Does it go all the way up to 11?
Sat, 12 January 2008
by: Special K
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Ever since Sammy had shown me Guitar Hero II on the PS2 I was hooked on this game. Possibly what was even more surprising was that my wife got hooked on it too! This is why games like Guitar Hero, Wii Sports, Wii Play are so great - people who normally wouldn't have a bar of any game - whether it is on a console or a PC - are suddenly addicted and can't put the game down.
The version I'm reviewing is for the Wii (as I don't own a 360 or a PS3!). I think I'll get the formalities out of the way. Graphics wise the Wii will always lose out to the powerful consoles from Microsoft and Sony but this does not detract from the gameplay at all. Whenever I hear people saying the graphics are better on the aforementioned consoles, I start thinking about how much of the image on the screen I take in while I'm playing a song. Answer? The fretboard! I couldn't tell you what goes on during a song because I'm staring directly at the fretboard to hit the notes! So for me arguing that other consoles offer better graphics is a moot point. It's all about the gameplay and the guitar controller. While on the subject of graphics on the Wii - if you are fortunate enough to have a high-definition television then the component video cables for the Wii are a great purchase. Although you can only get the resolution up to 480p the graphics are definitely sharper. You need the component cables to run 480p as the option is only available when the component cables are connected.
As with all Wii games Christmas tends to be a painful time for gamers with stocks selling out quickly. Guitar Hero III was not immune to this. When the game was officially launched, I found there were very few places with stock. Big W announced shortly after the game's release in November 2007 that they did not have stock and delayed the official release to the following Saturday. I arrived at the store with 50 or so others only to find that they had 3 copies of the Wii version. It took me some time to track down another store that had the game but I hit the jackpot when I got the game and also the extra guitar controller with it. (That being said the Big W online store is claiming to have the game and extra guitar controllers available now)
|Here's a picture of the Guitar Hero 3 Box |
Then we have a technical issue to deal with. Guitar Hero III had a problem with sound. The package claimed that the Wii version had Dolby Pro Logic II sound. In reality it wasn't even stereo with the game pumping out mono sound. Activision has since announced
that it will supply a re-mastered disc with a Pro Logic II soundtrack in early 2008.
Update: Activision has started the disc replacement for Guitar Hero III. Simply go to this article and call Activision to obtain a re-mastered copy of the disc. The actual delivery date is unknown but all they need from you is your name, address, mobile number and the shop where you bought the game.
Update 19/03/2008: Received replacement disc last night. There is a noticeable difference in the sound quality and the variations in volume between normal and star power has gone too!
There is also talk of downloadable content being made available in 2008 as this was not available at the time of release. Both the 360 and PS3 already have downloadable content and it would appear that the PS2 version does not have access to the downloadable content. Unsure as to whether the PC and Macintosh versions will have the downloadable content.
First gotcha with this game is that the Wii cannot read this disc unless you have a particular system update. When you first insert the disc it will not display in the disc channel. You must manually select the disc channel to activate the required system update. If you get lost it's all in the instruction book.
Now for the guitar controller. The Gibson Les Paul controller feels really robust. One of the new features is the removable neck. I'm not entirely sure of the benefit of having a removable neck on the guitar but the consensus seems to be that it makes it easier to transport. It's not really that big in the first place so it doesn't really seem like an advantage. It also mentions that the faceplate can be removed from the guitar and it can be customised. I haven't seen any custom faceplates available yet so maybe they will be easier to find later on. A few people have complained of problems with the guitars removable neck. I can remember having a problem when I first put the guitar together where one of the buttons didn't seem to be working. I simply popped the neck of the guitar off, checked for dust, played with the spring loaded pins inside and it has worked fine ever since! Then we get on to the features unique to the Wii. The Wii-mote is used as the wireless connection to the console so no need to have the USB dongle like the PS3 version. You open a panel on the back of the guitar, connect the nun-chuck style connector and away you go! While the Wii-mote is in the guitar, there is an anologue stick that allows you to use the cursor on the screen. Mind you this doesn't work for all the menus on the Wii but you can at least fire up the console and start the game without removing the Wii-mote from the guitar! In game are the other two features made available via the Wii-mote. When you activate Star Power during the game, the Wii-mote rumble pack kicks in. But the coolest feature by far is the fact that the Wii-mote speaker makes a plunking sound when you miss a note. Doesn't sound that great but when you are playing a song and you get feedback from the Guitar itself - it adds to the experience and makes it similar to what you would experience playing an electric guitar.
OK onto the gameplay. My recommendation for anyone who has not played the game before is to take time to go through the tutorials. They take you through the basics of using the guitar controller and give you a head start on tackling the songs. For most people they have had a go at Guitar Hero III or any of its predecessors things haven't really changed and to be honest when you have perfected the user interface and guitar peripheral then why the hell change it?
There are several game modes available. The first you will have to complete is the Career mode. Career mode is a single player mode which takes you through the entire song list. There are 8 stages or gigs each consisting of four songs. Generally you must complete at least 3 of the songs to progress on to the next Gig. There are also three Boss battles - which are apparently new to Guitar Hero III - where you battle Tom Morello, Slash and Lou (aka The Devil).
Each difficulty level introduces another Fret button into the equation and more difficult chords to play. With Easy there are only 3 of the 5 fret buttons in use. You have a strip at the end of the fretboard with a circle representing each of the fret buttons Green, Red, Yellow, Blue and Orange. The fretboard scrolls towards you as it does, various notes are spaced out along the fretboard. When a green spot is scrolling down the screen you must press the green fret button and then strum the note with what is referred to as the strum bar. So basically you are playing each note on your toy guitar. The more notes you hit - the happier the crowd gets and you're on your way to completing the song. Should you start to miss notes, your approval rating slides. This is represented by a meter which is divided into three colours. If you're doing well you're in the green, not so good - yellow, and bad is red. If you miss too many notes the crowd gets pissed and you are booed off the stage. This is the key to completing the songs. At the same time each note you hit scores points. The more notes you hit in a row, the more your score goes up. For each set of 9 - 10 notes you hit, the multiplier goes up. It goes from 1 through to 4 and is reset each time you miss a note. The idea is to keep the multiplier as high as possible to maximise your score. At the same time you will notice that from time to time the round notes change to stars. These activate Star Power which doubles the current multiplier so your score goes even higher. You must unlock Star Power first which involves hitting a series of star notes in succession. If you hit them all - a lightning bolt zaps the fretboard indicating that you have started to charge your star power. You can also use the Whammy Bar (or tremolo) to increase your star power while you are playing the longer star notes. Once star power is fully charged - you tilt the guitar upwards or shake it to activate star power. Once activated, it doubles the multiplier! If you complete the song you can see your score and the percentage of notes that you hit. It also has the longest streak indicating the highest number of notes you hit in a row. If you can manage to get 100% (I've only managed this on Kiss's Rock and Roll all Night - while drunk I might add) nothing special really but it gets flagged on your progress.
You can start at any of the skill levels Easy, Medium, Hard or Expert and as you go through each of the skill levels you unlock more songs. So you have to go right through the skill levels to get to the best songs! You are always better off to try songs you know well as they are easier to play. For instance when I'm playing "One" by Metallica I can virtually sing all the guitar parts so you could say I know it scarily well! Even Flow by Pearl Jam was another song that was easy to play. I have been fascinated by the range of songs in Guitar Hero III. On Christmas day my wife's uncle wanted to see the game. Suddenly it was "Wow Foghat! Mountain too!" (All bands that had me sitting there thinking "Who the hell are these guys?") In this respect, they have been very clever with the song selection going back to 1966 with The Rolling Stones and "Paint it Black" then all the way through to "3's and 7's" from the latest Queens of the Stoneage album. From what I can gather there are a lot of original songs on this version. The previous versions of Guitar Hero tended to have a lot more covers. I suppose when Activision pays out $100 million to acquire Red Octane who was the original developer of the Guitar Hero series then you can afford to secure the rights to more original songs. As a rough guide to difficulty levels I have now had the game for a month or so and have finished the Career mode in Easy and Medium. As for Hard; I'm not feeling to optimistic. The only song I have managed to finish so far is Pat Benatar's Hit Me With Your Best Shot. Who knows what Expert has in store for us!
|If you can find yourself one of these babies you can enjoy Guitar Hero III's multiplayer goodness! |
That leads us into Co-Op career mode. This is where having the second guitar controller comes in handy! You both play the same song with one person playing Lead Guitar the other playing Bass or Rhythm guitar. My wife and I have completed the Co-Op career in both Easy and Medium. Buggered if we will ever manage Hard! The Co-Op career is great fun to play and is a challenge and a half. We alternated taking turns to play lead and bass/rhythm which worked out really well. Scoring is combined with both players contributing to one overall score and accuracy. That being said if one player makes a mistake all the statistics reset.
The game mode that still confuses me is the Face Off mode. You have some common notes that you both play but then you alternate and take turns at playing sections of the song. I still don't really see the point as it appears to continue through to the end of the song. I don't know whether it declares someone the winner if they get miles in front of the other player. It gets my vote as the pointless mode of the game.
Pro Face Off however is more straightforward. Two players: each playing the same song all the way through. It seems to be the best multi-player game mode - aside from Co-Op Career.
The battle mode really seems tacked on. I like the way that you use various features of the guitar controller to recover from attacks made by the other player. Broken string attacks force you to press a colour repeatedly until you tune up your new string. Whammy attacks effect the positioning the notes against the fretboard and throws your timing off. Rapidly moving the Whammy Bar helps you recover but this is by far the worst attack as it is near on impossible to play notes until you fix it. I have never played battle mode as a multi-player game. The boss battles throughout the single player career I seem to have stumbled through never quite knowing how I beat the boss. There is a claim on Wikipedia that after three attempts you can skip the battle. I think this is bullshit because it took me ages to defeat Slash on the Medium career. I still don't know to this day how or why I beat him. I'm sure there is a method for beating him but I found it was hard enough trying to play the battle song let alone trying to string together the Star Power combos to earn a new attack to launch at Slash.
One of the best aspects of the game is the feedback sent to the Guitar Hero website. It has also undergone some significant upgrades since the games release. At first it only gave you overall scores whereas now it gives you full reports on individual songs including score, song percentage and star ratings! Still haven't worked out how they calculate their Groupie ratings yet maybe someone out there can work it out! The best aspect of the online component of the game is finding out how you rank against other players from around the world. There seems to be a hell of a lot of people with Wii's online with Guitar Hero III. I'm nowhere near the top of the rankings but in one I'm in the top 1500. Sounds dodgy I know, but as far as things go with beating a game and getting to the last level - it rarely happens for me so I've gotta make the most of it.
There are online components to the game but as yet I have not been able to connect to any online tournaments or matches. I have tried to register friends and connect up with them online but as yet no-one has accepted my invitation.
As I have had limited exposure to the previous versions of Guitar Hero I have been thoroughly impressed by the fourth game in the series. I think the Les Paul controller for the Wii is a damn fine piece of hardware as it feels solid and is great that it makes use of the Wii-mote for its wireless capabilities. If you already have the game and are feeling competitive my profile on the Guitar Hero website is here. All up we've got a fantastic and addictive game that appeals to a wide range of gamers and non-gamers. To me it is a perfect partner for the Wii and its ongoing assault on the video game market.
by: Special K
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More articles by Special K
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll but it's a helluva lot of fun getting there! (Loses 0.5 for the issues with the Dolby Pro Logic)