It’s hard to imagine gaming life without Guitar Hero. Wielding a small plastic guitar in front of the TV, pretending to play along to some of our all time favourite classic guitar led tracks, is as fun as gaming has ever been. Even if it might look a bit daft to someone peeking through your front window.
The premise is simple. You pick yourself a track from the hefty number available, ranging from some of the best pieces of music of classic rock, through to some incredibly talented unsigned bands.
As the track plays, you view notes floating down the screen, prompting you to press one of the five "fret buttons" - the ones on the thin end of the guitar – and strumming the little strum bar in time with each note passing the bottom bar on screen to play the note. Easy.
Well, on "Easy" mode, maybe. With only three fret buttons to use, even the most complex of hardcore guitar solos can be played through with absolute ease. In fact, you’ll feel as if you can rival Slash himself once you finish the game on this most simple of difficulty levels.
Ramp things up to "Medium" and not only is the forth fret button introduced, but the number of notes you’ll be expected to play will almost double in frequency.
Take things to "Hard" and it’s where Guitar Hero III starts to take a turn for the worse. While the other games in the series simply felt more true to the real thing on "Hard" and "Expert", here things feel artificially made much more difficult than you could ever expect. You’re forced to play notes that simply don’t exist, and what you’re strumming along to simply doesn’t match up to what your ears are hearing.
That’s not the only problem either. While the track listing includes a mass of familiar names, and some tunes you’ll want to play again and again, at least half of the list will simply pass you by as a means to unlocking the full batch rather than feeling the same joy as the last few games.
The biggest addition this year is the "boss battle" sections. These see you up against a designated rock legend, both of you playing a specific track. But instead of ramping up your score multiplier as you hit a number of notes in a row, you’ll be presented with the opportunity to unleash a power up to force your opponent to miss a few notes, and hopefully cause them so much trouble that they ultimately fail, and you bag the victory.
Exciting in theory, but dull in practice. The tunes themselves are elongated guitar solos that simply don’t pack the excitement that a true tune manages. There may only be a handful during the career mode, but they’re tiresome, and will take numerous tries before you can win on the highest difficulty levels.
It’s a shame that the tedious boss battles, and the lack of quality throughout the entire track listing have conspired to make Guitar Hero III a disappointment.
The same old gameplay remains, and its indeed as addictive as always, but those low points make this third title much more a chore to play through.