Change of hands
In only a matter of years, Guitar Hero has become one of the biggest franchises in gaming today. With two games and an expansion under its belt, the game has mustered a large and loyal fanbase that is likely to be overjoyed by the arrival of the 3rd game in the series. Helmed by Harmonix, the game revolutionized peripheral gaming and proved that rhythm gaming wasn’t just for Dance Dance Revolution fans. The game proved that the genre could ROCK.
Harmonix has moved on to the upcoming Rock Band and left Guitar Hero 3 in the capable hands of Neversoft. Now that the game has been released, it is safe to say that Neversoft has followed the age old principle of “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”.
Playing the notes
For those uninitiated into the School of Rock (where have you been these last 2 years?), Guitar Hero's gameplay involves the fret board of a guitar scrolling down the screen, with 5 colored ‘notes’ scrolling from top to bottom. Using a guitar peripheral or a controller, you play the notes by holding down the corresponding note and strum the bar. While songs on the easy setting usually involve only single notes and the first 3 colored buttons, on harder difficulties you will have to make use of chords and other advanced techniques such as Hammer-ons and Pull-offs. If a player misses notes, the crowd will start to boo. Miss enough notes and you will fail the song.
Hitting a certain amount of notes in the correct sequence will cause your points to multiply that increases with higher note streaks. An additional multiplier appears when you hit a series of notes surrounded by a star, giving you Star Power in the process. Once you have gathered enough Star Power you can use it to cover up your failures: despite your abysmal performance, the crowd will go wild and cheer louder than ever.
Red Octane, the creators of the guitar peripheral, has truly outdone themselves this time. The Gibson Les Paul controller is wireless and feels great to use. The buttons have been spread out a bit more, which should offer some more comfort to big-handed people. You can customize the controller with removable faceplates and stickers that ship with the game.
Power up your Guitar, hero!
Now that the basics are out of the way, you may ask what is new in Guitar Hero 3? Let’s start with Battle Mode. Imagine Mario Kart and Guitar Hero mashed together into one. Playing your way through a battle of sounds you see crazy power-ups that help you beat your opponent pop-up all over the place. Successfully nailing the note in which the power up is attached will cause you to pick it up. Once picked up, you can keep it ready for the perfect moment to ruin your oppositions groove. The weapon is activated in the same way that Star Power is activated, with quick vertical flick of the guitar. Your opponent will immediately feel the ill effects of whatever it was you threw his way.
When an opponent is correctly hitting a long sequence of notes, throw an Amp Overload and watch him struggle as his notes start to disappear. Throw a Cut String and he will scramble to hit one of the notes repeatedly. The truly evil power-up is Lefty Flip: it switches the sides of the notes. It seems to show up a lot in the final battle and is almost impossible to counter. There seems to be a certain method to the madness of battle mode, where just randomly throwing out attacks won’t get you anywhere. Prepare, calculate and strike in the middle of the opponents’ solo, it spells certain doom.
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