Review: Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock (Nintendo Wii)

Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock
Genre: Rhythm Game
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: 10/28/2007

Before Guitar Hero was created, people like me who wish they could play guitar but are too lazy to learn were limited to playing air guitar to their favourite solo, an activity which everybody does when alone, but is usually frowned upon in public. Nowadays, it is possible to do the exact same thing, but with a cute little plastic guitar in your hands as you mimic your favourite artist. The fun thing is that you can even bust it out in a party, and many people will almost think you are cool! How great is that? For a man completely devoid of musical talent like me, it’s the closest I will ever be to actually playing an instrument.

All kidding aside, the fact is that the series took the video game world by storm by unleashing a phenomenon that even reaches people who wouldn’t usually define themselves as gamers. The release of the third game in the series has now gone as far as warranting mainstream medias’ attention, with evening news detailing the game’s popularity and showing queues of avid fans in front of local stores.

As the third iteration of a popular franchise (excluding a glorified expansion pack), Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock has pretty big shoes to fill. Furthermore, the series is now in the hands of new developers. Have they done anything to keep the concept from getting stale? Is the song selection fun to play? Is the game good enough to survive the assault of the incoming juggernaut, Rock Band? This review will probably reassure you on the first two questions. As for the last one, don’t look at me. I can’t predict the future yet.


GAME MODES

All the usual suspects are there, including Career Mode, Quickplay and a very useful practice mode. When it comes to multiplayer, you can go for a Face-Off against a friend or online, or a quick cooperative song. These modes all work wonderfully; The Career Mode is satisfying as usual and includes hilarious but short cut-scenes between each tiers. The Face-Off always seems fair, even if the players choose a different difficulty level. Everything is good here.

New to the series are a cooperative Career Mode and a Battle Mode. While the co-op career is a nice addition, the fact that it is required to unlock some of the songs is unfortunate. Finding someone you know who also has a guitar and who plays the game on the same console as you can be a real hassle. I was lucky enough to find a guy at work who also bought it on day one, but from what I have heard elsewhere, not everyone is so lucky. Of course, there’s always a cheat to unlock every songs, so at least there’s an alternative.

Finally, the Battle Mode works perfectly, but it just isn’t as fun as the rest of the bunch. Guitar Hero has always been a series based on skills, with players competing for higher scores than their opponents. The Battle mode effectively kills that theory by introducing a gameplay mechanic that makes the game look like Mario Kart with guitars instead of cars. Along with the broken string attack and the blurry vision, I was half expecting a banana peel and a blue shell to appear. I guess it is one of those things that looked good on paper but ended up not being that fun in reality. Overall, there’s not a lot more you can expect from a game based on playing guitar. It’s just too bad that the one novelty in the game ended up being more annoying that anything else.

Game Modes Rating: 7/10


GRAPHICS
The visuals are competent if unspectacular. The in-game graphics are good enough, with huge crowds, nice backgrounds funny characters. The problem is that everything seems a bit blocky, and excluding your character, the other band members all act very stiff. The drummer looks so stiff that it almost has to be intentional. Maybe it’s a decision-based on style, because it does give him a look as if he was straight from a Gorillaz video. The singer is ugly as sin, but in a nice touch, his lips move him time with the lyrics. It just seems to me like the details are lacking. It’s been a while since I have seen beards that looked so unnatural. The cut-scenes graphics are better in my opinion, with a superb hand-drawn look, but it’s only a minority of the game.

While it all look a bit blocky, the graphics don’t look rough per say. There are no jagged edges or blurriness and the colors are bright, so it’s hard to tell if it is simply the intended art direction gone wrong. In the end, what we are left with is a game that looks good enough not to be a distraction while playing, but which will not blow your socks off.

Graphics Rating: 5/10


SOUND
There are two important aspects that must be considered above all else when it comes to rhythm games. The first one is this category. Fortunately, it’s all great in this department. The songs are loud and clear; the cover bands are good and sound like they should. The effect for missed note is just aggravating enough to make you fear you next misstep, but not enough to make you turn your wiimote’s sound all the way down. In fact, by making this effect come from the controller’s speaker, it adds to the distorted note effect.

Only two minor quips with the sounds: the weird echo effect that happens when you activate your star power momentarily massacres the song and takes away from the illusion that you are really playing like a pro. I know it’s not much, but I like pretending that it’s really me being on fire, killing that solo from “Welcome to the Jungle”. Finally, a couple of bonus songs (particularly the one by In Flames) sound cheaper than the rest, which are generally stellar.

Sound Rating: 8/10


CONTROL
This is the other important category. This is what makes or breaks a rhythm game. Thankfully, the controls in Guitar Hero 3 are nothing short of perfect. The guitar controller feels sturdy, and the frets are more sensible than I remembered from the previous model. The game allows a very small delay when hitting notes, so you don’t have to play it right on the fraction of second that it passes on your screen. It makes for less frustrating gameplay and allows some of the extremely difficult songs to cross into merely very difficult territory. The star power activates as soon as you slightly tilt your guitar, so you don’t have to put it straight up and mess with your concentration. Everything is responsive, so if you fail a song, it’s really because you were not good enough. I realized that fact quite often while reviewing this game.

Control Rating: 10/10


REPLAYABILITY
This game is only going to last as long as you don’t get tired of playing the same songs over and over again. It’s a good thing that the selection is quite voluminous, with over 70 songs at your disposal. While the first Guitar Hero and its sequel seemed to concentrate more on classic guitar tracks, this one is a bit more all over the place, with classics of rock, newer songs and some good nostalgia tracks for people who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. If you’re a casual player, you might put it away after unlocking everything, but obsessive-compulsive gamers will need to put in a lot of time to unlock every guitars and characters, and to get a five-stars rating on every song. The multiplayer mode should also be a blast when friends are around, as it is a good occasion to make a fool out of you and have some fun. The online mode also adds a bit of value to the whole package.

Replayability Rating: 6/10


BALANCE
The easy mode really is easy, medium mode got a bump from the precedent game, hard mode got crazy, and at the moment, I am not even thinking about expert mode. On expert, I am stuck at my first encore, as I get raped by solos full of three chords notes and quick series of hammer-on/pull-off all over the board in succession. Still, if you follow the order of the songs and practice a bit, you should be appropriately talented to take on the next difficulty level when the time comes. This means that casual players will still have fun if they stick to easy, while frequent players will eventually reach the upper echelons with a bit of patience.

As for the songs themselves, you really see the progression in difficulty as you approach the end of each set. The only thing that ruins the balance is the duels with the bosses. Thankfully, there are only three of them, so while they feel out of place when compared to songs that come before and after, you won’t see much of battle mode.

Balance Rating: 7/10


ORIGINALITY
The first took inspiration from GuitarFreaks but made it more mainstream, the second one perfected the concept, the third one was simply an expansion pack, and this one does not bring much to the table in terms of innovation. Sure, there’s the battle mode and the cooperative career, and even then, one of the two modes is not much fun at all. Good enough if you already liked the series, but it doesn’t bring much in terms of innovation.

Originality Rating: 2/10


ADDICTIVENESS

One of the reason why this review is a bit late is because I spent more time playing the damn thing than writing about it. As soon as I have a couple of minutes to myself, I try to finish whatever song I am stuck on at the moment. I never thought I would actually like practicing a song by Slipknot, but by the time I was good enough, it was as if my fingers were possessed, which is pretty impressive to look at. Then, once you finally get through that one solo which was stopping you from achieving guitar greatness, it sends a cool tingly feeling down your spine which makes you smile stupidly out of satisfaction.

Then, as soon as it’s over, you start a new song and repeat the same process. Before you know it, day has turned to night and you haven’t accomplished anything productive.

I don’t know how long it will last, but for the moment, I am totally addicted, and the only thing that can calm me is tapping on the brightly coloured buttons of a small plastic guitar. Please help me.

Addictiveness Rating: 10/10


APPEAL FACTOR
By now, everybody has heard of the game, it has been on the news, and it has become a real phenomenon. The only reason why you wouldn’t like this game is if you hate the idea of pretending to play music, or if you just can’t stand the songs featured. I’ve seen non-believers become addicted after a single song. It’s one of these rare games that have a nearly universal appeal. Who doesn’t like music?

Appeal Factor Rating: 9/10


MISCELLANEOUS
In short, it’s a fun game that does not add much when compared to its predecessor. The new songs are varied and should provide a little bit of everything for everyone. You’ll probably find at least two or three songs that will make you start giggling like a schoolgirl at the thought of playing, and even if you don’t know the rest of the selection, it’s good enough to make you want to check out a couple of them. Apparently, there’s a cool band called Priestess that comes from Montreal. And I never really took the time to listen to them before. Guess what? They’re pretty good. I should pay more attention to what happens in my city.

One thing I would have liked to see this time around is a “Create-a-Character” mode. As you can see from the number of styles and costumes you can unlock for each character, there’s plenty of variety, so why couldn’t they just throw each items and features together and allow you to customize it all to your liking? Karaoke Revolution Party was able to provide a “Create-a-Character” mode. I’m pretty sure doing the same thing, but with a guitar in your creation’s hands could have been feasible.

Finally, there are a couple of videos you can unlock, mostly about the Sex Pistols. Pretty neat to see the band together to record new versions of their song, but you won’t learn much there. I like the concept of putting little extras like that on game disks, just like DVDs. It worked well for Mortal Kombat Armageddon, but there’s no point in doing it if the videos are not interesting. Good effort anyway.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10


THE RATINGS
Game Modes: 7/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 8/10
Control: 10/10
Replayability: 6/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 2/10
Addictiveness: 10/10
Appeal: 9/10
Miscellaneous: 5/10

Average Rating: 6.9
Final Score: 7.0 (Good)

Short Attention Span Summary
Guitar Hero 3 delivers when it comes to the important stuff: Rocking hard and having fun. The game has become my new drug, and while I don’t know how long I will be addicted for, I can tell you that just writing about the game made me just about ready for another fix. If you had any interest in this game, then just make sure you like the songs featured in the game. The songs are fine? Then go ahead, you’ll love this game.