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Activision Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock review

Activision takes control of the rock god simulator for its third hit-filled encore. Does it still have what it takes, or is it time to hang up the plectrum?

In the dizzying world of rock ‘n’ roll it’s always reassuring to have a good, solid piece of wood in your hand. Now with Guitar Hero back for a third gig you’ll have to make do with plastic – but with Legends of Rock, the rifftastic axe simulator is ready to really hit the big time.

Guitar Hero: Unplugged

The real winner with GHIII is the lack of wires on the new guitars. One problem we often had with the previous games was accidental unplugging – and we don’t mean for an emotional, Clapton-style, stool-based live set. An abundance of over-enthusiastic rocking was too often the cause of a swiftly jerked-out controller bringing our fretboard-burning solos to an abrupt stop – but not any more.

The guitars are now fully Gibson branded so the 360, PS3 and Wii versions get a wireless axe modelled on the world famous Les Paul (as played by Slash) while the PS2 gets a Kramer.

That’s not all, though. The fret buttons have been redesigned with a slightly less Fisher Price look; the outline is now coloured rather than the full front, and the plain faceplates that come as standard can be changed.

For Guitar Hero fans who like to take the game on tour, the new guitars also have detachable necks allowing you to stow them in a bag much more easily and avoid the strange looks from your more grown-up (but more boring) neighbours.

Fans that have been playing Guitar Hero for a while might be worried that the series is in danger of becoming a bit stale – and some may see it that way. Much like FIFA or any other annually updated title, all the fundamentals of Guitar Hero III are identical to its two previous incarnations just with a nicer graphical sheen added to make it look sparkly and new. But Guitar Hero II nailed the gameplay so brilliantly that on Legends of Rock that’s really all you want – plus 50-odd new songs to riff along to, of course.


Battle of the bands

There have been a few tweaks to gameplay though. Most notably the new Battle mode, which adds power-up attacks to the normal head-to-head face-offs, plus hammer-ons and pull-offs now seem a little easier to perform meaning you’ll nail solos with a little less hair-pulling than before.

Overall, though, the learning curve is steeper than before with tracks at the sharp end posing a real test to even seasoned veterans – Slayer’s Raining Blood and One by Metallica certainly pose a couple of the toughest challenges in Guitar Hero history.

If we’d put as much effort into playing the real guitar as we have playing Guitar Hero we’d probably be fairly competent axe-wielders by now, but with the news that GH guitars will be compatible with Rock Band, Guitar Hero III gives us plenty to be getting on with until we can become ‘real’ rock stars.


Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5