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triumphofhearts avatar 7:31 PM on 12.20.2008  (server time)
REVIEW - Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock - Xbox 360 (Activision)

It speaks volumes that a game with as streamlined and simple a concept as Guitar Hero takes well over a year to write about. As a series, Guitar Hero is a number of things: an excersise in Carpal Tunnel, an audio irritant, and one of the most potentially rewarding gaming experiences ever committed to disc.

It feels as if there is little point talking about a virtual trial with such superlatives, but since a momentous Expert FC (Full Combo) of Franz Ferdinand's 'Take Me Out' back in 2006, Guitar Hero has become synonymous with all encompassing video game addiction.

Guitar Hero was fun but flawed; for a newcomer to enter and be presented without any sort of practice mode outside of continuous trial and error was a massive design oversight, and the engine's unintuitive hammer ons and pull offs made Bark at the Moon and Cowboys from Hell near unplayable for any sub-deity. Guitar Hero 2 followed, refined to bleeding point tackling almost every fan issue, but now, with a change of development team, the verdict is still out, well over a year after its release, on whether or not Legends of Rock is worth a punt.

Neversoft, handpicked to take on the mantle of Harmonix the defectors, were forced to write from scratch an engine and game that were by and large, perfect. The result, is a larger timing window of strumming error, unnecesary mid-chug triplets and trills in unsure note charts, lashings of new 3 note chords, disgustingly cheap 'boss' battles and the stiffest drumming animation this side of that Gondry video where Meg White smashes out her signature 4/4 in Lego.

From a visual standpoint, the streak counter is a nice addition. The textual blast that flashes each 100 note milestone above the note highway is little more than a distraction, and the occasional 60fps frame stutter which befells occasional star-power activation is intolerable for something which relies so much on unblinking, silken concentration. Barring the lollypop stick and pva articulation of desperate dan behind the cans, everything looks nice.

The tracklist is pretty hit and miss, but the same can be said for the entirety of the genre. For every person baying for more of Slayer's thrash metal, there's an equal in a mirrored living room with fingers crossed for Pat Benetar DLC.

The achievements are unfair and broken. Reports online of a huge chunk of badges being unlockable by entering a simple button code cheapened the lofty goal of championing twenty songs on expert without missing a note, and the pain of scoring 750,000 points on a song twice in a row with no onomatopoeic 'blick-glock', just goes to show blatant, sloppy programming. On the reverse, Gamerscore leaping out of the blue midsong smacks of flakey playtesting, and the numbing request of beating the game on all difficulties rather then a stackable system of achievement (which wouldn't come until GH: Aerosmith) showed that Neversoft bit off more than they could chew taking on a franchise owned by a publisher who demands a yearly update. Legends of Rock is solid start and a good mortar mix for foundations, but sadly a shakey fall from the lofty heights of the pitch-perfect prequel. It is still the poster boy for addiction as two solid days of five star grinding Raining Blood can attest, it just feels as if it will take the Tony Hawk stalwarts a little time before fully understanding why the series itself became an overnight runaway success.

Neversoft would always struggle, especially in competition head-to-head with their own practiced predecessors, and although painful to peg a series that usually incites such amore as waivering, GH3 is at best, solidly average. A passable continuation for the hardcore with its ramped difficulty charge, an entertaining stumbling block for the new and a let down for Harmonix; a tear in the eye of the great innovators (read plagiarists) of the rhythm action rebirth.


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