After the incredible Guitar Hero II
, the company that owned the Guitar Hero
license, was bought out by Activision
. The company that actually developed the Guitar Hero games, Harmonix Music Systems
, was purchased by Viacom. This created a large mess, and the companies had to go their separate ways after Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s
was released, to fulfill the three-game contract.
Harmonix would go on to release Rock Band
in partnership with MTV Games
and Electronic Arts
, which expanded the "plastic guitar" genre to include plastic drums and Karaoke Revolution-style vocal parts.
Meanwhile, Activision and RedOctane got Neversoft Entertainment
, best known for their work on the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
series, to develop the third main entry in the Guitar Hero series. This wasn't a good decision from an objective standpoint, but they made BANK, so who am I to judge?
See, Harmonix is a company full of musicians. They understood how guitars worked, and figured out how to translate six strings and 24 frets to five buttons and one strum bar in a way that was fun and made sense. Neversoft kind of didn't.
While they got better as the series progressed, Guitar Hero III has an overabundance of three-button chords, which sticks out like a sore thumb in comparison to Harmonix's games, which use them sparingly.
A big example of Neversoft not knowing how to chart a song is Before I Forget. The song is in drop-D, so most of the chords are played with one finger. This should naturally translate to the player pressing one button, but instead translates to a finger-crunching bridge that is physically painful to play. When Harmonix put Before I Forget into Rock Band 3
, they made that section the easiest part of the song.
The biggest complaint about the game has to be its difficulty curve, or lackthereof. I will admit that Guitar Hero II's first tier, particularly on PS2, was perhaps too difficult, especially for first-timers.
Guitar Hero III has four tiers that are easier than GH2's first tier. If I were to compare the difficulty of each tier of GH3 to GH2's tiers:
GH3 Tier 1 = easier than GH2 Tier 1
GH3 Tier 2 = easier than GH2 Tier 1
GH3 Tier 3 = easier than GH2 Tier 1
GH3 Tier 4 = easier than GH2 Tier 1
GH3 Tier 5 = GH2 Tier 3
GH3 Tier 6 = GH2 Tier 4
GH3 Tier 7 = GH2 Tier 5
GH3 Tier 8 = harder than GH2 Tier 8
Yeah, it's whatever if you've already beaten GH2 on expert. You have to remember, though, that this game introduced a lot of people to the series, and a difficulty curve this bad is just attrocious.
In order to compensate for the ridiculous difficulty curve, Neversoft made the note timing ridiculously loose. It's hard to explain what I'm talking about here, but the window for hitting the next note in a HO/PO section is far too large for the first seven tiers to be challenging, and doesn't help with dumb shit like Raining Blood.
This game introduced "guitar battles", which were just awful. I will note that they later got this concept 100% right in Guitar Hero: World Tour
, before immediately abandonning it for whatever reason.
The point of Guitar Hero, as I understand it, is to make the player feel like they're playing a song. Guitar battles in GH3 feel really out of place, with power-ups you need to use to force your opponent to fail the song. GHWT fixes it so that you and the celebrity guitarist are just jamming, and you need to play well enough to "hang" with him.
The guitar peripheral itself seems great, but they fucked it up. RedOctane made it so the neck of the guitar detached for easier storage, but this was the absolute worst thing to do. It caused connection issues, especially if you separated the neck and body often, and you'd have to buy another one to keep playing. If you're on PS2, you can use the GH2 SG, and on 360 and PC, you can use the GOAT GH2 Explorer, but good luck on PS3 and Wii. Rock Band guitars don't work with this game, naturally.
Co-op encores were a shitty idea, since there's no way to unlock them in single-player without cheats. It wouldn't be so bad if they didn't restrict fucking Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll to this shit.
One final thing I need to address is the characters. Jesus Christ, I don't know how they did it. In a game with no dialogue, they managed to ruin at least half the cast. Izzy looks ancient, Judy went from "cute" to "turboslut", the singer is TERRIFYING, and the drummer is a robot.
I do appreciate them continuing the joke that Xavier cannot decide what the fuck he's supposed to be beyond "token black guy", going from big dreadlocks guy to funky disco man to Jimi Hendrix.
This game is just frustrating. It's got so many flaws, but the songlist itself isn't bad, for the most part. I mean, sure, I hate The Metal, Raining Blood, whatever. I don't think I've played one of these games where I DIDN'T hate a few songs. The Beatles: Rock Band
I also overall prefer the presentation and gameplay of the Rock Band games in other ways (e.g. the slightly different system they use for charging and activating Star Power/Overdrive).
But I did like how Guitar Hero had more detailed post-track stats breakdowns.