I began my gaming experiences within music genre playing PaRappa the Rapper and Bust a Groove on the Sony PlayStation. They weren’t necessarily the true beginnings of the genre, but they are what I started with. With each of those games, you either rapped, or danced in tune, using button presses to command the gameplay. Um Jammer Lammy, a spin off to PaRappa the Rapper, featured the same gameplay as PaRappa, but with a guitar instead of rapping. Eventually, the methods used to playing these games would lead to the release of Guitar Hero, a guitar peripheral based game where you use a plastic guitar to play the notes that appear on the screen, as opposed to a standard controller. While a majority of Guitar Hero fans found the second installment to be their favorite, I found Guitar Hero 3 to be the best non spin off, plastic guitar wielding game I’ve played.
There’s so much going for GH3. The music line up ranges from stellar, more mainstream songs (Knights of Cydonia, Cult of Personality, One) to lesser known, but excellent songs (Take This Life, F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.). The line up is just phenomenal. More or less, the most important aspect of this game, the soundtrack, succeeds at every possible level. My only gripe with the song list is that the difficulty ramps up significantly at the last two sets of songs. Even though you are almost eased through the first few tiers, learning the ropes and whatnot, the final two tiers seem like a major leap forward. Thankfully, the songs in the final two tiers are just so damn good and fun to play, repeating those songs over and over isn’t a punishment. You can even give a go at completing a co-op career mode, though sadly, you cannot take that fun online.
The controls are spot on. It’s challenging for the novice, and just about perfect for the die hard players, once you learn the ropes. Each difficulty, aside from Expert, will add a new button on the guitar to use with each song . There were some issues with the guitar that came bundled with GH3, due to the fact that the guitar breaks away in two pieces, and the connectors didn’t seem to match up properly with one button. While I never had this issue, newer guitars, or the excellent Xplorer USB guitar, are about flawless and have no such problems. Graphically, the note charts look clear, and the character models and venues, while cartoon like and lacking any major flair, are functional. I find all the complaints about the visuals to be over exaggerated, other than the drummer looking lost in the mix.
About the only things that sour my views on Guitar Hero 3, aside from the sudden ramping up of the difficulty near the end, is the Battle Mode and the lack of downloadable content. While it has an initial excitement, balancing the acquisition of power ups to use against your opponent with trying to counter any detrimental attack they deliver, Battle Mode soon becomes an afterthought to the core game its self. I found that actually playing a versus game straight up, without any sort of gimmicks thrown in, was a ton more fun, and held a considerably stronger longevity.
Compared to Rock Band, the amount of DLC was quite depressing. What little DLC there is, impresses. Metallica’s Death Magnetic album was released in its entirety, and a three pack of Muse, Coldplay and Dragonforce songs were the most notable content released. While those four packs were above and beyond impressive and insanely fun to play, it doesn’t remedy the fact that Guitar Hero 3’s DLC support was beyond mediocre, and even to this day, the Guitar Hero franchise lags behind Rock Band significantly.
While the music genre in general is over saturated and lacking any kind of innovation these days, Guitar Hero 3 was the series most well rounded title. Aside from GH: Metallica, the series went on to decline, rip off and help spread over saturation to the Rock Band series. But with all that aside, Guitar Hero 3 is one of the best games in the music genre, offering a long list of great music on one disc that are all fun to play. Even with the sudden jump in difficulty near the end, it’s extremely fun to play, whether you play by yourself, along with someone, or against someone.