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Take Five(s): Guitar Hero III

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 6, 2007

Tell ’em ’bout it, hit ’em where it hurts

The time to hesitate is through. I’ve played through the great majority of GHIII now, and I feel relatively qualified to talk about its strenghts and weaknesses. Long story short: Worthy entry in the franchise, no particular breakthroughs, but one of the stronger song sets and enough new-ish stuff to make it a worthwhile investment–despite the fact that in two weeks, a new release is going to make it seem about as outdated as GuitarFreaks. Rather than do a straight review of it, though, let’s discuss some of the finer points, in the time-honored Take Five format:

Five Good New Things:

  • Streak Announcements. The game now announces when you get correct note streaks of 50, 100, 200, 300 and so on. Very rewarding shit, though it makes you twice as liable to screw up just before you reach the next streak milestone.
  • Good New Pointless Shit. Lots of nifty new characters and guitars and finishes and other stuff that couldn’t possibly have any less effect on the actual quality of gameplay, but hey, it’s part of the experience or something.
  • Better Fake Singing. It looks like the band’s singer is actually singing the words to the songs this time around. He even kind of responds to the song’s structuring sometimes–pointing at the guitarist before big sections and so forth. Plus, the bassist is kind of a badass now.
  • Better Co-Ops / Co-Op Only Tracks. Too many songs in II had awesome guitar parts but indescribably dull bass parts, III seems to level the playing field somewhat. And by having tracks that can only be unlocked by beating the Career Co-Op mode, it means you gotta work a little–and find other people willing to work a little themselves–to get to the tracks. I sorta dig that.
  • Emphasis on Hammer-Ons. Supposedly the increased attention to hammer-ons and pull-offs were a big breakthrough in II, but I never really paid it any mind. In III, though, someone pointed out that the notes that can be hammered-on now look entirely different–clear on top, and shining a little brighter–to make them a lot more obvious and easy to follow, which is pretty cool. You can play pretty much entire sections of some songs with only one strum now.

Five New Things Which are Kind of Annoying:

  • Intros and Load Screens Before the Game Starts. It takes like a minute to get the game started now.
  • Weird New Star Power Meter. Instead of the relatively straightforward bar with the line delineating when you had enough Star Power to activate it, now there’s some weird thing with bulbs or spikes or something. Pointless advancement.
  • Moved Start Button on the Controller. Usually when you pause, it’s in the middle of the song, so you want to take as little time to do it as possible. I had gotten the reflexive pause motion down pretty well on the guitars for I & II, but on the new wireless, they moved the start button to under the whammy bar, so I have to spend a few seconds grasping around for it before I can actually pause the game. Could make all the difference with some songs.
  • Restarting Songs Takes Forever Now. Especially if you’re an obsessive asshole like me who’ll fail a song 50 times in a row without making progress, you wanna leap back into the song as soon as possible once you lose. The other games were pretty punctual about this, but now restarting means it loads the songs all over again, and even more annoying, the game asks “are you sure you want to restart?” Fuck you, asshole, I know what I’m doing.
  • Co-Op Mode Looks Kinda Ghetto. Doesn’t feel like they tried very hard with this one. Supposedly the X360 graphics are better, but even if so, the spurning of the game’s PS2 fanbase (where the series originated) is kinda bullshit to begin with.

Five Songs Likely to Emerge as Future Guitar Hero Standards:

  • The Rolling Stones – “Paint it Black” (That outro, dear lord)
  • Dead Kennedys – “Holiday in Cambodia” (Had no idea the intro was so weird, though)
  • Guns n Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle” (Sure to be the song chosen by all newcomers to the game to ensure vets end up playing it a million times)
  • Living Colour – “Cult of Personality” (They even kept the spoken word parts!!)
  • Iron Maiden – “Number of the Beast” (It took three games for this??)

Five Songs That Prove the 90s Were the Best Decade Ever:

  • Rage Against the Machine – “Bulls on Parade” (You don’t even need to look at the screen for most of it!)
  • Sonic Youth – “Kool Thing” (Still can’t believe this even made it on, much less as a master track, how fucking awesome)
  • The Beastie Boys – “Sabotage” (Oh man, doing that solo bass breakdown is just ridiculous)
  • Weezer – “My Name is Jonas” (That intro is everything I prayed it would be)
  • Smashing Pumpkins – “Cherub Rock” (Uh, yeah)

Semi-honorable mention to Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow,” but I really wish they had chosen “Alive” instead.

Pleasant Surprise Songs:

  • The Who – “The Seeker” (Only knew this one from its use in American Beauty, turns out to be a relatively inspried choice)
  • White Zombie – “Black Sunshine” (Who could’ve guessed White Zombie would have more than two worthwhile songs?)
  • Tenacious D – “The Metal” (Not surprising for most, I imagine, but I care not for much of the D)
  • Muse – “Knights of Cydonia” (When did these guys start shooting for Queen status?)

Five Songs That Prove That Dazed & Confused Had the Best Soundtrack Ever:

  • Foghat – “Slow Ride” (One of the easiest songs, but goddamn is it fun)
  • Kiss – “Rock and Roll All Night” (Once again, how’d this take until III?)
  • Alice Cooper – “School’s Out” (“No More Mr. Nice Guy” would’ve been even better)
  • Black Sabbath – “Paranoid” (Only five tracks left on Paranoid–here’s hoping for “Electric Funeral” on IV)
  • ZZ Top – “La Grange” (OK so actually it was “Tush” that was in Dazed & Confused but c’mon WHY DO YOU HATE ROUND NUMBERS SO MUCH YOU GUITAR HERO ASSHOLES???)

Bonus Tracks That Definitely Don’t Suck:

  • Heroes del Silencio – “Avalancha” (Spanish Grunge Power Ballads? Uh, fucking sold?)
  • The Sleeping – “Don’t Hold Back” (Ooooh is this a groover)
  • An Endless Sporadic – “Impulse” (Like eight awesome mini-songs in one)
  • Killswitch Engage – “My Curse” (Not sure why this didn’t make it into the main tracklist, actually)
  • The Stone Roses – “She Bangs the Drums” (What the hell is this song even doing here?)

Songs That are Totally Pointless:

  • Pat Benatar – “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (Is this the best chick rock we can muster, really?)
  • The Killers – “When You Were Young” (I don’t think I even remembered that this song had a guitar line)
  • Aerosmith – “Same Old Song and Dance” (Why this game keeps on choosing the most ass-random Aerosmith songs when “Sweet Emotion,” “Amazing” and “Walk This Way” are still out there…)
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan – “Pride and Joy” (Who the hell even listens to Stevie Ray fucking Vaughan in this day and age?)
  • Bret Michaels Band – “Go That Far” (Pointless even for a bonus track–no one needs more than one Bret Michaels song in their life at a time, and “Talk Dirty to Me” is more than enough for GHIII)

Songs I Don’t Plan on Being Able to Beat on Expert Anytime Soon:

  • Slayer – “Raining Blood” (Annoying ‘coz if I could just get through that one damn part)
  • Metallica – “One” (Easy for about the first six minutes, then that fucking solo…)
  • Final “Devil Went Down to Georgia” Battle (It took me about 25 tries to beat this on Hard, so, uh)
  • Prototype – “The Way It Ends” (MY WRIST ISN’T MADE OF RUBBER, YOU KNOW)
  • Dragonforce – “Through the Fire and Flames” (When I first heard this song would be in the game, I swore to myself I would eventually beat it on expert, no matter how hard. Now I think I’d settle for about 2% complete).
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6 Responses to “Take Five(s): Guitar Hero III”

  1. Jason L said

    Hey man, I haven’t played the game yet (gotta get my ass to Target tomorrow), but I remember you mentioning in an earlier post that this edition would have a lot more “real” tracks that were performed by the band themselves, and not some shitty cover band. Hopefully this is a huge improvement? Can’t wait to try the game out.

  2. Andrew Unterberger said

    Yeah, good call. About half the songs are Master Tracks this time around, which is definitely a vast improvement–except in instances like “Anarchy in the UK,” where the band actually re-recorded the song for teh game (frankly, I’d rather have some loyal cover band doing the cover than a band that has since probably completely forgotten how their signature hits even go). And even the covers are far more palatable this time around, with no real embarrassments like the end of “Killing in the Name” on II (“CONTROL I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!”)

  3. Joe said

    There are some charity raffles at work next week and one of them is for a big pack of music prizes, including this game. Wasn’t thinking of bothering but now I think I’ll buy a ticket.

  4. Ria said

    Oh I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that about Stevie. It must be because you’re not from Texas.

  5. Dan said

    Yeah, Stevie is great, but they picked the wrong Stevie song. They should’ve picked Empty Arms. And I completely agree with you about My Name Is Jonas and Holiday in Cambodia

  6. Bonnie said

    I haven’t been able to play GHIII yet, but regardless… Aerosmith and Stevie should never, ever, *EVER* be on any list involving the word “pointless”. No matter what it is about.

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