Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Prerelease Hands-On

Neversoft's first stab at the megapopular rock-rhythm franchise looks like a winner after our playtime with a nearly finished version.

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Rock Band may be wowing the eager music-gaming public with its fancy array of instrument controllers and promise of full downloadable albums, but don't count out Guitar Hero just yet. The venerable rhythm-action rocker's third installment, Legends of Rock, is due out at the end of the month. We had a chance recently to go hands-on with nearly finished builds of the game on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. We also got a chance to play all these versions with the nice new Les Paul guitar controllers for each platform, which you can read a detailed report on from GameSpot Hardware. All around, despite the change in developer (from Harmonix to Neversoft) and the looming competition from Rock Band, we're more excited than ever to get our hands on the final version of the game after getting to play it for an afternoon.

This is the best list of songs the Guitar Hero franchise has seen yet.

A lot of that excitement simply comes down to Guitar Hero III's towering set list, which is packed full of some of rock's biggest classics. The lineup of bands in this game is staggering: the Rolling Stones, Smashing Pumpkins, the Beastie Boys, Weezer, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Foghat, Cream, the Who, Sonic Youth, Aerosmith, Guns 'n Roses, Metallica...do we need to go on? This is arguably the best list of music we've ever seen in a rhythm game. Because these sorts of games live and die by their music, that's certainly good news for Legends of Rock's potential popularity. No doubt it's that popularity and the cultural cachet the Guitar Hero name has garnered during the past two years that's allowed RedOctane to secure the mammoth content it has to offer.

If you were worried about Guitar Hero losing its unique feel with a different developer at the reins, stop worrying. The game is now polished up and just about ready to ship. But we really couldn't find any discernible difference in the core gameplay or feel between Legends of Rock and its Harmonix-made predecessors. Sure, some of the new heads-up display elements will take some getting used to--they look markedly different from the star power and combo meters of the previous games. But this is definitely still Guitar Hero, from the timing of the gameplay and the grungy menu artwork to the loading-screen band humor.

One of the big new additions to Legends of Rock is the two-player battle mode, so we spent some time investigating it. Battle mode is the most directly competitive multiplayer yet in a Guitar Hero game and felt a bit to us like Mario Kart because it focuses on wacky power-ups that you'll collect as you play by completing sequences of notes in the same way you gain star power. Some of the power-ups we used (or had used against us) included a broken string, which forces you to hammer on a particular button repeatedly before you can actually start playing notes again; a whammy block, where you have to wiggle the whammy bar quickly to resume playing; amp overload, which makes all the notes on your board start flashing randomly; lefty flip, which reverses the buttons on your board (and is darn near impossible to compensate for); and difficulty up, which temporarily raises your difficulty level by one. The game's hectic boss battles against such guitar greats as Slash and Tom Morello also play out with this battle mode setup.

Legends of Rock is the first Guitar Hero to support online play, which was available at Activision's press event. Unfortunately, the demo stations were only networked with other machines in the same room, so we couldn't gauge what the lag might be like in a real-world Internet scenario. The multiplayer setup on the Xbox 360 and PS3 look similar to the kind of matchmaking you see in a lot of shooters. You can search for quick matches just to get playing fast, or you can set up a custom search that will filter for game modes and so on. Of course, leaderboards will also be a central part of the online experience. The Wii multiplayer looked similar to the other consoles, although you'll have to rely on friend codes in that version.

Neversoft has very ably taken up the reins from previous developer Harmonix.

The PS3 and 360 games were just about indistinguishable from a graphical perspective. Both of them also look suitably next generation. The Wii game didn't look half bad, either, though it will obviously only run in 480p and the level of detail was much reduced from the other two games. Still, anyone who played a lot of Guitar Hero on the PlayStation 2 should be fine with the look of the Wii version. Neversoft has gone pretty crazy with the new and unlockable characters. Past games had dudes like the "grim ripper" tearing it up onstage, and during our demo of the new game, we saw a ludicrously candy-colored Japanese schoolgirl with purple hair named Midori, as well as a tin-can robot axe man who was tearing it up with a guitar that looked like a giant raygun.

It's nice to see that RedOctane hasn't rested on its laurels and simply ridden the popularity of Guitar Hero all the way to the bank. Au contraire, Legends of Rock is looking like a proper sequel in every sense. Make sure to check out the GameSpot Hardware report on the new guitar controllers, as well as GameSpot News' interview with RedOctane cofounder Charles Huang, for even more information on the present and future of Guitar Hero.

Discussion

79 comments
Dan2002sk8er
Dan2002sk8er

the controllers lags and is almost unusable at higher difficulty it doesn't respond to the strum bar and the green and red buttons can't be pushed at the same time, this is a huge flaw in the game making it so frustrating, especially for a game I've anticipated so much. for the PS3 version and the Wii version the Whammy bar doesn't work.

Dan2002sk8er
Dan2002sk8er

the controllers lags and is almost unusable at higher difficulty it doesn't respond to the strum bar and the green and red buttons can't be pushed at the same time, this is a huge flaw in the game making it so frustrating, especially for a game I've anticipated so much. for the PS3 version and the Wii version the Whammy bar doesn't work.

funnycowpie
funnycowpie

cant wait for gh3; its gonna be so much better than gh2

Raven4d8
Raven4d8

i still think rock band is going to be so much better...

Azorean269
Azorean269

I just love it when people who do not know what they are talking about speak like they do. It just shows what freedom of speech does when any old idiot can go and speak out of their rear. In case you are wondering this comment is aimed at you Thewbacca. I know forums are to express your opinions but you do not deserve one. You complain about the music you complain about everything else maybe you should grow up a little.

perry22
perry22

i really think 3 is going to be so much better than 2 bc of the amount of songs and online play. cant wait.

Lunchbucket16
Lunchbucket16

only 2 more weeks! its been such a long wait for me...

kahoony
kahoony

I think that the new songs will make the game alot more to rock fans liking, whereas in number 1 and 2, there were alot of pop songs, also, does anyone know if it will be on PS2? because i allready have 2 controllers for the original platform.

Deathballz
Deathballz

Green, Yellow, Red, Orange, Blue, Yellow , red, oh its just so awsome!

shadowfox96792
shadowfox96792

i wouldn't be surprised that GH3 will do great. GH3 IS HERE AND WILL ROCK YOU LIKE A HURRICANE!!!!

Galtran_X
Galtran_X

Guitar Hero is amazing... Nothing more to say.

thegame1980
thegame1980

Thewbacca "This game comes no-where near the quality of any previous titles in any way, shape or form. RedOctane have most definitely just decided to milk the franchise for what its worth with a minimum of effort." Yea because ya know you played the game already and know exactly what it's like. FAIL!

welshykyle
welshykyle

I'm just glad there's only 1 song from Muse on there....I'm not a fan of them

lancezmfa
lancezmfa

All I have to say Thembacca is "Blow it out your ass!"

Juffowup
Juffowup

Thewbacca, you must have an extra chromosome. You complain that the songs are either popular, which you say is bad, or unpopular, which you also say is bad. Maybe you should put some thought into the next useless mental diarrhea you decide to plaster all over the internet. You wouldn't recognize good music in a line of suspects even if it raped you and strangled your mother while wearing a picture ID nametag and shouting it's own name the entire time.

Dilley122
Dilley122

Thewbacca, u r a retard You have not played this game so you cannot comment on how the game will play, also with ur second comment on the set-list, no one will buy the game if no one knows or has not heard of any of the songs, they put songs that people can connect with in the game, its obvious you will never be the CEO of any major company, hell i dont thiink you have been through high school

Brmarlin
Brmarlin

Thewbacca, not all the bands are "rock whores". You'd be hard-pressed to make a valid claim that the Dead Kennedys Fresh Fruit-era line up were rock whores. Oh, and thank you for telling us how the game plays before its release.

Thewbacca
Thewbacca

" This is the best list of songs the Guitar Hero franchise has seen yet." **** that. This is, without a single doubt, the worst setlist, including 80's. It is simply a collection of rock whores (overexposed songs) and with a few incredibly regionally specific and laughably unknown bands to attract buyers from those countries.

Thewbacca
Thewbacca

" Neversoft has very ably taken up the reins from previous developer Harmonix."??!! If they've done this ably, I'm a martian Bill Gates. This game comes no-where near the quality of any previous titles in any way, shape or form. RedOctane have most definitely just decided to milk the franchise for what its worth with a minimum of effort.

doominatorx6
doominatorx6

Oh crap the wii version has friend codes... guess ill get it for my 360 instead

Crazybus07
Crazybus07

ONE111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

liam72
liam72

Gh3 has better tracklist than Rock Band but i prefer the Rock band concept. I'll buy rock band. Anyway i got gh1 and 2 so 3 would be too much guitar lol. But theres a little - in gh3: boss are in battle mode. It's fun, but i guess it's not the perfect mode if you wanna hear the song... lol

flordeceres
flordeceres

It seems nice. The list of bands.. Aerosmith, Guns N' Roses, Metallica, The Rolling Stones, The Cure.. I was never intrested in this game, but I'll probably buy the Wii version of this game. I hope I'll get pleasantly surprised.

marioman50
marioman50

GET UP, COME ON GET DOWN WITH THE SICKNESS!!

Sam_Lowery
Sam_Lowery

Less than a month to go. I wasn't going to get the wireless guitar since I don't jump around all silly crazy. But I dunno I might have to break down and get it.

Grim062000
Grim062000

Disturbed and Slipknot....thats all I have to say!

Knivez0r
Knivez0r

Cult of personaliteehhh.

erp47
erp47

I'm looking forward to Suck My Kiss, Even Flow, and Cliffs of Dover

ChickenAndStars
ChickenAndStars

LOOKS WAY AWESOME, I GOT A's AND B's SO MY MOM IS GONNA GET IT FOR ME FOR PS3 DAY OF RELEASE.

waveddiamond
waveddiamond

yea there is one minor flaw in this game the fact that in cooperative or battle if you both havent beaten the game on the same difficulty you cant play every song together, for example if I play in expert and you play on medium then we better beat the game together on medium to get all the song all over again, but apart from that ROCK ON!!!

KayVaytch
KayVaytch

Yes it's still in FreeBallz, I've heard it in a video interview last week !

ultimateshadowx
ultimateshadowx

To FreeBallz: I believe you are thinking of Rock Band.

FreeBallz
FreeBallz

is the cooperative career mode still existent?

darth-revan
darth-revan

Even though I can play a lot of these songs with a real guitar, Im still looking forward to this game because noone else I know plays guitar.

greystone227
greystone227

This game is gonna be awesome. Definitely buying this and Rock Band when it comes out.

dirty55409
dirty55409

Does GHIII support the old GHII X-plorer guitar?? I hope so cuz I'm not buying another guitar if I don't have to.

edflam311
edflam311

I'm impressed with how Neversoft handled the game

Land-0-Funk
Land-0-Funk

I hope I can get an extra guitar controller pretty soon after the PS3 bundle drops..can't beat that GH head-to-head matchups

seangames
seangames

At first, it looked the notes were closer together (going towards you), but I compared a GH2 screenshot with a GH3 screenshot, and it turns out that it just looks like that because the you can see the notes appearing from farther away now.

ibanezdropd
ibanezdropd

whre does it say costumizable songs for the wii?

Lostboy1224
Lostboy1224

If they would have just released this game the same day Halo 3 came out I would have skipped Halo 3 and spent the money on GH3. It would have been more fun anyways. The end of the month can't come soon enough.