The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Throw out that air guitar and get your rock on ‘Guitar Hero III’

Like many of my peers, I like to rock. Classic rock, heavy metal, death metal, pop, I just love rock. Unfortunately, I’m too lazy to practice enough to actually play an instrument; it’s just too much practice for me. Enter Guitar Hero, the video game that lets you play guitar and be a rock star, if only for a little while.

The recently released Guitar Hero III certainly continues this tradition of making you feel like you’re playing some crazy riffs guitar when you’re really just pushing brightly colored buttons. All of the things that make Guitar Hero incredibly fun to play are here, but a lot of it has been changed, some for better and some for the worse.

If you’ve played a game of Guitar Hero before this version will be easy to pick up. The gameplay remains relatively unchanged. Notes come down the screen, you hold the corresponding button, hit the strum bar, get points, rinse and repeat. But that’s a good thing! The formula works and extra’s like star power and the whammy bar keep it interesting. The new battle mode changes things a little by throwing in some strategy of when to use the power ups you get, but for the most part the skills remain the same.

I can’t speak for the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 versions, but the guitar for the Wii looks and plays much better than the previous guitars. The fret buttons and strum bar feel right and the white on black color scheme looks quite snazzy. Except for the Playstation 2 version, all of the new guitars are wireless. These new guitars also have a removable neck to make them easier to transport, which is nice if you happen to be carrying around a guitar controller around a lot but I suspect most people don’t.

I’ve heard a lot of people, mostly from the Xbox 360 version, saying their fret buttons sometimes stop working or register the wrong button, but I haven’t experienced any problems so far.

One cool feature of the Wii version is that the Wii remote you stick into the guitar makes an off-key note when you miss a note, but that means you can’t play late at night now because the Wii remote is so loud it will keep your roommates up. I also have to wonder why they couldn’t just make every note come from the Wii remote, which would make the missed notes less annoying.

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are easier and the new guitar makes it feel easier, but it seems like the new tracks are actually more difficult on average than in previous Guitar Heroes. First tier songs in Guitar Hero III feel more difficult than second tier songs in Guitar Hero II. Some of this has to do with the fact that star power takes more notes to get but also that it lasts for much less time.

My biggest complaint with Guitar Hero III is the change in style. Guitar Hero I and II were kind of weird and cartoony versions of what rock stars should be, which I loved. When you used star power your character did all kinds of crazy, impossible tricks with their guitar. Each of the characters had very distinct personalities. With Guitar Hero III, it feels like a lot of that zany personality has been removed in favor of being eXtreme (yes, with a capital X). The company that has taken over the Guitar Hero reigns, Neversoft, tried to take the game in a grittier direction, but it just doesn’t seem to quite work.

The models of the band are incredibly annoying, as well. The male lead singer’s mouth kind of moves like Beaker from The Muppets, and the drummer looks like they used a toy monkey drummer to do the motion capture. It looks like there are only three different models for the audience, so when there’s a small crowd and half of them are moving exactly in unison it looks a little weird. I wouldn’t have really noticed all that much if I was only playing, concentrating on the notes as opposed to the background, but when you’re watching someone else play it almost makes me cringe. This might just be on the Wii version, but it’s still pretty bad.

The inclusion of master tracks instead of covers for many of the songs seemed exciting at first, but after thinking about it for a bit seems somewhat lackluster. In previous versions of Guitar Hero almost all of the songs were covers. This, of course, led to the occasional mangling of a song by the singer, or sometimes not even including a vocal track, but it was one of those things that gave it charm. Except for the occasions where you play alongside Bret Michaels, this isn’t the actual band you’re playing with. The Guitar Hero band is a cover band, and the when the original version of the song comes belting out of Beaker’s mouth it does seem kind of weird.

Guitar Hero III is still fun to play, though, and that’s the most important thing. It’s still fun to shred on a guitar, even if there are only five notes, the song is by Pat Benatar and the guitar is made of plastic.

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