Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I am not a musician, although I do play one on TV...in a virtual kind of way. No, I haven't been fitted for any kind of motion technology like the anchors (and Xavier University's Blue Blob) in the ESPN commercials. But I can live out my rock fantasies thanks to Activision/Red Octane and the smoking hot Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.

The concept is simple, which might be why this is such a great game. Basically, you create your virtual musician, join/create a band and, well, rock the crowd. You start out slow, passing some easier tests and earning money, but the ultimate goal is to be a star. That should be obvious. You're not buying this title to pluck the strings for a butt-kicking garage band.

As you play your way to the top, you'll face occasional challenges from level bosses. These are the top dogs who can already rock the house and your goal is to knock them down a peg or two. You need to earn a rep. Battling the pros and surviving will help achieve that goal.

If you want some on-line competition, it's available. You can opt for Face-off, Pro Face-off or Battle modes. Or, if you think your skills need sharpening, feel free to jump into the Training mode. Here you can work on any song you have already accessed in the game and you have the option of playing it at regular speed or trying a slowed down version. Hey, there's no shame in admitting you need work. I'm sure Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page or The Edge weren't masters the first time they hammered the strings!

You have your choice of wired or wireless controllers, with the wireless costing a little extra. The added freedom might be worth a few extra bucks, but you shouldn't feel as if you'll be handcuffed by a wired controller. You still have a pretty good range of movement and it's not like you'll be standing that far away from the screen to begin with. So, basically, both controllers will work, it's just going to come down to a matter of preference.

Five color-coded buttons and a strum bar serve as the strings on the guitars and you also have a whammy bar at your disposal. In order to play songs, you'll have to hit the colored button and the strum bar together as the notes appear on the screen. On easier levels you'll be required to use three of the five colored buttons. It increases to four buttons, then five for the tougher songs. The suggestion here is that you start off at the lower levels if you aren't an established Hero already.

The game has over 70 songs, including tracks by The Who, Guns 'n' Roses, Beastie Boys, Pearl Jam and others. You'll even get to hear the re-united Sex Pistols kick out "Anarchy in the UK," although it's generally believed to be a lesser version of the original. More tracks are also available on-line.

So, are you ready to rock? Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is not a perfect game, but it's pretty close. This isn't a title you play for graphics, strategy or to see things blow up. It's one you throw in the console when you want to shred. Period. And GH3 helps create that opportunity and does it well. You may never be a real rock star, but you can play one on TV.

GAMEPLAY: Terrific. The button layout is great and the response is very good. Battling the bosses doesn't really add much, but it's not really a drawback either. Again, the goal of this game is to let you rock...and you can.

GRAPHICS: Not truly awful, but nothing to get excited about. Some of the characters are just plain ugly. (Of course the argument can probably be made that the same can be said about many real rockers.) With the new breed of consoles, gamers are used to sharper, more realistic graphics than what this game offers. But, if you're buying this game for its looks, you should probably reconsider playing video games at all.

SOUND: Very good. If you're playing on a TV and don't have additional speakers, you'll be forced to really jack up the volume to get totally into it. But, if you pump Guitar Hero III into surround sound, let the concert begin!

EXTRAS: The on-line features offer nothing special. You can access a scoreboard and get into some head-to-head matches, but there's not much to get excited about here.

SCORE: 85%
This game isn't one that I would be comfortable letting young ones get at. It's probably more suited for those in their teens and up due to some song lyrics and a couple of the animations. But, overall, it shouldn't really be considered offensive.

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