of Guitar Hero. Pat Benatar's "Hit me with your best shot" and Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls on Parade" are some of the stand out songs that pop into my mind. The real key improvement about this game is the new wireless controller. With this controller strumming noise is minimal and the buttons are so sensitive that almost anyone can play on expert now.

CONS: I did mention that there are some great songs, but for the most part the songs are reptitive and mind numbing. I don't know if it is me, but I feel like I'm playing the same "power chords" the entire game. Guitar Hero II had riffs that were challenging and solos that blew your mind. Guitar Hero III said goodbye to face melters and hello to arm numbers. I mean I can't get through a song without my arm falling asleep.