Guitar Hero III's Shred Cred
Show of hands: Has anyone not heard of Guitar Hero at this point?
You sir, in the back row clutching the Ratt cassetteyoure the only one? All right, pal, heres your recap: Guitar Hero is the most popular music-based game ever made. It comes with a plastic guitar controller, with which players noodle along to the sounds of every band from the Ramones to the Strokes. For this they earn points and adoration from a virtual crowd of lighter-waving goofballs, and sometimes from actual goofballs: Guitar Hero has supplanted Golden Tee as the barroom pastime of choice.
The fact that game geeks and soccer moms alike threw down $90 for Guitar Heros sequel proved the game remains as popular as horny groupies and free beer. And now, as predictable as a Kiss reunion, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is upon us. But is it worth yet another 90 bucks? For what you wouldve spent on all three gamesplus the Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s expansionyou couldve bought an actual Fender Strat by now, written a million-dollar single, and dated Winona Ryder.
GH III, however, turns out to be much more than just a new set listits easily the best entry in the franchise. Your toughest decision may be whether to buy now or hold out for the $160 Rock Band game, which boasts drums, guitar, and a microphone. Until the major labels come calling, youll be hard-pressed to afford both.
The first thing youll notice about GH III is theres not a cruddy song to be found hereunlike its predecessor, which burdened us with the yawn rock of Matthew Sweet, among others.
Cooler yet: The bulk of the 71 songsincluding tracks from Weezer, Iron Maiden, Metallica, and Pearl Jamare by the actual artists this time, not cover bands. In a brilliant make-good for GH IIs sucktastic Zack de la Rocha impersonator, GH III offers both Bulls on Parade performed by Rage Against the Machine and guitarist Tom Morello as a playable character.
The cameos are fun, but they also serve the game play: To unlock rockers like Slash from Guns N Roses, you first have to outshred them in the incredibly cool Guitar Battle mode. A welcome twist on standard head-to-head action, Guitar Battle lets you collect devious power-ups as you play: Collect one, and a thrust of your guitar causes your opponent to fumble notes. Its hard enough to play Slayers Reign in Blood on Expert, but these virtual banana peels make it nerve-shattering.
Its also in Battle mode that GH III outshines the last games epic Free Bird finale. This time, youll battle Satan himself for your very soul, to a punked-up version of The Devil Went Down to Georgia. Think Crossroads starring Ralph Macchio, without all the bothersome Ralph Macchio.
And speaking of soul-selling, one of the only complaints here is the whorish product placement, which effortlessly goes to 11. Back in the day, the Dead Kennedys and Sex Pistols (who re-recorded Anarchy in the U.K. for this game) would sooner cut off their bollocks than play on a Pontiac-sponsored, Red Bull-littered stage.
Guitar Hero sequels continue to succeed because the developers making them listen to their fansa Cooperative Career Mode, online head-to-head play, interchangeable faceplates, and the so-difficult-its-laughable fan-favorite song Through the Fire and Flames by Dragonforce all debut here. Soon, Rock Band might make the inevitable Guitar Hero IV as irrelevant as, say, Foreigners 4. But the third time, at least, is a charm.
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