|Guitar Hero III (2007)
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PS2
When news broke that software developer Harmonix would be ending their partnership with “Guitar Hero” collaborators Red Octane in order to pursue their own project – the multi-instrument rhythm game “Rock Band” – fans of the series grew worried. After all, the original game was a monumental success, and its sequel nearly doubled the fanbase, so when “Tony Hawk” developer NeverSoft stepped in to take over, the question on everyone’s mind wasn’t whether or not the franchise would suffer, but rather how badly. What many failed to acknowledge, however, was the possibility that the third installment could actually prosper as a result of the move, and thanks to a solid soundtrack and a few tweaks to the gameplay, “Guitar Hero III” does just that.
Not much has changed in regards to the way you’ll play the game. The interface may look slightly different and the character models are definitely more polished, but for all intents and purposes, it’s the “Guitar Hero” you know and love. Colored notes still run down the screen, star power is collected and activated just like before, and songs are unlocked on your way to rock stardom. The only major difference to the game is the addition of Guitar Battle, a multiplayer mode that pits two players against one another in an attempt to force the other to fail the song by using Power-Ups (like lefty flips and broken strings) that are collected in the same manner as Star Power. This new gameplay is also briefly introduced into career mode as you’re forced to go head-to-head against such legends of rock like Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, Guns ‘n Roses’ Slash, and the Devil himself. As you’d expect, the boss battles feel tacked on, but because Activision doesn’t jam one down your throat after each set, they succeed in adding variety to otherwise familiar gameplay.
The rest of the game is about one thing and one thing only: the music. Sure, it’s nice to be able to rock out with the new wireless Gibson, but that doesn’t mean jack if the music doesn’t move you. Many would be quick to point out that batteries don’t last very long either (just ask anyone who actually plays their Wii more than once a week), but that’s the price you pay for mobility, and with 71 songs in total (46 unlockables and 25 for purchase using in-game credit), you’re definitely going to want all the room you can get. Fans of previous installments already know to expect a well-rounded mix of musical genres, and most of the entries are pretty self-explanatory (Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia” falls into the “No duh” category), but there are also plenty of more obscure tunes that I never would have known about if it hadn’t been for this game. Among the best of that bunch has to be Dragonforce’s “Through Fire and Flame,” a song that is not only great to listen to, but currently holds the title as the most difficult “Guitar Hero” song ever.
Other great songs include Guns ‘n Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle,” Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” Foghat’s “Slowride,” Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow,” “Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade,” the “Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black,” Smashing Pumpkins’ “Cherub Rock,” Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” and Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride and Joy.” You also get exclusive re-recordings of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” and Living Color’s “Cult of Personality,” as well as a host of bonus tracks that include the Kaiser Chief’s “Ruby” and Italian rockers Lacuna Coil’s “Closer.” Not too shabby when you consider the highest profile bonus track on the first two games was from Buckethead.
Then again, that’s what happens when the music starts coming to you. The original “Guitar Hero” showed what could be done when musicians worked hand-in-hand with the video game industry. “Guitar Hero II” proved that theory with more master recordings, but it’s “Guitar Hero III” that ultimately features the most solid set list yet. This is a game that not only met my expectations, but also smashed them into pieces like an electric guitar after a sold out show in Hell.