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Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
Score: 98%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Rhythm/ Party

Graphics & Sound:
The much-awaited installment of the Guitar Hero series is finally here, with Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. Everyone's favorite riff-squealin', guitar jammin' party game is back with a vengeance. For those of you who aren't familiar with Guitar Hero, the U.I. features a fretboard coming towards you in perspective, with color-coded discs between the strings, indicating which buttons to press. While you're playing, this is likely to be pretty much all you can actually pay attention to. In the background, however, is CG of your performance in action. This background seems to be more for onlookers than anything else.

Many of the characters in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock will be familiar to Guitar Hero fans; the characters from previous games return and their stories are continued. The new and exciting element in Legends of Rock, however, would be the legends of rock. You will get to play against, and then later, alongside, such rock legends as Tom Morello, Slash, the devil... what? You didn't know the devil was a rock legend? Haven't you ever heard of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia?"

The way that the story progresses in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is pretty cool; it's presented as an animated cartoon, but the look and feel are similar to the Gorillaz' videos, illustrating your bands' story as they climb to the top.

Mind you, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is a game that's about music and all I've said so far is about graphics. Well, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock has quite a song list, with songs such as: "3's and 7's" (Queens of the Stone Age ), "Avalancha" (Heroes del Silencio), "Barracuda" (Heart), "Black Magic Woman" (Santana), "Cherub Rock" (Smashing Pumpkins), "Closer" (Lacuna Coil), "Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll" (Blue Oyster Cult), "Cult of Personality" (Living Colour), "Even Flow" (Pearl Jam), "Generation Rock" (Revolverheld), "Go That Far" (Bret Michaels Band), "Hier Kommt Alex" (Die Toten Hosen), "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" (Pat Benatar), "I'm in the Band" (The Hellacopters), "In the Belly of a Shark" (Gallows), "Knights of Cydonia" (Muse), "La Grange" (ZZ Top), "Lay Down" (Priestess), "Mauvais Garon" (NAAST), "The Metal" (Tenacious D), "Minus Celsius" (Backyard Babies), "Miss Murder" (AFI), "Mississippi Queen" (Mountain), "My Name Is Jonas" (Weezer), "The Number of the Beast" (Iron Maiden), "One" (Metallica), "Paint It, Black" (The Rolling Stones), "Paranoid" (Black Sabbath), "Radio Song" (Superbus), "Raining Blood" (Slayer), "Reptilia" (The Strokes), "Rock and RollAll Nite" (Kiss), "Rock You Like a Hurricane" (Scorpions), "Ruby" (Kaiser Chiefs), "Sabotage" (Beastie Boys), "School's Out" (Alice Cooper), "She Bangs the Drums" (The Stone Roses), "She Builds Quick Machines" (Velvet Revolver), "Slow Ride" (Foghat), "Suck My Kiss" (Red Hot Chili Peppers), "Take This Life" (In Flames), "Talk Dirty to Me" (Poison), "Through the Fire and Flames" (DragonForce), "Welcome to the Jungle" (Guns N' Roses), "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (The Charlie Daniels Band), and "When You Were Young" (The Killers). Now, personally, I'm not really much of a rocker, but I found that for each group of four songs, there was typically three I was fairly well familiar with. Even for the rest of the songs, if I concentrate on the notes themselves and not necessarily the song as a whole, I can do fairly well. Mind you, die-hard fans of rock that like all of the above listed songs and artists will get more out of it, I'm sure.

If you've wanted to take a step up from air guitar, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is an answer to your prayers. Guitar Hero III comes with RedOctane's Kramer Striker replica wireless guitar controller. Now you can feel free to jump around your living room as you thrash riffs like a superstar.

You'll need to work on your finger strength and dexterity if you want to work your way to the top of the heap. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock features battles, where you can battle against another player in a two player competitive mode. These battles are also utilized in the one player Career mode. At certain points, you'll be challenged by rock icons such as Tom Morello and Slash during the middle of your concert. Not only that, but if you beat them, you can perform a encore with them at the end of your concert. Awesome.

The biggest challenge comes at the end of your rock career, where you go toe-to-toe with "Lou," none other than the Devil himself. What other song could possibly be used for this challenge other than "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," made popular by The Charlie Daniels Band. This song is an excellent guitar arrangement of the original, featuring some very challenging riffs - even on Easy.

After you beat the game, the credits will roll. While they're rolling, however, a Guitar Hero III theme song plays. There's no scoring, no way to "fail" the song, but you can play it while the credits are playing. I thought this was a pretty cool touch. Try it - the song's actually pretty challenging, itself.

I have a friend who plays guitar and hasn't tried any Guitar Hero games, but says that he wouldn't like them because the fingering in the game is not really applicable to playing guitar. While he's right about chords and technique, I think that playing Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock can help build finger dexterity and strength as well as hand-eye coordination. However, one thing that is true of both playing guitar and of playing Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is that if you want to do the complicated stuff and sound good, you will have to practice. ...a lot.

Luckily for us, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock has a very nice practice feature, that not only allows you to choose a song to practice, but lets you practice certain parts of the song. It even lets you slow the song down to give you time to find the correct fingering. You can even switch to Practice mode after failing at a song in a concert. I did this a lot when playing on Expert.

But, Expert is just one of the difficulty levels; Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock has four: Easy, Medium, Hard and Expert. Easy limits the number of fret buttons to the first three: Green, Red and Yellow. Medium increases the speed and adds the Blue fret button into the mix. Hard adds the Orange fret button, for a total of five fret buttons. Expert pulls out all the stops, by throwing a lot of chords and a lot of rapid progressions that will take a bit of practicing as well as a bit of inherent skill, to master.

One thing I noticed that could prove useful to beginning players is that, while Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock has virtually no tolerance for playing a note too late, it is much more lenient on notes played a little earlier than they should. This can be useful if you find yourself playing a riff whose timing is a little tricky or if you start to fumble a bit; just remember that you want to get the note played before or during the correct time... and not a fraction of a second afterward.

Game Mechanics:
I'm familiar with the Guitar Hero series, but didn't get to play much of the previous iterations. On its own, however, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is an excellent game. The timing seems right, and the levels of difficulty cover a wide range; anyone should be able to pick it up with the Easy difficulty setting and few should be able to master the Expert difficulty, at least without dedicating hours and hours of their life to the task. The song selections are nice; I'm not known as a "rocker," but even I was familiar with many of the songs.

The addition of a wireless guitar is a nice touch; you are now free to mosh about the cabin. The fact that the guitar controller is a replica Kramer Striker is awesome. The fact that the guitars you can choose from in the game are actual Gibson guitars is cool. There are lots of companies that make stage equipment that will sponsor your band as you progress if you do well. Where this game really sells out, though, is the fact that the store option you use to go buy gear actually sports the Guitar Center logo. With this many advertisements, it almost seems like the game should have been given away for free.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is an excellent installment to a series that seems to be gaining momentum. The only question now is how this series will handle the competition that Rock Band is going to pose.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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