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Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock

Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft Entertainment
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 (Online)
Genre: Rhythm/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

By now, it is safe to say that Guitar Hero has established itself as a powerhouse franchise. What at first seemed like it would be a niche title at best has completely blown up to the point that it is one of the most recognizable brands on the market.

When it comes to Guitar Hero, or really any music-based game, the soundtrack is the key - something that was readily apparent with the PS2's 80's themed expansion. Yeah, it was still a good game, but let's face it, the song selection was a bit of a disappointment. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock hits with arguably the franchise's best line-up. Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Guns n' Roses, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Living Color, The Killers... from top to bottom, the song selection is impressive. Even more exciting is the number of tracks featuring the original artists rather than a cover band. There are still a number of covered songs, but there are fewer than in the past and having the real deal makes a difference.

The game's visuals are as solid as ever, though honestly you probably won't notice them since most of your concentration will be focused on the colored-nodes flying towards you. In the rare moments where you can break attention, you are treated to a light show worthy of the biggest rock stars. In addition to returning guitarists from past games, Guitar Hero III features guitar legends Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine/ Audioslave) and Slash (Guns n' Roses), both of which are playable characters after you defeat them in guitar duels. Even Bret Micheals takes a break from his VH1 show to make an appearance as the lead singer on Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me." You wouldn't think it, but both legends lend themselves to the game's visual style really well.


Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock doesn't alter the original's gameplay in any drastic ways, but it doesn't rest on its merits either. Neversoft, the game's new developer, has brought together a number of great additions that make the game even more addictive and entertaining. The single-player Career Mode is tied together by a story involving a band who finds fame and fortune only to end up in a head-to-head duel with Lucifer. It isn't a deep or involving story, but it is entertaining and helps to give you a nice break between song sections. A co-op Career Mode is also available.

Another addition is Battle mode, where two players take turns throwing guitar licks at each other. The mode uses the same fundamental gameplay, though instead of gaining Star Power, players collect special moves that, when activated, cause problems for their opponent. One move will up the difficulty level while another causes a string to pop on their guitar, which they must "fix" by rapidly pressing the corresponding button. The mode is a bit frantic, especially on harder difficulty modes, but is a lot of fun - especially the duel against Lucifer which features an awesome rendition of "The Devil When Down to Georgia." I only wish there were more duels in the Career mode, because three isn't enough. A few more legends wouldn't hurt either since there's only two included (or three if you're really generous and include Bret Micheals).

Guitar Hero III also brings the franchise online and features Co-op, Battle and Face Off Modes. This, in my opinion, is the absolute best addition to the franchise. Not only does it ensure that you'll always have someone to play with (which is where the game is at its best), but now you can see if people are really as good as they say. The one oversight is that Career mode isn't available for online play, which could lock some players out of a few songs that are only available in that mode.


Even on higher levels, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is a little easier than past games. Though only long-time players will probably notice it, you have a little more time to hit notes, which helps on some songs. The jump between song tiers and difficulty levels has also been slightly reduced, which helps to make the game a little more accessible to more players... well, those with at least some semblance of rhythm.

However, hardcore veterans who list beating "Jordan" on expert as a skill on their resume shouldn't worry; the game is still pretty dang hard on higher difficulty levels. Even some of the higher tiered songs on Easy are no cakewalk, especially if you're trying to get perfect ratings on each. The big reason for this is the focus on strings of notes. There aren't as many long holds as in past games, so if you still haven't learned to use pull-offs and hammer-ons, you should head over to the Tutorial and learn.

Game Mechanics:

Another addition to the game is the new Les Paul guitar controller. The Guitar Hero II controller works perfectly fine, though the new one comes with the added bonus of being wireless. How useful this is will, of course, depend on how much you get into the game. I tend to get really into the game, especially when playing certain songs, so it was nice being able to let loose without having to worry about yanking the cord out of the USB port or, worse yet, pulling my 360 off the shelf. Besides, if you only own one guitar, you'll want another for two-player games.

As far as performance goes, the new controller performs just as well at the old one. The buttons felt a little stiff at first, though I was quickly able to break them in. Granted, it doesn't feel as good as my other guitar, but that one has more mileage on it. Since the neck is detachable, I was worried that the guitar wouldn't have as solid a feel. The locking mechanism is sturdy enough that you probably wouldn't be able to tell the neck was detachable if you weren't told. The strum bar and whammy bar also perform well. The only minor problem I found involved using Star Power. For whatever reason, I had to really tilt the guitar back in order to use Star Power, which sometimes caused me to miss notes. This wasn't something that happened often, but it can get annoying if it just happens to hit right when you're about to hit a massive note streak.

Guitar Hero's jump to a new developer was something that made a few fans of the series nervous. This turns out to not be as big of a deal as most thought since the game doesn't miss a beat at carrying over what made the first two enjoyable, while also adding even more to keep you entertained for months.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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