Sunday, October 28, 2007
This is why I don't play real guitar anymore...
After battling my inner demons for a long time (my outer demons are trapped in a mystic urn) I plunked down the $100 for Guitar Hero 3 for the 360. I have been debating the GH3 on 360 vs Wii for a while (downloadable content being the deciding factor here) and also debating whether to get Rock Band and then buying GH3 on it's own later. After trying out the guitar at GameStop (yes, I dared to tread) I made the decision to just take the plunge already.
First off, the wireless guitar for the 360 is fantastic, worth the price of admission. It has the same buttons as the GH2 guitar for the PS2, but its wireless, heavier, and much easier to hold. The strum bar is also a lot more sturdy, so no more accidentally strumming up when strumming down extra hard and fast. My only complaint is the guitar strap, which has an extra sharp edge. Whenever I activate star power, I get a nice sharp poke to the neck. I actually have a mark on my neck. It has been switched out for my PS2 guitar's strap. Otherwise, best guitar peripheral I have used so far. On a side note, it has the PlayStation controller symbols (square, triangle, etc) on the neck under the buttons, but not the 360's letters. This could be because the colors correspond to the buttons on the 360 controller, but I still find it odd to find the symbols on my 360 guitar.
As for the game itself, the set list is where this style of game lives or dies, and happily, Guitar Hero 3 lives strong. The lineup still isn't as strong as the original Guitar Hero, but its better than Guitar Hero 2 (and destroys Rocks the 80s btw). I can honestly say I know 90% of the main songs in the list, and most are performed by their original bands, not an annoying cover. One point of note about the songs themselves, is even with the speakers blasting, some songs don't sound as good as their original recordings, with "Story of my Life" losing almost all of it's melodies and "aahhhs" in the background.
Actually playing the songs is a fantastic combination of both of the first Guitar Hero games. There is a lot less of that playing random notes that don't seem to correspond to the song stuff found everywhere in GH2, but it is still around. The biggest positive found in Guitar Hero 3 is the hammer ons and pull offs are even easier to... pull off than ever before. Instead of just a blank white circle instead of a black and white circle, h.o.s and p.u.s (LOL!) are shown as rings of light, making them pop out very easily. I sucked at h.o.s and p.u.s in the original GH and still didn't "rock" in GH2, but here, I have them down, and there are literally some songs that require these to be used to not fail. I'm looking at you "Cult of Personality" and "Knights of Cydonia." By the way, Knights of Cydonia, thank you Neversoft!
Guitar Hero 3 is simultaneously harder and easier than the previous games. It is easier in that the window to strum the note correctly is clearly much larger (my scores should be lower in quite a few songs) and the improved h.o.s and p.u.s make some fast sections a breeze. However, there are some weird balance issues. Songs in the 1st and 2nd sets are harder than sets 3-6, and suddenly at 7, the challenge doubles. The difficulty in the first 2 sets could be related to the complete lack of h.o.s and p.u.s but I honestly believe they are just harder. After playing through GH2 again yesterday, I can say with certainty that the first 10 songs or so are much harder this time around. This could be off putting to newer or less talented players, but I would need to play in Easy to know for certain. And yes, I have replayed the songs just to make sure i wasn't sucking at first. Story of my Life in the 1st group is harder than When You Were Young in the 3rd group. But overall, the songs are more difficult than the first two games.
There are a few other minor annoyances and improvements. On the positive side, the set lists now show the band's name without having to actually play the song to know whose song you are selecting. Also, the bonus songs have some real gems in there. On the negative side, entering your name/initials in the Quick Play mode is the biggest pain in the ass, even worse than the original Guitar Hero. Ya know those cute little sayings in between selecting the songs and playing them? You won't have time to read them, the game loads too quickly. Thats a positive and a negative. As of 12 hours after buying the game, I am still unable to register at guitarhero.com and don't seem to be the only one. I am hoping that the servers are just too busy, but I would that Activision would have planned for that. (UPDATE: next morning, same problem, can't link the accounts.) And graphically, the game is smoother and brighter, but still ugly as sin, especially the drummer, who was borrowed from the country bear jamboree at your local theme park. The drummer and audience actually distract from the experience they are so weird, with the hideous lead singer not helping at all.
I have yet to play online, so I can't judge how everything will play out there. I have completed the main career mode and am looking forward to co-op (which requires 2 guitars, not available online?!?!) and trying out the online games. I am also not sold on the versus mode, such as playing against Tom Morello, as there is little strategy, just a lot of get power up, use when opponent is playing. Overall, the game plays great and is a lot of fun, improved over Guitar Hero 2. The guys at Neversoft had some enormous shoes to fill, and did a wonderful job. I am looking forward to Rock Band more than ever now. I definitely recommend Guitar Hero 3 to anyone who... just buy the damn game already.
Oh, and Orange Button? F&#K YOU! There, I said it.
Pictures courtesy Activision and GuitarHero.com