Guitar Hero III
By Nathan Smart
Thursday, November 8th, 2007


Photo by ericskiff

You’ve played Guitar Hero I & II. You are a big fan. You love that they haven’t really changed the formula. You are hoping they have done the same with the third installment. You are disappointed. You are me talking to yourself in a mirror.

Don’t get yourself wrong. You think Guitar Hero III is great and kudos to Neversoft for not messing with the fundamental gameplay. The notes still fall down. You still play with a plastic guitar. You still get to play classic rock songs that you know and love. You can still play against your friends in head-to-head matches. It’s all there, except, that it isn’t. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know something has changed. You think it may be the fact that they’ve amped up the difficulty. You’re not sure if it’s in the songs that they’ve chosen this time around or if they’ve made the notes fall faster. You’re just not sure.

You love that the hammer-ons and pull-offs seem easier to, well, pull off. You love that they’ve highlighted the notes that can be connected in a hammer-on or pull-off by a brightened icon. You feel like a guitar god when you pull one of them off and you hit a string of 15 notes without actually flipping the paddle. Still, you feel as if in going for realism, and by not making all of the close notes connectible (and more like how a real guitarist would pluck the strings), that they’ve lost the "game" part of the game. You know, like when you play NBA Jams and you fly through the air to pull off that slam dunk from half court? Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you haven’t played NBA Jams since the Sega Genesis was in full force. You haven’t.

You love the new battle mode, but you hate, hate, HATE that you have to play in the solo career. You like that it adds to that "game" element that you were just talking about but you hate that it’s a requirement to finishing the game, rather than just a fun new way to play with your friends when you get bored of just playing the songs. And while you’re on the subject, you also hate that you have to play through Co-Op Career in order to unlock certain songs. You had to use a cheat code to unlock those songs because you don’t have any friends that also own Guitar Hero to play with.

You love the new online mode and you have nothing bad to say about it except that you can’t seem to connect with people and play unless you create your own game.

You like the song selection, but you also feel as if they missed the mark a little bit. You love playing Cult of Personality and Reptilia but you hate playing Slipknot. You understand that everyone has different tastes but you also remember that there are so many classic rock songs where guitarists wanked off on their axes enough to make challenging-enough songs for Guitar Hero. You hate using the word "axe." You really wish they put another Thin Lizzy song on the playlist. You also thought playing Sabotage would be more fun than it actually is.

In looking back at the entire package, you start to think about why you liked Guitar Hero in the first place. You remembered that you really loved the thrill of "becoming" each individual artist as you tore through a new song. You really felt like Brian May and Phil Lynott (when you played the bass part). Part of that came from the realism of the game. Each fake note or chord that you tapped on your fake guitar actually felt like the real notes and chords on a real guitar. The best part about it was that even though the songs were hard, you still felt as if you could get better and that over time you would be able to master each song and be able to last until the end and get that satisfying "You Rock" from the programmers of the game. But, this time around, you actually start to question your skills as a player. You wonder if in hoping for more of a challenge you actually lost sight of why you liked the original games.

Then, you forget all of that, leave the bathroom and get back to playing because you’re addicted and you don’t care if it’s not as good as the first two. It’s good enough.

Nathan Smart lives here. That's all you need to know.

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