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With Rock Band coming out oh so very soon, the brand that started it all (Ok, so yeah, Guitar Freaks really started it all, but who plays that crap?) might get looked over by buyers this holiday season.
Sucks for them, as Guitar Hero 3 is just as good as (if not better than) its predecessor, Guitar Hero 2.
The question of the hour is of course whether the Tony Hawk mavens, Activision, can take over the franchise properly, as the Red Octane/Harmonix split is sure to ruffle some feathers. But Activision does a great job of mixing the perfect bands (Slipknot, Metallica, Dragon Force! They’re all there) to make for a rich experience where the only thing keeping you back from rocking with your, erm, third leg, out is how quickly you can shift from orange to blue to green to yellow in the allotted time.
Also, it seems that contrary to popular belief, the track listing actually can get better than the last game’s, as this list here is much more diverse and spread out (Thanks for not mixing bluegrass with my metal this time, folks!). This makes for a more focused career mode, where you feel that you actually wouldn’t get a raised eyebrow or shrugged shoulders if you played these set numbers in a row at the same venue.
And then there are the boss battles. I was pretty skeptical about this feature when I first heard they would be in the game, but now that I’ve played them, I’m actually pretty disappointed that there are so few of them to fight through. In a nut shell, your opponent—whether it be Tom Morello, Slash from GnR fame, or even the God of Rock himself—plays a few notes that you follow off in a spiraling duet where you have to knock his rhythm off course by hitting note breakers. These “breakers” can do everything from throwing off his whammy bar, kicking the difficulty up a bit, and even overloading their amp so they get too much feedback. It’s like Puzzle Kombat only with guitar strings. Wicked.
I also really dig how Activision picked up some licensed songs and actually got the original recordings (And also some new, just added ones) this time around. Because really, who can actually match the strained intensity of Billy Corgan’s or James Hetfield’s voices? It was a smart move on their part, especially since Rock Band has a whole slew of them in their game.
But then there are the problems. And though none of them are really tantamount to hindering the game’s awesome experience, they certainly need to be ironed out by the time the next iteration or – God help us – side project comes out.
First, I have to talk about the difficulty—it’s too lopsided! If you’ve ever played either one of the games in the famed series, then you’ll realize that medium is the new easy, as the game is just far too slow if you’re actually used to that setting. But when you ramp it up to hard, look out, as said boss battles will KICK-YOUR-ASS (Slash offsetting my difficulty to EXPERT is not what I was looking forward to). Sure, it’s manageable, but as of this time, I still haven’t beaten the game on hard. You see, there’s this Slayer song, at the end, and, yeah…
Also, I’m not all that big a fan of the fact that prog-rock bands have still not made an appearance in the series. Come on! “Long Distance Runaround,” “Roundabout,” “Going for the One.” All classics! Of course, this is being really picky, but still. And the co-op mode is still a little lacking, as in, the song list is far too short. Also, I’d love to play a whole game on just bass, which again, isn’t an option—I’ll have to wait for Rock Band for that.
All and all, though, these are just minor quibbles to an amazing experience. By all means, get both Guitar Hero and Rock Band if you can afford both. But if you’re looking for the whole, drums, bass, and vocals vibe, you may want to wait. This journey is gee-tar flicker only.