Sunday, October 28, 2007

Guitar Hero III

So, Guitar Hero III came out today. And, um, I bought it. A couple weeks ago, I bought numbers 1 and 2 as well. I intend to never touch the "Rocks the 80s" collection. And, well, I have to admit, my feelings are mixed. On the one hand, it's more songs. And, well, more songs are always good (except in the aforementioned "Rocks the 80s" case). On the other hand, this is the first Guitar Hero that didn't involve Harmonix. And, well, it shows.

Let's start with what I like. I like that many of the songs are original recordings, although it is significantly less than I had initially expected (almost everything before 1990 is covered, it feels like). I like that it brings Cream and Stevie Ray Vaughn back (my favorite artists from number 1). I like that the final performance location is Hell. I kind of wish they called it that, though. Or, well, anything besides Lou's Inferno. I mean, seriously, how is preceding the word Inferno with Lou even kind of okay (unless it's an incredibly vague reference to Lou's Records, which is a popular record store in southern California, but I kind of doubt it). They should have just called it The Underworld, or something. I really liked that they gave the year the song originally came out. I think that's one of the only really classy additions. It really gives you a feeling of history when you can kind of see who was playing when, and I totally appreciate that.

Hmm, I think that's almost everything I can come up with. I guess I kind of like the Japanese Schoolgirl guitarist, Midori, except she doesn't really look like a Japanese Schoolgirl, which seems to defeat the whole purpose of having a Japanese Schoolgirl guitarist. Oh, I also think it's totally awesome that we can equip our characters with Guitar Hero guitars (I think it's cool to have my character playing with the same thing I'm playing, but maybe I'm weird).

There, that was a decent amount of stuff to like, right? Oh, wait, I also liked the quote "Real guitarists don't sit on the couch". That was pretty awesome.

Anyways, the dislikes. The new art style is pretty high up there in the dislikes. Guitar Hero typically is pretty cartoony, but this one seems to take itself a lot more seriously. This starts to come across kind of weird when you look at the completely ridiculously over-the-top costumes available. I think they had to do this so that the boss characters (REAL guitarists that battle you during incredibly boring sets that they wrote specifically for the game) wouldn't look completely out of place, so the result is that everyone looks like a normal proportioned person and the boss characters look really boring (since they don't have costumes of the same level of ridiculousness as the main characters). Also, the audience comes across as incredibly monotonous and boring. I mean, they're just there to make you feel awesome, but when they all look like skaters from the Tony Hawk series, you can't really bring yourself to care about them.

Next, I really don't like how this feels a lot more like a rhythm game. Guitar Hero is supposed to be targeting the people who thought that DDR was lame, right? It's supposed to make you feel like a rockstar, right? So, why should a rockstar give a crap about the length of his current string of notes?! I really don't need to be informed every time I hit 50 notes in a row. Normally, the only time you see words over the main area is when you get star power. That was invasive, but okay because it made you feel accomplished and ready to really ROCK. Getting 50 notes in a row means nothing to me.

I imagine this nuisance as a little nerdy guy backstage keeping a tally and then running onstage to let me know about it in the middle of the song. Plus, he takes so long to get onstage that by the time he reaches me and starts bugging me, it's not relevant anymore (seriously, I swear it takes like 5 seconds for the letters to appear, I know this because I've screwed up the 51st note before and then, a brief moment later it told me I had a 50 note streak going). That whole mechanic of streaks is a rhythm game construct that isn't relevant or necessary for this game. And it's annoying.

Obviously, I didn't really like the boss battle very much either. It just seemed, pointless. It's a total gimme, to get you excited about it in multiplayer, but I can't imagine it being all that much fun with another person either. Face off in Guitar Hero has been about showing that you're the better guitarist. That you can pull off the crazy solo that the other guy can't. Battle mode proves nothing. It's not about rocking out, and so it just doesn't feel right in Guitar Hero (I mean, that's a classic puzzle game mechanic, for goodness sake, and I don't really associate Guitar Hero with Tetris).

But, really, my main dislike is just where Guitar Hero is going. The box didn't even advertise the presence of Cream or Stevie Ray Vaughn (it was just a pleasant surprise for me). There was also a lot more...metal, which is not really a fun genre to listen to (although it's probably because it has such crazy solos). Also, there was a lot of songs from 2005-2007. I thought it was funny that one of the little loading quotes was "Let's start with our new single so we can get that piece of shit out of the way". But then, you play the latest singles from Muse and The Killers and Queens of the Stone Age and you're just like, "Wait, I though we agreed those were crap, so why are you making me play them?" It's just, frustrating.

Why is Matchbook Romance in this game, but not Led Zeppelin? Where is Jimi Hendrix? Why is there so little of the great guitarists from the last generation? How about some blues? You know, maybe B.B. King? Or someone a little less renowned like Muddy Waters or Buddy Guy? They're still alive and kicking. B.B. King would be an incredibly awesome boss battle. Have him play something and dare the player to try to play it back at him.

I know that the argument is: That's what the downloadable content is for. And, yes, I understand. But, it's just, not exciting when everything is super fast punk that tests your rhythm or grating metal guitars that test your sanity (sprinkled with the occasional classic pop song, so your mom can play too). I don't know, I'm just not that into it.

Also, did they really have to make hammer-ons and pull-offs even easier? I'll be the first to admit that the first Guitar Hero made hammer-ons and pull-offs very tough, almost to the point of not fun (you have to seriously practice them to be any good at them at all, which I'm not, yet). Guitar Hero II made them easier by saying, push at the right time. I thought this was a fair compromise. Number 3 just says, be holding it when the note comes. I'm serious. That's all you have to do. It has this whole feeling of completely unreality about it (like this note magically plays). It's honestly, really stupid.

I swear I'm not being a purist here. I just feel that a large part of Guitar Hero has always been about feeling like you're playing the guitar and rocking out. We know it's just a simulation, but playing the Guitar shouldn't be easy. It should test your timing, and this doesn't. What's worse, though, is how this changes the mechanics. They literally just throw hammer-ons in the middle of anywhere, because they've completely abandoned reality and it doesn't matter anymore.

Hmm, I think my bitching is starting to go a little long. Most reviews seem to be pretty positive in a "it doesn't disappoint" sort of way. One of the common complaints is the presence of totally inane in-game advertisements (there's an AXE body spray branded guitar). Which is a fair complaint, to be honest, but pretty expected from the dudes behind most of the Tony Hawk series.

In summary, I didn't think it was as fun as the earlier ones, which is too bad. It kept most of what the others did right, but lost some things and didn't bring anything new that was fun. So, yeah.

That is all.


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