maanantai 7. marraskuuta 2011

REVIEW - Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (2007)

GENRE(S): Rhythm
RELEASED: October 2007
DEVELOPER(S): Neversoft Entertainment, Aspyr Media (MAC, PC), Budcat Creations, RedOctane (PS2), Vicarious Visions (Wii)
PUBLISHER(S): RedOctane, Activision

In 2006, Activision bought RedOctane - the publisher of Guitar Hero. In the same year, MTV Games bought Harmonix Music Systems, the creator and developer of Guitar Hero. Activision owned the rights to the Guitar Hero franchise, and they were not going to let the golden goose go, even if a majority of fans had already decided to wait and see what Harmonix would accomplish with their new rhythm game Rock Band. Activision hired Neversoft Entertainment to develop Guitar Hero III, which was officially graced with the subtitle Legends of Rock a while into its announcement. Being developed by big fans of the original franchise, and sporting the most extravagant and positively diverse tracklist imaginable, most of it consisting of actual master tracks instead of covers, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock was bound to be a hit - although critics and fans of the first two games were not fully satisfied with it and the changes it brought to the standard gameplay, it still became one of the most popular, best-selling and best known video games of the decade.

Through the fire and flames indeed

There honestly aren't many games which I've spent as many hours on as I have on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. I had been acquainted with the Guitar Hero series just for a few weeks when my good friend and neighbour - also a rhythm game fanatic at the time - asked me if I wanted to pay half of a copy of Guitar Hero III. It was sold out just about everywhere; he happened to stumble on it in some random video game store, he had a very strict budget and he wanted the game so bad he didn't mind sharing it. I felt the same way, so I paid what he asked me to. We played the game almost daily, right up until the nearly parallel release of Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour, which kinda "divided" us as consumers, and ultimately led to my friend giving up his share of Guitar Hero III. WE played the game; against each other, with each other, taking turns in the single-player career, taking turns in trying to beat our previous scores in several great songs... it was relentless. We only stopped when we ran out of beer - and when that happened, I left my friend's apartment, walked a total of three meters into mine, and continued playing alone until I passed out, or admitted defeat at the hands of the great god of "being too drunk for Guitar Hero".

On my account, in a nutshell, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is the ultimate Guitar Hero experience, no matter what you think. It's got its flaws, and I'm sure to go over most of them later, but what's most important is that it's got a great tracklist that pretty much stands up to the game's pompous title, it's tweaked to perfection when it comes to gameplay, and it's got many new, great features. The first two games had great tracklists, but they lacked options, and similar comfort in gameplay - here, the HO/PO notes actually work, it's all up to the player instead of the processor's mood to make them count. AFTER Guitar Hero III, the franchise turned into a great big sellout. Since Guitar Hero III was deemed extremely difficult - which it is - all subsequent games were extremely easy to complete, and the quality of the tracklists took a nose dive with bulks upon bulks of songs that had nothing to do with being a guitar hero, but rather how much money their inclusion in a video game of such wide mainstream popularity made. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock was made to please, in all the right ways. And it did.

No matter what anyone says, I think the
cutscenes look cool.
Although Neversoft didn't see fit to truly upgrade the graphics, they at least made the game look a lot more alive than its predecessors, with decent band animation inspired by actual live shows by the respective artists. They even got Bret Michaels to do motion capture for the male vocalist of the virtual band, and of course, the two celebrity bosses of the game - Tom Morello and Slash - who also wrote an exclusive instrumental each to be used as a boss song (.........coooooool?). There are also some humorous cutscenes that carry the very thin storyline filled with rock cliches forward, which are apparently stylistically influenced by Metalocalypse.

There are 73 songs in this game, of which only 20 are covers - and the best part is that two bands, Sex Pistols and Living Colour, even went as far as to re-record their respective songs "Anarchy in the U.K." and "Cult of Personality" specifically for the sake of this game. That goes to show how important of a promotional tool rhythm games had become after the success of Guitar Hero II; not to mention how Dragonforce's sales exploded through the roof after word of the legendary difficulty of "Through the Fire and Flames" spread even to non-gaming circles. Dragonforce are a band I've known for many years myself, and "Through the Fire and Flames" is a mere bonus track. A bonus track in a Guitar Hero game used to equal to repulsive garage crap, but here we have Rise Against, Killswitch Engage, In Flames, Backyard Babies, The Hellacopters... critically acclaimed bands, but ones that aren't that widely known in global view. Well, neither are all the bands on the main tracklist, but it does have plenty of them, representing numerous subgenres of rock, and the tracklist spans nearly four decades of music. The fact that Neversoft included Weezer as a "legend of rock" got you down? Stop sulking, and remember all of the other stuff; The Who, Blue Öyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Santana, Cream, ZZ Top, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Muse, Iron Maiden, Slipknot, Disturbed, Metallica, Slayer (SLAYEEEEEEEERRRRR!!!), and even Tenacious D, they're all here. I can come up with plenty of true legends of rock that were left out of the fray - something like twenty per minute - but that doesn't change my opinion on the tracklist. It's awesome, impeccable. And, since most of the songs are master recordings, it feels good, more fun and more meaningful than ever to rock out to 'em. There are a few extremely bad apples on the tracklist, but most of them are once again found amongst the bonus tracks; among which there are also some great songs besides those which I knew beforehand, including the insane "Impulse" by An Endless Sporadic and the gnarly "Metal Heavy Lady" by Lions.

The gameplay of Guitar Hero III set a new standard. Nothing has really changed except for the game's overall clear-cut look, and general mechanics. Although successfully playing the guitar might not feel as precise as it did before due to the somewhat looser mechanics, it is precise - even moreso than before. In turn, the game reacts to flaws in hardware much easier than the previous games. For example, my guitar controller's been in use for three years. There were close to no problems when I was playing the first three games for the sake of reviewing them, but this (semi-)playthrough of Guitar Hero III was filled with phantom notes and sudden messages of connection being lost between the PS2 and the controller, even though it was plugged in tight. Triggering Star Power's hard the old-fashioned way, and it was hard during fast passages (which "Through the Fire and Flames" is full of) to begin with. Although right now I'm personally quite pissed with the mechanics, like you can imagine - I couldn't even beat "Welcome to the Jungle" on my latest run - the fact is that when Guitar Hero III came out, playing virtual guitar couldn't possibly have been more fun and comfy. Indeed, the HO/PO's work as long as the player learns to take advantage of them; for the first time, you can simply slide your finger gently across the buttons to nail a long string of HO/PO's instead of having to press each button down for a while and hope for the best. That means a lot on the account of playability as far as I'm concerned - I'm an HO/PO freak.

Looks familiar, yet comfortably tweaked.
Guitar Hero III is more about guitar solos than any other game in the franchise (or any other rhythm game), hence the extensive developmental work done on the HO/PO techniques. The whole new boss battles are all different from each other and being able to conquer all three of them depends on different factors - rhythm (Morello), technique (Slash) and high speed mixed with the first two (the final boss), but all three boss tracks have the common thread of containing some simply insane solos already seen in fine amounts throughout the whole game, from the very beginning of the main tracklist to the very top of the heap of bonus tracks. Nailing a song perfectly in either Career Mode or Quickplay earns you five golden stars, but be warned, there aren't many songs in this game in which nailing 100% of the notes on Expert is even remotely likely, not even in the beginning of the whole thing. Even simplest songs such as "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" have a surprise or two waiting for the player laughing at their structures, just waiting to ruin the player's chances of feeling too rewarded. Then, there are many of the much-criticized "walls of notes" which are pretty much impossible to beat if your name's not Chris Chike; in my opinion, "Raining Blood" is the most difficult song on the main tracklist (just like it should be, SLAYEEEEEEEERRRRR!!!) just because of impenetrable walls like these. I can safely say I'll never beat that song on Expert. It was hard enough on Hard.

Taking all the songs in this game into account, saying that this game's Hard mode equals the Expert modes of every Guitar Hero game that came before isn't exaggeration at all. Players that are merely good might easily get stuck long before even making it to the third-to-last gig, and even players that can call themselves experts with good consciences will most definitely not beat every song in this game in one, two or even three tries, not even on Hard. The game is that God damn hard. The Expert mode pushes seasoned players to their very limits. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is just about the most difficult rhythm game in history.

Now that I've extensively blabbed on and on about the game's tracklist and its difficulty, maybe it's time to take a look-see at the new features. There are some nice extras such as attire customization for single players, but as a multiplayer experience, the game has had some massive reconstruction work for the better. Not only are there several different multiplayer modes played just for fun, you can also build a career together with a friend. In Co-op Career, you don't have access to all songs, and the bosses are omitted, BUT you do have access to a few songs wholly EXCLUSIVE to co-operatives, including some must-plays as "Suck My Kiss" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. After you've beaten them once in Co-op, these songs are unlocked for all forms of Quickplay. Co-op Career also has its own rewards, such as stylized basses. In addition to Co-op Career and all the classic, slightly reworked multiplayer modes, you can challenge your friend to a Battle, which works exactly like the boss battles in the game, except that your opponent does not have pre-arranged antics to piss you off with, and you can play any song you like.

The goal is to make Slash your bitch.
I guess I could just spit out how the boss battles work before wrapping this one up. In the boss fights, you have but one single goal: to intentionally fuck your opponent's performance up so bad, that he is forced to forfeit his title of being a rock god over to you. Let's use Slash as an example. You take turns playing the instrumental song Slash wrote exclusively for the game. Star Power phrases are replaced with Power-Up phrases. With these power-ups (read: tools for some really unfair sabotage), you can piss on your opponent's turns, prevent him from getting any power-ups himself, and with good luck, utterly destroy his performance. The power-ups include overloading his amp, which practically means that the notes flicker, doubling his notes and muting his guitar completely until he has whacked the volume back up with the whammy bar. All the tricks are quite damn rancid, and I must say the boss battles are not my favourite parts of the game; they were a great idea, I especially enjoy playing contextual encores with these dudes ("Bulls on Parade" and "Welcome to the Jungle"), but since their actions depend strictly on pre-arranged tactics and they never make any mistakes unless you are able to force mistakes upon 'em, your success in the boss battles depends solely on luck. The biggest problem with the final boss is that the song is way too long, it takes a while before you have the slightest chance of getting one power-up, and there's pretty much one single chance of using one to your advantage. I think the last songs you're required to play to beat the game are quite enough to prove a point or two, they didn't really need the final battle... not saying that the song wouldn't be great, though. 

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is enduring as it is, after all I own the PlayStation 2 version and I'm still fully capable of having fun with the game, but the ones who get the most out of it are definitely Xbox 360 owners, who not only get access to (nearly) the same DLC as PlayStation 3 owners, but have the privilege of Achievements. The DLC ain't no joke, it just stopped flowing way too fast; the first version of Metallica's Death Magnetic track pack - which includes the whole album, plus one exclusive remix - was released for this particular game. There's some more Muse and Dragonforce available, as well as songs by Dropkick Murphys, Motörhead, Def Leppard, No Doubt and Velvet Revolver, just to name a few artists, and Quickplay versions of each of the boss songs, downloadable free of charge. Boy, you love Guitar Hero III long time.

It should've been seen coming that it was all downhill from here. Sure, there have been some downright amazing installments in the Guitar Hero franchise since, but nothing as balanced and on the mark as Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. If any of my friends are reading this, stop by. The beers are on me.

SOUND : 9.6


a.k.a. Guitar Hero III

GameRankings: 78.00% (MAC), 78.00% (PC), 85.50% (PS2), 83.77% (PS3), 85.69% (X360), 86.45% (Wii)

Axl Rose sued Activision for $20 million in late 2010, for the supposed misuse of Guns 'n Roses' music and Slash's likeness.

Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti