E3 is definitely an excellent event for us to behold all of the industry’s up and coming splendours, but it’s never really quite the place to sit down and get right into these new titles and as a result, it’s really difficult to manage any form of critical point of view due in part to usually being rushed through the demos, having to dash to the next appointment or be completely left behind because of broken publisher schedules.
With this in mind, Activision Australia were forethoughtful enough to organise extended playtimes for us here at AusGamers, and last week yours truly went out to Epping to play with three of their biggest up and comers the first of which should be a hugely wanted game for most party lounge rooms (I know it is in mine), Guitar Hero III.
Yes Activision are going up against EA and their much anticipated foray into the music game genre, Rock Band, and yes development has been handed to a studio who’ve never really dabbled in this field. But Activision proved a while ago they had the foresight to take a gamble on the Guitar Hero franchise, and that more than paid off for them. Equally, while having never worked in the genre before, Neversoft are no slouch in the development community, and the presentation and culture of Guitar Hero is very close to that of the Tony Hawk series, so from my perspective there really is no reason why the game shouldn’t be successful. Still, all eyes will be on Guitar Hero III when it’s released later this year, especially with Rock Band in the pipeline, so it will be interesting to see how the final product fares. All that said though, the preview build of the game I got my hands on is looking swimmingly good, and with elements such as true online multiplayer this time around and more originals than ever before, GHIII is in a strong position to maintain its edge over the competition.
To begin with, here are the announced tracks for the game, thus far:
- Beastie Boys “Sabotage” (Master Track)
- Living Colour “Cult of Personality” (Master Track)
- Muse “Knights of Cydonia” (Master Track)
- Rolling Stone “Paint It Black” (Master Track)
- Smashing Pumpkins “Cherub Rock” (Master Track)
- Tenacious D “The Metal” (Master Track)
- Weezer “My Name is Jonas” (Master Track)
- Alice Cooper “School’s Out” (Cover Track)
- Foghat “Slowride” (Cover Track)
- Heart “Barracuda” (Cover Track)
- Kiss “Rock N Roll All Night” (Cover Track)
- Pearl Jam “Evenflow” (Master Track)
- Priestess “Lay Down” (Master Track)
- Guns N’ Roses “Welcome To The Jungle” (Master Track)
- The Scorpions “Rock You Like a Hurricane” (Cover Track)
- AFI “Miss Murder” (Master Track)
- Dragonforce “Through the Fire and Flames” (Master Track)
- Iron Maiden “Number of the Beast” (Master Track)
- Queens of the Stone Age “3’s and 7’s” (Master Track)
- Red Hot Chilli Peppers “Suck My Kiss” (Master Track)
- Slayer “Raining Blood” (Master Track)
- The Strokes “Reptillia” (Master Track)
- Black Sabbath “Paranoid” (Cover Track)
- Blue Oyster Cult “Cities on Flame” (Cover Track)
- Mountain “Mississippi Queen” (Cover Track)
- ZZ Top “La Grange” (Cover Track)
As you can see, the majority of tracks listed here are all originals, boding far better for the authenticity of each track (though I am pissed Black Sabbath isn’t a master recording). RedOctane and Neversoft have said around 80% of songs in the game will be originals; that includes the default set lists as well as bonus tracks you can buy or unlock.
Beyond having far more signed artists onboard, the presentation has seen a pretty major face-lift, from the designs on the fret-board to the notes, bonuses and even the placement of your star meter. It’s all been shifted to be less distracting and even more rock (at least that’s my assumption). Moreover, the new guitars available will be wireless (though I didn’t get to see these this time) and will include the likes of replica Gibson Les Paul axes for PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii and a wireless Gibson Kramer Striker replica for the PS2, which is cool because I like to climb on my couches and stairs while playing GHII but constantly find myself ripping them out of my 360, so wireless = good. Which brings me to the next excellent addition to the game (but one people either seem to love or hate): Battle Mode.
In Battle Mode you’re no longer just trying to out-perform the other player, now it’s all about taking them down with power-ups. Perfectly play a string of star notes (no pun intended), and you earn yourself a power-up. You can hold up to three power-ups at any one time and so the aim here is to attack
your opponent with these magical items which can cause your enemy to break a string, overheat their head or even try to play the song more technically. Well, actually what really
happens is you might force them to have to rapidly tap a note, frantically waggle the whammy, or have to face a jump in difficulty (from say, Medium to Expert). They might even have to play with the notes reversed. Each attack only lasts for a few seconds, but well-placed strikes can mean the difference between nailing a song or going down in a sea of “boos”. For some reason this new addition has punters on the fence as to whether or not it’s welcome, but given you’re now going to have to face boss battles in the single-player game where this mode is the only way to beat them, it’s not really going to matter. But from my perspective, and as someone who plays the game with my friends constantly, I can tell you it’s a helluva lot of fun.
Speaking of bosses – this is yet another new addition to the franchise, and highly touted one from Activision thanks to their teaming up with guitar legend, Slash. There are going to be a number of bosses to battle throughout the game now, all legendary guitarists from what we’ve been told, and among them is the ex-GNR axe-man who actually wrote an exclusive guitar part for his battle in the game as well as the game’s intro music. While no other bosses have been revealed yet, you could probably assume we’ll see guitarists of the same calibre as Slash – personally I’d love to see Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmore in there – but we’ll have to wait and find out who Activision have managed to line up (they did recently announce former Poison front-man Bret Michaels would appear as a character, but mentioned nothing about having to battle him, which is just as well, because no one really likes him anyway).
The core aspect of the game hasn’t changed much though. There are still four difficulty levels: Easy, Medium, Hard and Expert and the way to progress has equally remained the same (save for the addition of boss-battles), which should keep things nice and familiar for anyone who has dabbled in the last two titles. Expect more original and cover tracks to be made available over the likes of Xbox Live, the PlaySation Network and the Nintendo Shop Channel once the game has been released (though Activision haven’t officially
announced this), while multiplayer now sees you able to battle in all the available modes both on and offline (though still only two-players).
Due for release in Australia on the 31st of October on all three consoles as both a guitar and software bundle and software only, it’s a safe bet Guitar Hero III is going to be a success, but in the face of EA’s potentially devastating Rock Band, Activision do have something of a trying time ahead. However, after having spent some time with both games, don’t simply discount GHIII because it’s core aspect has remained the same – this is still a very solid game and an equally solid franchise that deserves our love and respect – so mark your calendars and stay tuned for any newly announced features or tracks in the build up to the game’s release.