Guitar Hero 3

February 8, 2008

Since its release last year, Nintendo has been finding new and interesting ways to use the Wii console and its innovative remote system. The Wii’s first music rhythm game, Guitar Hero III, is no different in this respect.

This offering from Red Octane and Activision requires the use of a specialized guitar controller, like its predecessors in the Guitar Hero series. However, unlike its PS2, PS3 and Xbox 360 brethren, the Wii’s version requires the use of the Wii-mote, which plugs into the guitar controller body. The feature is awesome in that it gives players the advantage of a wireless controller without the drawback of the controller eating up batteries. Also, the Wii-mote is set slightly in, so there’s little risk of hitting the Wii-mote buttons while furiously hitting the strum bar. Another cool feature is that missed notes come out from the Wii-mote’s speakers, giving the player a slightly more immersive experience.

Another great advantage is the guitar controller’s ability to be broken down into two major parts, making it able to fit in a suitcase or large backpack. This is a handy feature when you inevitably take this to grandma’s house for the holidays or on a trip. Another nice feature is interchangeable faceplates, allowing you to personalize your guitar controller with something other than stickers.

The game hasn’t changed much from its predecessors. There are still the five-colored approaching circles. You still press the fret buttons and strum bar in time to the circles. You still use start power to max out your score. You still rock out to an awesome set list featuring Kiss, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, The Scorpions, Santana, and Pat Benatar.

However, there have been changes, which only improve the game. They have added a Battle Mode, where your Star Power is replaced by weapons that you use to “attack”? your opponent and throw him/her completely off. Some weapons are easy to deal with, like Broken String (hit the affected button to repair the string). Some are hideous, like the Lefty Flip (flips the frets on you). While it’s a fun addition, I don’t think it is necessary to include it in the Career Mode. Or, if they insisted, they should have included a battle on each set, allowing a wider berth of guitar legends to battle.

They didn’t seem to have enough room to make all the guitar legends unlockable. Making them selectable characters (after unlocking and then buying them in the shop) seems rather unnecessary, since most players don’t care about being Tom Morello or Slash. Other selections don’t seem to make sense either, like cutting out GH favorite Pandora to make room for Midori, a J-Rock guitarist that looks severely out of place in a decidedly non-Japanese band.

Another interesting tweak is adding a Co-op Career Mode, allowing you and a friend to join forces and tour together. You get five or six extra songs for completing this mode, but the set list is shorter and you don’t get to gang up on the handful of guitar legends that you face in the Single Career Mode. Since a separate controller isn’t available at the time of this review, I’ve been unable to check it out.

The sound is in mono instead of stereo, which makes the sounds seem a little “light”? on a surround sound system. (Editor’s Note: This is being addressed by Activision via new game discs or a patch) The music only comes to full volume when I activate Star Power. It’s an irritation, but it doesn’t affect the enjoyment of the game. I’m more affected by the fact that I can’t play “Devil Went Down to Georgia”? unless I want to battle Lou again in Career Mode.

I only have a few gripes about this game. Graphically the game is gorgeous, but the band members are still very generic-looking, including a male lead singer with the most epic chin I’ve ever seen. It would have been much better for each guitarist to have a band to complement it, especially if they are going to include such “out there”? choices as Midori and Lou. Also the cell-shaded cut-scenes between each set in Career Mode never includes the guitarist, just the band, which looks a little sad.

All in all, Activision took Harmonix’s ball and ran with it. With over 70 songs, both licensed and un-known, you will have no problem getting hours of enjoyment from this game and controller. The Battle Mode only increases its re-play value and makes the game’s Wi-Fi capabilities all the more appealing. If you own a Wii, this game is a must-have for your library.

Score: 5/5

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