November 1, 2007

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Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock (PS2/Wii/360/PS3)
Neversoft, October 28
By Glenn "Paint it Black" Given production@hippopress.com

Could someone contact a personal injury lawyer for me? ’cause it appears that Guitar Hero 3 has broken my fingers.

Fans were understandably skeptical about the latest installment of the video game shred fest when Activision purchased original Guitar Hero publisher Red Octane and shifted development duties from Harmonix to the Tony Hawk series regurgitating Neversoft. Couple that with the lackluster half sequel Guitar Hero: Rocks the Eighties and burdgeoning Yngwie Malmsteems neverously pondered jumping ship in favor of the forthcoming Rock Band.

You can exhale, Tony Iommi, Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock does right by the rocking. The basic gameplay remains the same; players use the peripheral guitar controller to strum fret button combos in time with the falling colored indicators onscreen in time with the music. Rack up enough consecutive notes and you’re rewarded with score multipliers, hit crucial sequences to activate your star power and flaunt your six-string skills.

The career mode remains basically the same: your band progresses through eight tiers of five songs on the way to stardom on four different difficulty levels, with the notable addition of boss battles. Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave), Slash (Guns N Roses/Velvet Revolver) and “Lou” challenge you to shredding face-offs utilizing the new battle mode. In battle mode your Star Power triggers attacks against your opponent in the form of broken strings, mirrored fret boards and difficulty modifiers. Completing songs awards money to be spent unlocking new skins for your hero, new characters, songs and various guitars. Think of it as Dimebag Darrell’s pretty pretty dress-up guitaRPG. Career and battle mode are both available as co-op for your real-life buddies or over “teh internets” (not available on the PS2) The only drawback is that the separate co-op encore songs are inaccessible to solo players in career mode.

On the next-gen systems everything is shinier and you get the aforementioned online capability well as a slew of XBOX Live achievements to unlock. The new bundles also come standard with a wireless controller (although savy shoppers will note that many of the Wal-Mart specials substitute the inferior-quality Xplorer model guitar controller), which fan message boards indicate are experiencing various hardware glitches due in part to the removable neck.

So there are a few glitches, and yes you’ve bought this game in some form already so what you’re really getting for your ducats are a new batch of models and access to the new tracks, which are, I’m happy to say, excellent. The list of master tracks (including brand new re-recordings of “Anarchy in the UK” and “Cult of Personality”) represents 51 of the game’s 71 songs though long-time fans will still suffer at the lack of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. Fan favorites from earlier GH titles will likely find their way onto the next- gen consoles in the form of paid downloads. The pedigree of songs herein is impressive: Scorpion’s “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” Smashing Pumpkins’ “Cherub Rock,” ZZ Top’s “La Grange” and too many other signature rock anthems to name make Legends shine. But I’m warning you, Neversoft, no mountain of payola will ever make AFI, The Killers and Disturbed into Legends of Rock. AGlenn Given