Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (PS2)

If Guitar Hero is The Beatles of music games, Harmonix would be John Lennon and RedOctane would be Paul McCartney. After the duo split for good, Harmonix started work on Rock Band, an ambitious game that will surely do well critically but may not be a commercial success. RedOctane, however, soldiered on with the established Guitar Hero series, enlisting Neversoft for developer duties.

Which would make Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock the equivalent of Wings.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/Guitar-hero-iii-cover-image.jpg)

But that's where the metaphor ends. Because while Wings totally sucked, Guitar Hero III on the PS2 offers great new songs, a familiar playing experience, and even a few new surprises. And while it's not perfect, it's still Guitar Hero.

It's easy to imagine Neversoft looking at the massive success of Guitar Hero II and deciding that if it's not broke, they won't try to fix it. The core gameplay hasn't changed. Small modifications, such as improved Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs, make shredding a killer riff easier. The art style has been updated as well, with Neversoft going for a more mature direction. If that's ruining your experience with the game, you've got your priorities screwed up. I'm not saying the lead singer's strange mouth wasn't distracting when trying to 5-star "Barracuda," but it didn't stop me.

The setlist is what makes or breaks a rhythm game, and Guitar Hero III's is an interesting mix. No setlist is perfect, and in particular I would beg Neversoft to never again hire someone to pretend to be the Dead Kennedys, but a few missteps are allowed. The main riff on Blue Oyster Cult's "Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll" is a blast to play, and Smashing Pumpkins' "Cherub Rock" searing chords more than make up for a few dud covers. Since the majority of the songs are master tracks, there aren't a lot of times you'll be stuck listening to pale imitations.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/1.thumbnail_1.jpg) IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/2.thumbnail_0.jpg)

Too bad the bonus songs are so disappointing. What I loved most about the first two games in the series was how they featured independent acts as extra songs you can purchase. Guitar Hero III treats this section as just a place to get more songs. The Kaiser Chiefs have a label, and the Bret Michaels Band doesn't deserve one. Broaden my horizons!

One new feature touted in Guitar Hero III is the boss battles against guitar legends like Slash and Tom Morello. The idea is that this rock superstar is backstage at one of your shows when he suddenly decides to knock you down a peg or two. He plays a riff, then you play a riff. And instead of star power, you build up guitar attacks to screw up your opponent, like breaking strings on his guitar. Sounds interesting, right?

It was boring.

Not easy, mind you, just not engaging. Morello's challenge piece is a collection of his greatest guitar noises for the majority of the song, and while it's cool to listen to, it's not a lot of fun to play. Timing my guitar attacks after successfully playing the special notes was too gimmicky. Tom would make a scratching noise. Then I would make a scratching noise. I hope the sprites in the crowd didn't pay full price for their tickets, because it wasn't much of a show.

Humiliating Tom Morello in the rock arena of my mind was fun and all, and I love the idea that this rock superstar would then offer to play "Bulls On Parade" with my band after I've taken him to school, but I'd already played that song in Co-Op.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/3.thumbnail_0.jpg) IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/4.thumbnail_1.jpg)

Which brings me to the much larger problem with Guitar Hero III: The Co-Op Career. What sounded like a promising and engaging multiplayer experience has created a schism in my living room because we can't change difficulty levels. For reference, our house band -- named The Hawt Bills due to an unfortunately timed discussion about the division of our gas utilities -- was started on the Medium difficulty. If we raise or lower the difficulty, we have to start all over again. And there's no cooperative quickplay mode, though apparently the 360 got this added on launch day.

Which means that, unless you buy the 360 version, your copy of Guitar Hero III is broken. No other patches have been announced or released, and in my case, the PS2 version will never get an update. It's not only a huge difference in the two generations of hardware, but really shows the preference the game's makers have put on Microsoft's console. Suffice it to say, The Hawt Bills are currently on hiatus until Rock Band hits.

In the end, Guitar Hero III is still Guitar Hero, which is a good thing. There are changes to the formula in the boss battles and the redesigned cooperative modes, but the soul of the game is surprisingly intact. If you're ready to rock, the 360 version is the way to go, but the PS2 version is worth a rental at least. Neversoft has made a rhythm game that feels like it deserves the name Guitar Hero. Rock on.

Comments

Demiurge wrote:

Too bad the bonus songs are so disappointing. What I loved most about the first two games in the series was how they featured independent acts as extra songs you can purchase. Guitar Hero III treats this section as just a place to get more songs. The Kaiser Chiefs have a label, and the Bret Michaels Band doesn't deserve one. Broaden my horizons!

Agreed. And why are The Stone Roses in there, when they're considered an important band. Odd. On the other hand, Mauvais Garçon by Naast is pretty awesome. Reminds me of All of This from the first Guitar Hero.

Wait... you mean you don't get co-op multi, even if you beat the co-op career? Dammit, I thought they'd just made it an unlockable feature or something. Color me muy desilusionado.

Oh yeah, All of This was lots of fun. In Guitar Hero 2, Beast and the Harlot is a similar experience if you bop around and pretend it's candy pop.

I'm pretty much with Demi here, though I'm not sure I'm as pleased with Guitar Hero III. While I appreciate that there are more mainstream and recognizable songs in GHIII, I'm beginning to develop a new appreciation for the musical acuity with which the setlists for the previous games were devised. GHIII is chock full of what I call chugga-chugga songs where you endlessly strum the guitar to repeating patterns. I find myself thinking of it more as Rhythm Guitar Hero, and while that's fun, I'm really missing a lot of the interesting and complicated solos that hallmarked the previous iterations. Instead a lot of that fun has been replaced with endless three-note chords.

I have yet to find a truly standout-fun song to play in GHIII like the ones from before. I look back on the last two games and songs like Jessica, Crossroads, Texas Flood, Beast and the Harlot, Cowboys from Hell, Less Talk More Rokk, Even Rats and other songs stand out strong in my mind. There hasn't been a song in GHIII that's been on that level for me yet. It's good, but it's slipping.

Also, Morello and Slash are great and all that, but seriously when you say Legends of Rock I expect -

1) More than three guitarists and,
2) some actual legends of rock.

Elysium wrote:

when you say Legends of Rock I expect -
1) More than three guitarists and,
2) some actual legends of rock.

Amen.

Yeah, setlist is totally hit or miss, and all the good stuff is before the last tier (thankfully, can't clear the last two songs on hard.)

I REALLY wish I could play some of the coop songs. I can play them in online coop, but I need to unlock sabotage badly.

shred it!

I've been overall happy with GH3, but like Elysium I feel there is too many songs relying on driving rythm than technical guitar work. Give me something along the lines of "Frankenstein" and I'm happy.

Also my arm hurts after playing "one" on hard. I mean, I've gotten fatigue before, but seriously, that song pains me.

I remember Jessica being a big favorite because so much of the setlist around it was weak. There's a good bit more of this list that's more familiar. My Name is Jonas is the song I keep returning to, but I think that's just because it's one of my favorites. It sucks that Cliffs of Dover is the only technical guitar song in the last two tiers. What's up with the prevalence of metal on the higher tiers? GH2 did it too. It's annoying. One or two per tier, I can understand. 3 out of 5 for two tiers in a row? GTFO.

Still, nothing matches the total setlist of the first one. They (non-specific they) hit the sweet spot with that one.

thank god i'm safe from this kind of pretend to play a fake guitar crap.
than again if they make Guitar Hero:Black Sabbath my soul is sold bigtime

hund_schraube wrote:

thank god i'm safe from this kind of pretend to play a fake guitar crap.
than again if they make Guitar Hero:Black Sabbath my soul is sold bigtime ;)

Guitar Hero 1 has Iron Man and GH2 has War Pigs =P

but I need to unlock sabotage badly

Honestly you don't. The translation just doesn't work.

I'm finding its growing on me. My initial impressions were right the with Ely, but they've ebbed as I've gotten more used to the list. I find myself very satisfied with a good many of the songs, though they are the ones that are lighter on the chugga-chugga.

What do you guys think of the slutification of judy nails?

The 327th Male wrote:

What do you guys think of the slutification of judy nails?

I had to stop reading the post at "I was further insulted that there was a guitar by those mysoginist assholes at Axe". Yes that's right boys and girls, nothing's set the female cause back farther than a body spray aimed at 20 year old frat guys to use in lieu of a shower.

Though I stand by my "Bigger == worse" rule when it comes to video game sequels and the size of female character's breasts, that post was just a little silly. It's not that GHIII is on some crusade to insult the intelligence of women gamers with their character design, it's that they're out to insult everybody's intelligence. Did she look at any of the other characters?

The 327th Male wrote:

What do you guys think of the slutification of judy nails?

Thanks for the link. Its always amusing to read things by folks who have built up a whole culture around their victim mentality and see attacks coming from unlikely angles. It makes me and my apathetic world view seem quite stable

PyromanFO wrote:

It's not that GHIII is on some crusade to insult the intelligence of women gamers with their character design, it's that they're out to insult everybody's intelligence. Did she look at any of the other characters?

Yes she did. Her point was that while there are several different types of male caricatures to pick from, the female choices are pretty much limited to sexbots. Judy was the character she identified with, the character she saw herself as, up there rocking out. When playing the game now she can't see that - because she doesn't want to be a stupid sexbot, she wants to be a rock chick.

So this turned into a discussion into how some random chick is getting upset over a video game and how they made a character look where in her bio GH3 takes place years after GH2. So why is it strange that she would look a little different? Is it an excuse to give her larger boobs, more then likely but hell Rock music is about sex or either side of the gender fence.

Lets get back to the game now shall we? GH3, it's pretty awesome on the Xbox 360. You can see a marked change in design and graphics between GH2 and GH3. As for the comment about Rock Band now doing as well I think thats very far off the mark. I think Rock Band is going to be not only a critical success but a commercial one as well. MTV has more musical clout( Being apart of the Viacom family) then Neversoft and Activision ever will. Which can lead to more master recordings of songs then GH can hope to get. I mean time will tell, all 16 days of it. I personally am looking forward to the release and the On-line aspect int he game.

The 327th Male wrote:

What do you guys think of the slutification of judy nails?

Pffff, what a stupid article. I agree that they made her uglier (I don't necessarily mind the bigger boobs, but she looks weird, like an old porn star or somethin), but this article is ridiculous.

Judy Nails was always lame anyway. I'm still pissed about the disappearance of Eddie Knox.

Elysium wrote:

when you say Legends of Rock I expect -
2) some actual legends of rock.

Um, so Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Slash, Tom Morello, Kirk Hammett, Vernon Reid, John Frusciante, Joe Perry, and Pete Townsend aren't legend enough?

I do believe that every Guitar Hero game from here on should have manditory songs from BB King, Hendrix, Clapton, and Vaughan, one final tier where you only play guitar gods and always get the biggest names in that tier. However, I don't understand people who fail to recognize the set list in GH3 is the strongest so far in the series (the bonus songs are another story entirely). You may not like specific genres, but surely you know that songs like One, The Number of the Beast, Holiday in Cambodia, etc are all classics in their genres. If Guitar Hero 3 was a real concert, I'd pay good money to see it.

Don't forget the franchise's golden rule, what listens good does not equal what plays good. In all 3 games, I found some of the more famous songs boring while others I had never heard of before became favorites. There is a certain amount of familiarity needed for every Guitar Hero game - that first time you play career mode you barrel through most of the songs and don't get familiar with anything unless you fail a song (and thus probably hate it). Give it time folks.

Um, so Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Slash, Tom Morello, Kirk Hammett, Vernon Reid, John Frusciante, Joe Perry, and Pete Townsend aren't legend enough?

They are, absolutely, but they are featuring the Boss Battles. The Legends of Rock moniker has always referred to the original content provided by Slash and Tom Morello. Give me Clapton contributing to the game, and we can talk.

Don't forget the franchise's golden rule, what listens good does not equal what plays good.

Amen! I think this is what separates the previous 2 games from the more recent one. Again, I'm still just finding this game chock full o' chugga-chugga sequences and apparently random note placement and hammer-ons.

As a note, I instantly like GH2 despite it's sometimes inapproachable set list because it remained fun even when I didn't know the song. In this case it's the oppostie, I know most of the songs but just don't find them as engaging to play.

For example, Can't you Hear Me Knocking is a far less well known, but far more fun song to play than Paint it Black.

I want to know why there's no Clive in the game. Some of us geriatrics liked having someone more our age. And that women is complaining about sexism? What about the age-ism going on here?

By the way, Elysium, if you honestly believe the Can't You Hear Me Knocking is "far less well known", than you need to update your record collection (Oops...cd collection...oops...mp3 collection). I know more people that claimed it to be their favorite Stones song well before it made an appearance on GH2. Of course, we are all a bit long in the tooth. Although, I'll admit, as I heard somewhere before, Paint It Black is the greatest wedding song ever, at least from a groom's perspective. "I see the girls go by dressed in their summer clothes, I have to turn my head until my darkness goes."

I've always liked "Paint it Black," but I'm with Pointmonger in recognizing that "Can't You Hear me Knocking" was, at least once upon a time, a pretty well known song.

Ever since my wife caught me playing GH2 at Best Buy a few weeks ago, she's wanted me to buy the game and a system to play it on. Since GH3's coming out for Wii, she now knows two things to get me for Christmas.

Good thing she didn't see me playing it at Gamestop the other day. There were no buzz-cut Alabamians, colored smoke, or whiz-jets, but there was a plethora of "Rock you like a hurricane" and me making an ass of myself.

Hmm, I've always liked Can't You Hear Me Knocking, but never thought of it as that popular a song. I will defer to your greater knowledge.

I never heard of the song outside of GH2.

Elysium, I don't know if I'd call it greater knowledge, but having cut my musical teeth as a kid during the late seventies on the Stones, I probably just assume everyone has intimate knowledge of their entire discography. Plus, it is off of Sticky Fingers, which is one damn fine album. I'd recommend picking it up if you don't already have it. Actually, pick up all their albums from that period, when Mick Taylor was their second guitarist. Fabulous stuff. It's textbook rock and roll and pure genius.