Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock for the Nintendo WII - Believe the Hype!

Jan 3, 2009 (Updated Jan 16, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Loads of fun, challenging, good song list, great asthetics...

Cons:... you really need a second guitar for 2-player co-operative play....

The Bottom Line:

Guitar Heroes III is a really great game, probably my favourite WII game so far.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock for the Nintendo Wii is a great game and one whjich proves that gaming peripherals don't have to be merely gimmicks.  I have to admit that despite hearing a lot of good things about the Guitar Hero games, I'd never actually played one before - partly the price put me off I guess, and there was this nagging feeling that it couldn't really be as good as people said.  That feeling was definitely wrong, though obviously I can't provide a comparison to the other games in the series.  However I may well look out for Guitar Hero 4...

What's It All About?

In Guitar Hero, you play the role of ... well, a guitarist, as you start out from humble beginnings to make earn a reputation as a real rock star.  You do this by completing 3 out of 4 songs in each set before you can go onto the next stage.  Once you've managed to complete the 3 songs, you get the chance to play an encore (different song) or have to compete in a guitar battle to continue.  Every completed song can be replayed later on if you want, and if you've missed any out along the way in your meteoric rise to fame, you can go back to them as well.  To complete a song, you have to basically get to the end of it without making too many mistakes.  More on this later.

So there's a Guitar, right?
Indeed, you do actually play this game on a guitar.  Not a real one of course, though it does look relatively similar.  Along the top there are five coloured buttons represent the frets, while further down you have a strum bar which you press or hold down for short / long notes and a "whammy" level which lets you add distortion to the guitar sound when holding long notes.  There are a couple of extra buttons at the bottom for menu selection, though mostly you use the frets for the menus.  It takes a little while to get used to the guitar, but you soon feel like a professional... well almost.

The Wiimote slots into a space on the back of the guitar and you plug is in as you would a nunchuck. 

Game Interface

Apart from the different views of your character, the stage and the audience as the songs progress, you have an image of a guitar fret bar in the centre of the screen.  The notes come down the screen in the correct place on the bar and in the colour matched by that on the guitar you're playing.  In Easy mode you only have the first three buttons to worry about and very few chords to play, which makes it much easier than even Medium mode - though it's still a challenge!  You have to hit the right notes as they reach the bottom of the screen - timing is critical.  If you play the wrong note or time it wrong, the Wiimote will screech at you. 

On the bottom right of the screen you have a "Rock Meter" which increases when you do well and decreases when you do badly.  If you make too many mistakes your Rock Meter will go into the red zone, and if you don't get it back into the safe zone soon, the crowd will boo you off and the song stops.  Do well and you can feel smug and awesome. 

On the bottom left of the screen you have your points tally for the song (once the song's completed, your song score will be added to your career score in Career Mode).  Each note you hit right increases your score.  When you have a sequence of 10 correct notes the score multiplier comes on, and each successive 10 notes increases you score multiplier up to a maximum of x4.  You get a message come up when you've managed to do 50 (or multiples of 50) successive correct notes - when you get over 100 it means you've earned really big points.

There are also "Star" notes that, if you get them, will allow you to activate "Star Mode" by shaking the guitar.  This turns all the notes the same colour, though it doesn't take long to get used to which notes come down in which column, so that doesn't actually make the game more difficult.  However you'll earn big points if you do well in Star Mode.

We're Talking About Money, Money...
As you would expect, you don't just play guitar for the love of music, you would also like to earn a living from it (at least in career mode), so at the end of each song you get a rundown of your earnings.  Depending on the difficulty level and your song rating (mainly percentage of correct notes hit) you could earn more or less money.  This money will then be credited to your account, and you can spend it in the store later.

In the store you can buy new characters, outfits, guitars, styles etc.  There are also several bonus songs to buy and even some videos of famous guitarists laying down the tracks for the Guitar Battles. 

While your concerts rake in quite a bit of dough though, you don't get much of it.  The reasons why are typical of what people associate with rock and roll, and are quite funny - though the novelty wears off quite quickly.

Guitar Battles

At certain stages in the game you will have to face off guitarists in a "battle" - this is similar to the main game style, but you collect special icons (as long as you keep getting the right notes) to use against the opposing guitar player.  These are things like increasing the difficulty, breaking a string, overloading the amp, or something equally fiendish.  Trouble is, they can do the same thing for you.  I found these to be very tough, at least until I got used to it, but once you learn the knack they're not too tough - challenging yes, but they don't feel impossible.  Still, these add a bit of variation to the game, and are apparently a new feature to the Guitar Hero series.

Game Modes
There are three main game modes: Career, co-operative multiplayer and combative multiplayer.  Career takes you through to a guitar battle with the devil (seriously - and they use the only song that could possibly be used for such a duel, Devil Went Down in Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band.)

The Career Mode has already been described; combative multiplayer is Guitar Battles between two human players.  This can also be done online.  It is possible to play the game using just the Wiimote, but it's a very tricky and unsatisfactory experience.

The cooperative multiplayer involves two of you playing the same song, but one plays the bass guitar and one the lead guitar.  This is a lot of fun and very challenging, but as at the moment one of us has to use the Wiimote for this, we haven't got very far with it.

There's also a Tutorial Mode, but frankly I found this rather uninteresting and unhelpful, and just went straight into the main game.  It didn't seem to actually make any difference whether you'd completed the particular task or not before each tutorial exercise finished.

Finally, not exactly a different game mode, but for each song there is a Practice Mode in which you can go through a whole song playing the notes, but not hearing anything but your own guitar playing.  This enables you to practice your timing without distraction.

There are four difficult modes - Easy, Medium, Difficult and Expert.

You have a selection of male and female characters to choose from, and you can easily change these if you want.  They each have unique moves on-stage and are quite fun to watch (though watching them instead of the notes coming towards you is a recipe for playing badly...)  The extra outfits etc you can buy for them are a decent extra.

Although it seems pretty tough at first even in Easy mode (though I'm not sure those who've already played the earlier games will have much trouble with it), I soon got the hang of it and went through almost all the songs first time.  The same was true in Medium difficulty mode, even though initially the difference felt quite daunting.  I've completed all the songs in Easy mode and half in Medium at the time of writing this review.  I would have got further but my wife has also become involved with the game, meaning that my time on it has become rather limited!  She took a lot longer than me to really become comfortable with the controls, but once she got it, she started sailing through the songs.

I've tried Expert level on the first song, and got as far as... the first word of the song.  It's really tough, though I have no doubt that given time I can master it.  Given a lot of time...

It should be noted that the songs are not necessarily in order of difficulty.  However this works quite well since you could potentially have one song from each set of four that you found impossible, and still complete the game.  The Guitar Battles are significantly more difficult than playing the songs, but there are only three of these and you can progress by wussing out if you fail to win three times in a row.

I would estimate that each difficulty mode is about two thirds harder than the previous mode, making Expert around 4 times tougher than Easy.  That's only my best guess though.

The graphics on this game are really impressive for a WII game, though that's perhaps not surprising since player input doesn't affect what happens on screen as much as in other types of game.  Still they're very good, though some of the character animation is perhaps a little jerky.  The main characters look suitably unique and have some cool moves.  The character I usually play is called "Xavier Stone", and one of his special moves is to sit cross-legged while playing guitar. 
Between stages you get a cartoon showing what's happened and how the band is progressing.  These were a nice detour from the general game and had a completely different graphics style.  They were also quite amusing, which is always a good thing!

The sound is pretty awesome, largely because the songs are so good.  Out of the 74 tracks available in the game, I've only come across one that I seriously disliked and love quite a few of them, liking the rest.  When you go into Star Mode the WII rumble feature activates, giving a little extra buzz to the proceedings.

Final Verdict
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is a fine solo game, and it's very enjoyable in 2-player co-op mode too, albeit you really would need to get a second guitar to enjoy it fully.  There's plenty of longevity to the game (even if you complete everything there's online battling to try, and at the very least you'll find yourself coming back to play the tracks of songs you really enjoy.  I've also been told that it's a great party game, though this isn't something I've tried yet.  A few people have had a go on it here though and everyone has enjoyed it.

Though he whole guitar-playing aspect might seem like a gimmick, it really does add to your enjoyment of playing the game.  Therefore even though it's a little expensive to buy the whole set-up including guitar, I would recommend this game to anyone.  We found it for £35 at HMV (around $50 at current exchange rates), though we have seen it on sale for double that. 

Age Rating

This game has an age rating of 12 (Teen in the States), which is I presume because of some of the song lyrics and perhaps the images at certain parts of the game.  Parents might want to have a view of the game in action before making a decision if they're concerned.

The review is finished now, but for those who're interested I've included the full song listing below:

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock - Complete Song List

Aerosmith - Same Old Song and Dance
AFI - Miss Murder
Alice Cooper - School's Out
An Endles Sporadic - Impulse
Backyard Babies - Minus Celsius
Beastie Boys - Sabotage
Black Sabbath - Paranoid
Bloc Party - Helicopter
Blue Oyster Cult - Cities on Flame
Brett Michaels Band - Go That Far
Charlie Daniels Band - Devil Went Down to Georgia
Cream - Sunshine of Your Love
Dead Kennedys - Holiday in Cambodia
Die Toten Hosen - Hier Kommt Alex
Disturbed - Stricken
Dope - Nothing For Me Here
Dragonforce - Through Fire and Flames
Eric Johnson - Cliffs of Dover
Foghat - Slowride
Gallows - In the Belly of a Shark
Guns N' Roses - Welcome to the Jungle
Heart - Barracuda
Hellacopters - I'm in the Band
Heroes Del Silencio - Avalancha
In Flames - Take This Life
Iron Maiden - Number of the Beast
Kaiser Chiefs - Ruby
Killswitch Engage - My Curse
Kiss - Rock N Roll All Nite
L.A. Slumlords - Down and Dirty
Lacuna Coil - Closer
Lions - Metal Heavy Lady
Living Colour - Cult of Personality
Matchbook Romance - Monsters
Metallica - One
Mountain - Mississippi Queen
Muse - Knights of Cydonia
Nast - Mauvais Garcon
Pat Benetar - Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Pearl Jam - Evenflow
Poison - Talk Dirty To Me
Priestess - Lay Down
Prototype - The Way it Ends
Queens of the Stone Age - 3's and 7's
Rage Against the Machine - Bulls on Parade
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Suck My Kiss
Revolverhead - Generation Rock
Rise Against - Prayer of the Refugee
Rolling Stones - Paint it Black
Santana - Black Magic Woman
Scouts of St. Sebastien - In Love
Senses Fail - Can't Be Saved
Sex Pistols - Anarchy in the U.K.
Slash - Original Boss Battle Recording
Slayer - Raining Blood
Slipknot - Before I Forget
Smashing Pumpkins - Cherub Rock
Social Distortion - Story of My Life
Sonic Youth - Kool Thing
Stevie Ray Vaughn - Pride and Joy
Stone Roses - She Bangs a Drum
Superbus - Radio Song
Tenacious D - The Metal
The Fall of Troy - F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.
The Killers - When You Were Young
The Scorpions - Rock You Like a Hurricane
The Sleeping - Don't Hold Back
The Strokes - Reptillia
The Who - The Seeker
Tom Morello - Original Boss Battle Recording
Weezer - My Name is Jonas
White Zombie - Black Sunshine
ZZ Top - La Grange

Other WII Games:

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
Crash of the Titans
WII Sports
Big Beach Sports
Surf's Up
WII Play

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