I picked up my copy of Guitar Hero 3 at Costco about a week ago. It sort of snuck up on me and I didn’t actually realize it was coming out this soon, so it was a pretty big surprise to see it. Regardless, we knew we wanted it, so we grabbed it.
If you haven’t played a Guitar Hero game, it’s time to climb out of the hole you’ve been living in. It’s good times. The thing I really liked about Guitar Hero 2 was how playing the songs really made me feel cool. I’m not super good at it - I can only really play acceptably on the “normal” difficulty - but it’s just inherently fun. Not only that, but I really like most of the songs so playing them was cool. With Guitar Hero 3, I expected “more” and “better.”
It’s good, but… I dunno. There’s just something missing. I think that the combination of a few of the changes sort of put me off.
First, and foremost, the songs. I’ve played through co-op career mode on “Easy” and I’m almost through solo career mode on “Medium” and I think I really only like maybe 25% of the songs. I’m a mainstream rock fan. I like, for example, the Poison and Guns n’ Roses songs they included. Some of the more popular classics are cool, too, like “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones. I’m all over that stuff. But that’s sort of the minority of the songs. The rest? Eh. I more… “tolerate them” than I do “like them.” I mean, “The Seeker” by The Who? Mildly acceptable. “Kool Thing” by Sonic Youth (or anything by Sonic Youth)? Lame. The redeeming tune is “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour. I’ve wanted that song since I first played Guitar Hero. But, generally speaking, mediocre fair song-wise. (Here’s the complete song list on Wikipedia.)
The other thing is the difficulty level. In GH2, “Easy” was easy and “Normal” was slightly more difficult, but not so bad that you couldn’t just pick up and play and have fun. “Hard” was actually hard and “Expert” was for the hardcore folks only. In GH3, everything is about 50% harder. “Easy” isn’t nearly as easy as the GH2 “Easy,” and “Normal” isn’t just pick-it-up-and-rock - it looks like it’ll take some practice (I’m only halfway through). “Hard” will definitely require practice and I won’t even look at the “Expert” level. The difficulty in GH2 reflected the idea that casual gamers could pop in and play something a little more than “Easy” and still have fun. In GH3… you’re either dedicated or you’re stuck on “Easy.”
I’m not as concerned as other folks that some focus has moved to competition. The co-op career is fun and I feel like it compensates for the competition aspect that’s been added. They needed a little something new and the competition aspect is an interesting direction. Jury’s still out on whether I think they should go further in that direction, but it’s not bad. There are some interesting glitches with the co-op achievements where if you’re playing co-op career mode both partners will get the co-op note streak achievements but only the person logged in as “player 1” will get the career completion achievements. Hopefully that will be fixed in a patch.
In all… I generally like GH3, but I think it could generally have been better. Even just choosing better songs would have made it better for me. I’m having fun with it, and I’ll keep playing it, but I hope that GH4, if they come out with it, has better songs. I did order Rock Band and I’m looking forward to it. I think the new instruments (and a mildly better, albeit slightly overlapping, song list) will be a nice change.