Developer:Neversoft/Budcat Creations
Website:Unleash Your Inner Rock Legend

A few years ago my friend was dating this wonderful woman. She was beautiful, smart, funny and just a pleasure to be around. So when he fixed me up on a date with her little sister I was excited. The date came and went and somehow it didn’t live up to expectations. I’m not sure what I minded more, the faint lisp from her hair lip or the stubble burn I got when she kissed me good night, but the experience was a failure. That’s what it felt like playing Guitar Hero III.

It took me a longer time than most to let myself get addicted to these games, but when I finally succumbed to Guitar Hero II it was bliss and I had to play anything with the same name. The Guitar Hero series is amazing fun. The graphics have always been simple, yet appropriately entertaining. The game play is insanely addictive; on easy and medium it’s simple enough for anyone to pick up and play. On any difficulty after that it becomes an art-form to keep up with the wild riffs and ripping solos that are not for beginners. It looked like Guitar Hero couldn’t fail. Then the series lost Harmonix to Rock Band. With that death chord, everything previously mentioned that made Guitar Hero great was gone.

Neversoft, with Budcat Creations, come in to replace Harmonix for the PS2 release of this title. It’s fairly evident that Neversoft didn’t think much when putting this game together. The in-game animations are so ugly it’s distracting most of the time, and when they aren’t ugly they’re just distracting. For instance, there’s a moment in almost every song when someone stage dives. Well that’d be great if it wasn’t an epic camera pan that can’t help but take your eyes off of what you’re doing, and in a rhythm game, that’s not good. Otherwise, graphically speaking, it looked like they spent all of their time working on the playable character animations that, when they finished with the lame Elvis impersonator, they only had an afternoon to program in the rest of the band. Like a train wreck, the poorly animated chin of your lead singer or the sloppy movements of your drummer make it so you just can’t look away from them resulting in the game telling you just how much you don’t rock.

If only the graphics were awful, that would be one thing, but they aren’t. On normal difficulty it’s twice as hard as it should be. In some songs hammer on techniques are used arbitrarily and in almost impossible chains. Tempos often don’t match the rhythm of the song and as a result, this is the first game where it seems like you’re penalized for knowing the song before you play. The actual rhythm of the song often has no bearing on what you play, one of the worst offenders being “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream. I eventually had to put Guitar Hero II in to reaffirm that I don’t completely and utterly suck at the game and proceeded to get a perfect score on “Thunderhorse.” They purposefully made this game more difficult than it needs to be.

To neutralize the insanely imbalanced difficulty it’s best to play the game on easy, but then using so few fingers you’re playing Django Hero instead and that gets very boring. On the other end, to counteract the fact that the programmers have no sense of rhythm or tempo it almost makes more sense to play it on hard where what you’re doing matches the songs, but the newly installed difficulty curve reminiscent of passing kidney stones makes it nigh impossible to get anywhere like that. As far as difficulty levels go, there’s no good choice for beginners or anyone who isn’t lamely sitting and memorizing the lines.

The introduction of guitar battles was the shining light of this game. Even though the battles were poorly executed with really bad solos hammered out by Slash and Tom Morello, it shows that the series is still coming up with new ideas. Unfortunately Neversoft was thinking less about marketing the game to the already dedicated wide audience and more about their target market of fourteen year old boys who think they’re bad-ass by throwing up the sign of the beast and rambling incoherently about how cool anarchy is. This resulted in lame characters like the playable Metal Head and Lou the Devil. Anything witty or intelligent about the series has either been replaced or retooled with Neversoft’s signature immaturity and mediocrity.

Some of the covers are done very poorly and a select few tracks aren’t worthy of being on a set-list with the word “Legend” in it. On top of it there’s a whole bundle of songs that some people aren’t able to unlock just because they don’t play co-op. Aside from these cases the play list is full of great songs.

Like the rest of the Guitar Hero games, I didn’t get to play this one right away, so I got to listen to all the hype while salivating over the prospect of playing. Guitar Hero III is nowhere near worth the hype, nor is it even worth being mentioned in the same breath as its predecessors. I was going to give it three stars when I woke up this morning because at its root it is still a Guitar Hero game, but after playing it a few more hours I can’t even justify that.

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