STAFF REVIEW of Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007.
by Rick Wallace

Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock Box art Are you ready to rock???? Well, get ready to rock with Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock brought to you by Red Octane and Activision. Neversoft jumps on board the Guitar Hero train as the developer since the acquisition of Harmonix by EA. The third iteration of the series brings back the same gameplay with a few new added features to enhance the fun. You?ll get a plethora of songs ranging from the 70?s to present day with a wide variety of artists for a total of 60+ songs. Plus you?ll be able to download new songs and packs from the marketplace. Now for 360 owners this third version comes right on the heels of Guitar Hero II which released in the spring. So is it worth your hard earned money to pick up the newest version. Well read on and decide for yourself.

For those that purchased Guitar Hero II back in the spring you will be happy to know that your wired Xplorer guitar works just fine with GHIII. So if you like you can just purchase the game alone. But honestly, the new Les Paul wireless controller is great. First and foremost, the fact that it is wireless makes it a must have. Secondly, for those that are only experiencing the GH series for the first time, you?ll be ecstatic to know that you can use this guitar with GHII. So go out there and get a marked down copy of the game only. You won?t regret it. The Les Paul is probably the best guitar to date in the series and just feels great when playing it. No wires hanging, fret buttons seem more accessible, and the guitar just feels of better quality all around.

When it comes to the gameplay, honestly there isn?t a whole lot different about the way you play the songs. Notes travel down the screen and you have to strum and hit the colored fret keys in perfect time with the notes on screen. Many folks have expressed opinions that GHIII is much easier than GHII. Neversoft has lengthened the time window for hitting notes which does in fact make the game a bit easier. Now, don?t misunderstand me. If you play the game on Hard or Expert it is still going to be fast paced and difficult for most. Only the seasoned veterans will probably notice the subtle changes that have been made. I for one not being one of those seasoned veterans have a heck of a time trying to keep up on hard, let alone the expert difficulty. Does this deter from the fun factor of the game? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact it probably increases the appeal to new folks being introduced to the game for the first time.

But enough of that mumbo jumbo, how does the game stack up to its previous edition? You?ll be happy to know that there are various game modes for you to strum to your heart?s content. If you like single player, then you?ll feel right at home in the career mode. A few subtle changes have been added to the mix, but for the most part you?ll recognize the career format from Guitar Hero II. They have added a storyline into the career mode that is represented by animated clips between each set you play. The clips continue towards a great finale. Each level of difficulty offers a different variation of the story but they all result in the same ending. You?ll also be able to unlock different songs in the playlist by playing the various difficulty levels.

There are 3 moments in the career mode in which you?ll be treated to a little something different than you are used too. Within the career mode you?ll come across boss battles; at which point the player is required to compete against a boss character: Tom Morello, Slash, and Lou the Devil. The boss battles pit you against the aforementioned personalities in a duel of sorts. You?ll both play the song but instead of star power appearing at various points you?ll now have Battle Power. This new feature allows you to attack your opponent with various tactics such as broken strings, higher difficulty, amp overloads, etc. These attacks make it increasingly difficult for you opponent to complete the song. You can store up to 3 attacks in your queue at anytime and unleash them on your opponent as you would unleash star power. Winning boss battles will of course earn you money for the store, but it also unlocks the characters as well for purchase. Do not fret (no pun intended), you?ll have 3 opportunities to beat the boss, but if you cannot then the option to skip the battle will be given to you so you can progress in the career.

A new feature to the game is the addition of Co-op Career. Unfortunately at the time of this review there is no option to compete online or use local network play in this mode. Both players must be on the same console to participate in this mode. If you don?t have 2 guitars, have no worries as one of you can use a standard controller to play. While difficult for some to get used to at first, it works well with a little practice. You?ll only be granted 6 tiers of songs to play, as compared to the 8 tiers in single player. But each encore song in co-op is unique only to this mode. So I encourage you to find a buddy and play through this mode at least once. You?ll also notice that the story line is completely different in co-op but again results in the same finale, but instead of a final boss battle you just need to complete the final set.

Battle Mode is a competitive mode between two players either locally or over Xbox Live. Two players compete against each other, trying to complete a song while successfully using Battle Power sequences to earn attacks that can be used against their opponent. Players once again are able to store up to three attacks and can activate these temporary effects by tilting their guitars upward. Again, there are various attacks that can be used to throw your opponent off. But maybe you just want to sit and jam with another player online. Well, go right ahead. GHIII allows you to go online and play through sets with other Live players. Each player will be able to choose songs from a playlist and play them cooperatively with another player on live.

Visually the game doesn?t look bad, but its not going to knock your socks off either. You?ll notice that there isn?t much change in the stage sets and what not from Guitar Hero II other than locations. Basically it all feels the same for the most part. The character models would be my biggest gripe. First off, there is no real character editor for a player to go in and create their own rocker. With the addition of online play this is a highly disappointing issue that will hopefully be addressed in the next iteration. Yes, you can change the clothes and guitars of your characters but it just doesn?t fill the void. My second gripe would be just the way the characters look. Brett Michaels looks a bit on the anorexic side. He honestly looks a bit on the ?Dawn of the Dead? zombie side. The character models seem to have been brought over from the Tony Hawk series, which in my opinion is not a good thing because the models seem very stiff and manufactured. Even the fact that they used motion capture for a lot of the moves in the game, it really doesn?t seem evident at all when you have to look at poorly designed characters.

Finally let?s talk about the soundtrack a bit. Guitar Hero III seems to get the job done when it comes to signing the top bands that people want. How can a game go wrong when it includes Metallica?s ?One? from the And Justice for All album? Also included in the mix are bands like Guns n?Roses, The Rolling Stones, Slayer, Iron Maiden, and Aerosmith. And many of the tracks are master recordings. What?s not to love when you get to play actual tracks of Metallica or Guns n?Roses? To date this has to be the best compilation of artists and tracks in the series. Oh and for all you Halo nuts out there. You can download the Halo Theme Song exclusively on the 360 marketplace for free.

Overall while the game hasn?t moved forward much in the graphical sense, Neversoft has done a good job with keeping the integrity of the Guitar Hero series in tact. The game is loads of fun, especially with a few buddies over. This has to be considered one of the best party games out there. And with the addition of online play folks will definitely find a lot of replay value in this title.

Make Co-op Career mode online to allow users more options to play with their online buddies. Please redo the character models as many of them look like walking skeletons or zombies for a lack of better terms. Other than that, thumbs up on a job well done with this series.

Overall: 9.2 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.7 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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