Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock

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Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
Cover for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, with Slash shown in the center, along with fictional guitarists Judy Nails on the left and Lars Ümlaüt on the right
Developer(s) Neversoft (Xbox 360 & PS3)
Aspyr Media (PC & Mac)
Vicarious Visions (Wii)
Budcat Creations (PS2)
Publisher(s) Activision
Series Guitar Hero
Platform(s) PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360, PC, Mac
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Music
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: T (Teen)
BBFC: 12
Media Blu-ray, DVD, Wii Optical Disc
Input methods Guitar controller - game packaged with Gibson Les Paul (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii), Kramer Striker (PS2), Gibson X-Plorer, (PC and Mac) controller, gamepad, Wii Remote, Keyboard, Mouse

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is a music video game developed by Neversoft and published by Activision and RedOctane. It is the third main installment in the Guitar Hero series, and the fourth title overall. The game was released for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360 in October 2007. Budcat Creations ported the game to the PlayStation 2, and Vicarious Visions ported it to the Wii. Aspyr Media developed the PC and Mac versions of the game, releasing them in late 2007. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock retains the basic gameplay from previous games in the Guitar Hero series. In it, the player uses a guitar-shaped controller to simulate the playing of lead, bass, and rhythm guitar parts in rock songs by playing in time to scrolling notes on-screen. The game includes a new Co-Op Career mode and challenges that pit the player against in-game characters and other players. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is the first game in the series to include an online feature, which is enabled in the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii versions.

Initially the game offers over 70 songs, most of which are master tracks. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions feature the ability to download additional songs. Avatars of the musicians Tom Morello (of the bands Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave) and Slash (of Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver) appear in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. The PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 versions also include Bret Michaels (of Poison). Critics were generally favorable towards the game, but reviewers noted a difference in the game's style compared to previous installments, associating it with the change in developer between this game and the last. According to Activision, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is the best-selling video game of 2007, both in terms of units sold and revenue earned. The company also claims that the game is the first single video game to exceed one billion dollars in sales.


[edit] Gameplay

Gameplay for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is similar to previous titles in the series. The player hits notes as they scroll towards the bottom of the screen in time with music to maintain their performance and earn points. To hit notes using the guitar controller, the player hits the strum bar while holding down the correct fret buttons.[4] If the player uses the standard controller instead of the guitar controller, the correct buttons need to be pressed, but the player is not required to strum.[5] Notes can be sustained, during which the fret button is held until the note is complete, and they can also form two- to four-note chords.[6] The game simulates hammer-ons and pull-offs for sections with a rapid series of notes.[7] Missing a note causes the performance meter to drop. When the meter drops too low, the player fails the song, represented in-game by the band being booed off the stage. A string of 10 consecutive correct notes earns a multiplier to increase the player's score, which can occur up to four times.[8] Special sections, marked by starred notes, can be used to build Star Power. When the player has enough Star Power, they can activate it and further double the scoring multiplier either by tilting the guitar controller vertically or by pressing a specific button on the controller.[8] While Star Power enabled, the performance meter increases more quickly when a correct note is hit, and missing notes have a decreased penalty.[9]

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock contains four difficulty levels: Easy, which uses three of the fret buttons; Medium, which makes use of four of the fret buttons; Hard, which uses all five fret buttons; and Expert, which adds no new fret buttons, but increases the number of notes and the general difficulty.[10] Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock has a cast of thirteen characters.[11] The player can access the game's three boss characters—Tom Morello,[12] Slash,[13][14] and Lou the Devil—as playable characters once they have completed their respective Boss Battles in Career mode. Although Bret Michaels appears in the game and sings specific songs, he is not a playable character in the game.[15]

[edit] Career mode

The single-player Career mode in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock features 8 tiers with 42 songs total. Within each tier, the player completes a number of songs, the number depending on the selected difficulty level, before they are offered an encore performance of one additional song and complete the tier. After a tier is complete, a new tier is introduced.[9] For the first time in the series, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock includes Career mode boss battles based on the game's multiplayer Battle mode; at three points during the Career mode, the player must compete against a boss character to progress.[16] Each successfully completed song earns in-game money that the player uses at the game's store to unlock new characters, outfits, guitars and finishes, bonus songs, and videos. Additionally, completing a song in Career mode unlocks it for play in all other game modes.[17]

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is the first game in the series to feature a storyline for the Career mode, portrayed through animated cartoon scenes between venues. The band starts as a neighborhood sensation, and after signing a recording contract with a shady music producer named Lou, gains worldwide fame, performing at venues around the world. However, when the band attempts to break the contract, Lou reveals himself to be the Devil, and their recording contract is actually a contract for their souls. Lou forces the band to play against him in the netherworld at "Lou's Inferno", but the band is able to succeed, forcing Lou to break the contract. The band returns to the mortal world as "Rock Legends".[9]

Two players using the same console can participate in Co-Op Career mode, with one player on lead guitar and the other on bass or rhythm guitar depending on the song. There are six tiers of songs which the players complete in the same manner as the single player Career mode. The encore song for each tier is unique to Co-Op Career mode. There are no boss battles in this mode.[17] The Co-Op storyline portrays the vocalist and drummer, who are looking for a guitarist and bassist. After their first performance, the drummer decides to make a video of the band. The video helps boost the band's popularity, and they soon earn a gig in Japan. The band is forced to take a three-month hiatus to reconcile their differences of opinion on the band's future. Their comeback performance starts a neighborhood fire and places the band in jail. Lou arrives, offering the band to be freed from jail if they perform for the inmates. However, after their performance, the band finds themselves in Lou's Inferno, and is forced to play a live show for the netherworld in order return back to the mortal world.[9]

[edit] Multiplayer

The player playing as Slash in Battle mode. Battle Power, shown below each Rock Meter at the top of the screen, is earned for completing marked sequences of notes and can be used to create distractions for one's opponent.

The Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii versions of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock feature online competitive play, in which the player can compete against another user through the console's network service. There are three modes of online play, Face Off, Pro Face Off, and Battle mode.[18][19] Face Off challenges are score attack modes introduced in Guitar Hero II where two players attempt to gain the best score on a given song; in the standard Face Off challenge, the players may select different difficulty levels, while Pro Face Off requires the players to play at the same difficulty.[20]

The Battle mode in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is a competitive mode between two players either locally or over network play.[21] Two players compete against each other and attempt to make their opponent fail or lose by successfully playing Battle Power sequences, which replaces Star Power, to earn attacks that can be used against the opponent. Players can store up to three attacks at a time, and release them by using the same methods used to trigger Star Power in normal gameplay. The resulting effect may either make the song more difficult for the other player by adding additional notes or partially displaying the gem tracks, or may force the opponent to perform special actions to clear the effect, such as by pressing a fret button down repeatedly in response to a broken guitar string effect. Should the player fail the song, the other player wins. If neither player fails the song, they compete in a Sudden Death segment, in which the only attainable Battle Powers are Death Drain attacks, which inevitably makes the opponent fail by draining his or her Rock Meter.[22]

[edit] Controllers

The Les Paul guitar controller for the Xbox 360

Guitar Hero III was bundled with newly developed wireless guitar controllers for the console releases, though previous controllers from other Guitar Hero games could be used.[23][24] Lee Guinchard, RedOctane's vice president of hardware, stated that wireless controllers were the "first, foremost consideration" for the game.[25] The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version of the controller was modeled after a black Les Paul guitar, with faceplates that can be swapped out.[26] The PlayStation 3 version requires a dongle to achieve wireless capabilities.[26] The Wii version is also a Les Paul design, but features a special slot to insert the Wii Remote into. This slot allows the game to offer several features exclusive to the console, such as by using the internal speaker on the Remote to provide feedback on missed notes and Star Power.[27] The PlayStation 2 guitar is based on a Kramer Striker model, and also uses a dongle to achieve wireless functionality.[24] All models features a detachable guitar neck that would make it easier to transport the controller.[26][28] The PC and Mac versions of the game are bundled with the same USB-based Gibson X-plorer model that shipped with Guitar Hero II.[29]

[edit] Development

As a result of Activision's purchase of RedOctane, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock was published by Activision.

Activision purchased RedOctane in 2006 for $100 million[30] to achieve "an early leadership position in music-based gaming".[31] In September of that year, MTV acquired Harmonix, the developer of all Guitar Hero games up to that point.[32] As a result of both purchases, Activision published Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, and Neversoft Entertainment instead of Harmonix was responsible for its development.[33] Neversoft president Joel Jewett stated his company was asked to develop the game because of a conversation that Jewett had with RedOctane's founders Kai and Charles Huang at the 2006 E3 Convention, in which Jewett mentioned how Guitar Hero helped reduce the stress in the Neversoft offices during their development of Tony Hawk's Project 8. Several months later, Jewett was contacted by the Huangs, asking if Neversoft wanted to work on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.[34] Dusty Welch, head of publishing at RedOctane, recognized Neversoft had a "10-year track record of launching a game every single year and being in the top of the charts" and felt that the development group "brought a better and deeper sense of music sensibilities" to the series.[35] Despite the experience from the previous games, Alan Flores, head of development at RedOctane, commented that the game was "deceptively simple" and that it took much work for their 30-person team to recreate the gameplay for Guitar Hero III.[25] Though they "wanted to take the Guitar Hero experience to the next level" by adding additional instruments in the same manner as Rock Band, they opted to focus on perfecting the guitar gameplay.[25]

The "pop-up" (top) version of each venue was used to place the stage elements and coordinate character and lighting animations with other members of the development team before creating the final version (bottom).

The note tracks, on-stage motions of the band, and stage lighting and effect synchronization were all done by the same team of developers who were all musicians and had previous experience in note tracking either from other music video games or from MIDI tracking.[36] The note tracks were developed by placing notes in time with the song; for sections that had difficult parts to track, they opted to use sequences of notes that would seem to the match the music but still be playable.[36] Hammer-ons and pull-offs ("HOPOs") for the previous Guitar Hero games were automatically placed by the software; in this iteration, the engine was designed to allow manual placement of HOPOs to make it easier to create certain effects in songs, such as sustained string bends.[36] Character animations were selected from several made available by the animation team, while stage lighting and effects were selected to mimic those used in live performances from YouTube or from concert appearances.[36] A separate team came up with the concepts for the various stages and arenas in the game.[37] The team wanted keep the same style as the previous Guitar Hero games but add "a certain spark" to improve upon those. Once a stage idea was brainstormed, the team sought visual references from real stages to expand upon, and a 2D drawing of the envisioned stage was prepared for review and to remain a constant goal of the stage design.[37] From that, a "pop up" three dimensional version of the stage was created, and elements from the 2D concept art were added to determine the appropriate placement of set decorations. This team worked with the animation department to place the band members, stage lighting, and other effects in the game before the final 3D version of the stage was completed. The final stages included several animated elements to help further bring the stage to life.[37]

For the game's characters, the developers intended to keep the comical looks from the previous games, but they decided to update their appearances with realistic materials and textures to take advantage of the more powerful level of graphics capabilities of seventh-generation consoles.[38] The designers first designed character sketches to determine the characters' looks and clothing, creating a main and an alternate outfit for each character, which were then made into reference artwork. Afterward, low-level meshes for each character were created, with details added with Zbrush, resulting in characters with more than six million polygons.[38] Textures and pixel shaders were added using the team's previous work on Tony Hawk's Project 8 to match the style of earlier Guitar Hero games.[38] Unlike the Tony Hawk games, each character in the game was given a unique skeleton to match their variations in sizes and shapes, allowing the animators to create unique moves for individual characters.[38] Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock introduces three new characters modeled after real-life musicians. Slash is a boss and an unlockable playable character in the game. Slash performed motion capture with RedOctane to record his movements for the game.[39] The master track of "Welcome to the Jungle" appears as an encore song, which is playable with Slash.[40] Similarly, Tom Morello is a boss and an unlockable playable character in the game. Bret Michaels appears as a non-playable vocalist for certain master tracks.[41]

[edit] Soundtrack

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock features 73 playable songs; 42 are part of the main setlist, 6 are exclusive to the Co-Op Career mode, and the remaining 25 are bonus tracks. In total, 54 of the game's songs are master recordings. In addition, the Career mode includes three guitar battles, one against each boss: Slash, Tom Morello, and Lou the Devil. Slash and Morello both wrote and recorded original battle music for the game. Guitarist Steve Ouimette plays as Lou the Devil for the final battle, and re-recorded a metal guitar version of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" for that purpose.[42] The soundtrack features songs such as "Paint It, Black" by The Rolling Stones, "Cherub Rock" by The Smashing Pumpkins, "Sabotage" by Beastie Boys, "The Metal" by Tenacious D, "My Name is Jonas" by Weezer, "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse, "Rock and Roll All Nite" by Kiss, "School's Out" by Alice Cooper, "Slow Ride" by Foghat, and "Barracuda" by Heart.[43] It also features re-recordings of "Anarchy in the U.K." by Sex Pistols and "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour specifically for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, as the original master tracks could not be found.[44] This game is the first in the series to feature a bonus track ("She Bangs the Drums") that is not an original recording.[45]

The game also supports downloadable tracks. Several free and for-cost downloadable songs and song packs are available on both the Xbox Live Marketplace and the PlayStation Store.[46] In July 2008, Activision announced that it would release downloadable content for the Wii in the first quarter of 2008,[47] but eventually was unable to do so because of limitations with the Wii's internal memory storage, an issue that was overcome in the sequel, Guitar Hero World Tour.[48] When rock band Metallica released their album Death Magnetic on September 12, 2008, it was also made available as a downloadable song pack for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Guitar Hero World Tour.[49] In addition, the compact disc soundtrack for the game offers a code used to redeem three exclusive playable tracks on the Xbox Live Marketplace.[50]

[edit] Release

[edit] Launch

Activision planned to release Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock in the 2008 fiscal year, ending on March 31, 2008.[51] RedOctane later clarified a release in the last quarter of 2007,[52] and further revealed that all versions of the game would feature wireless controllers as well as online multiplayer and downloadable content.[53] The game was officially announced by Activision and RedOctane on May 23, 2007 for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360.[23] Budcat Creations ported the game to the PlayStation 2, and Vicarious Visions ported it to the Wii.[54] In September 2007, Aspyr Media announced they would be porting Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock to the PC and Macintosh platforms.[55] Demos of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock appeared in Tony Hawk's Proving Ground for the Xbox 360 in the Xbox Live Marketplace,[56] and from the Internet as an ISO image.[57] The demo features five songs ("Lay Down", "Rock You Like a Hurricane", "Even Flow", "Hit Me with Your Best Shot", and "The Metal") played within the Desert Rock Tour venue.[58] As shipped, the game did not offer offline Co-Op Quickplay mode, a feature that was included in Guitar Hero II. This mode was added to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions via a patch.[59]

Activision called Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock its "largest product launch ever", making over $100 million in its first week of release in North America.[60] Subsequently, the company was concerned that they were unable to meet the game's demand for the 2007 holiday season.[61] As of July 15, 2008, the game sold more than eight million copies.[62] During the first seven months of 2008, the game sold 3.037 million units in the United States, 412,000 in the United Kingdom, and 26,000 in Japan, for a total of 3.475 million units, according to the NPD Group, GfK Chart-Track, and Enterbrain.[63] Game sales during the first 12 months after the game's release were over $750 million.[64] At the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, Activision CEO Mike Griffith stated that Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is the first video game to exceed one billion dollars in sales.[54]

[edit] Reception

Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 82% (PS2)[65]
83% (PS3)[66]
79% (PC)[67]
86% (Wii)[68]
85% (X360)[69]
Review scores
Publication Score
Game Informer 8.75 of 10 (X360)[70]
GameSpot 8 of 10 (PS2)[4]
GameSpy 4.5 of 5 (X360)[16]
IGN 8.9 of 10 (X360)[8]
Official Xbox Magazine 8 of 10 (X360)[71]

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock generally received positive reviews, although it generally scored lower than its predecessors on review aggregator Metacritic.[72] In Game Informer's October 2007 issue, the magazine reviewed Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock a month before its release, and rated it a 8.75 out of 10, with a score of 9.0 out of 10 from a second opinion.[70] Official Xbox Magazine awarded the game an 8 out of 10, and praised it for its graphics and fun, addictive gameplay that is the staple of the Guitar Hero series.[71] IGN scored the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions an 8.9 out of 10,[8] and GameSpot gave the game an 8 out of 10.[4] The Gibson Les Paul controller included with the game's bundled version received particular praise. GameSpy, in a five-page review of all four console versions, favorable reviewed the new controllers, and called the Wii guitar the best guitar peripheral that they had seen, praising the vibration option.[16]

Several reviews criticized the changes made to Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock compared to previous games in the Guitar Hero series. IGN's review of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions considered the game a "pretty safe effort" from Neversoft, doing little to change the game due to it being their first time working on the series. They also criticized the lack of customizable characters.[8] IGN's review of the Wii version described the game's presentation and art direction as feeling "forced", and, as a result, less visually appealing than previous installments.[73] GameDaily questioned the "white boy soundtrack" and would have liked to seen more tracks from legends like Jimi Hendrix and Prince in the mix."[74] GameSpy criticized some of the difficulty tweaks in the game. They stated that "Medium simply feels like Hard-minus-the-orange-button," and that the Star Power phrases were too long, comparing the overall game to a "trial by fire" in contrast to the previous games in the series.[16] They were also critical of the dongle approach used for the PlayStation 3 controllers, and failings in the online support for the PlayStation 3 version.[16] GameSpot criticized the game for its "heavy dose of in-game advertising."[4] GameSpy stated that the PlayStation 2 version received "the short end of the stick" because of a lack of online play.[75] Official Xbox Magazine also criticized the game for being "too competitive", a facet not readily found in the previous games.[71] The PC version has been criticized for its high system requirements, and for lag and slowdown problems even on high-end systems.[76]

[edit] Guinness World Record

Recognizing the game's popularity, Guinness World Records created a category for the Highest Score for a Single Song on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock in its Gamer's Edition, using the song "Through the Fire and Flames". The record has been traded back and forth between Chris Chike, who also won the 2008 Play N Trade National Guitar Hero III Tournament, and Daniel Johnson, the present holder of the record.[77][78][79][80] Both Chike and Johnson have completed the song without missing a note, documenting their performances on YouTube, but these are deemed unofficial.[81][82]

[edit] Technical issues

Although the Wii version of the game was advertised as supporting Dolby Pro Logic II, players reported that the game would output audio in neither Pro Logic II nor stereo, providing only mono sound. Activision had offered a free replacement remastered game disk that corrects this issue for North American and European releases.[83][84] Later, Activision further extended the replacement program to include a full refund of the game's purchase price as an alternative to obtaining a replacement disc.[85] A class-action lawsuit over the mono sound issue was settled out of court, and Activision agreed to ship free faceplates for the Les Paul guitar controller to those who requested a replacement disc.[86] Additionally, During the first few days of the game's release, players experienced difficulties uploading their scores to the official Guitar Hero website. Neversoft attributed the problem to "heavy amounts of traffic".[87]

[edit] References

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