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.

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.

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Discussion

48 comments
black_heat
black_heat

all i want is black sabbath/ozzy and rush lots and lots of rush well i guess lefty would be cool too but since i can play right its ok or everyone just do the hendrix thing

zallo
zallo

for all of you who are wondering the wii guitar is wireless and the remote thats in it acts as a speaker

Gally66
Gally66

im sure it is south paws i think i heard that theres an option for leftys that is just flip it over and play i dont think there should be a major problem

Dan_93
Dan_93

Yeah, I'm wondering the same thing, The_Owner.

The_Owner
The_Owner

Just wondering...is this game friendly to lefties? So far I've only seen 2 Wii games that take us into consideration.

u_poop
u_poop

Hopfully they will to better songs than Gutar hero 2 that would be awsome if they had foo fighters the pretender

nero777
nero777

Beastie Boys!!!!!!!!

linkrul3s
linkrul3s

I can't wait to play this game!!!

GTStrauby
GTStrauby

this game is going to rock!!!!!

chocovanchoco
chocovanchoco

proper boooooooooooooooooooooosssssssssssssssss

Anibal103191
Anibal103191

exactically!...thnx for agreeing with me!...IRON MAIDEN is one of my favorite bands!...and thats true about The Trooper, that song is kool but its burnt tho...Number of the Beast is like one of the main reasons i decided to get this game!...im practically dying just to play that song!...lol

Majesty12345
Majesty12345

Dude.....Number of the Beast???? that is going to be sick!!!! i love Iron Maiden...this is going to be the best guitar hero for me just because of that song...The Trooper has nothing on Number...

moh2in
moh2in

Here's to metallica, and led zepellin Let's hope that their songs become available as downloadable content or appear in the game- The greatest rock bands in history

tehcoolness
tehcoolness

Here's hoping that AC/DC, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, and Joe Satriani appear as Downloadable content. And Eddie Knox is a Downloadable character.

taddia
taddia

ok ^^ GREAT GAME .... But... 2 AA batteries for guitar... + 2 AA batteries for wiimote? O_O wtf...

Anibal103191
Anibal103191

yea can't wait! I got it reserved too! The Number of the Beast is gonna be feaking kool!!! And one by metallica!

pooladden
pooladden

I can't wait until this game releases. I'm so happy it finally releases for the XBOX 360

CampusVoice
CampusVoice

I really think this game has the best soundtrack yet. I defy any Guitar Hero fan to listen to the [url=http://www.guitarherosoundtracks.com]guitar hero 3 song list[/url] and not buy this game. I think it's even better than a pretty good [url=http://www.rockbandsoundtracks.com]Rock Band song list[/url]. I have to agree with GameSpot: "This is arguably the best list of music we've ever seen in a rhythm game."

teamking
teamking

I can't wait until this game releases. I'm so happy it finally releases for the wii! :D

curua02
curua02

I've already pre-ordered. I wish they could tell us more about internet play, though; any substantial amount of lag will absolutely *kill* online multiplayer in this game.

samasora
samasora

THIS IS THE HOTTEST GAME EVER!!! I ALREADY RESERVEDD IT. CANT WAIT FOR T.

Oldwolf62
Oldwolf62

This is looking really good, I can't wait to play.... mmm I better start those finger exercises :D

fire_tidus
fire_tidus

yay!! gh3!! slash!! tom morello!!! niceee, must buuuuy this game!!! 8)

link631
link631

lol ok i need that game

smokinwiid
smokinwiid

Finally. Wii is such a great and active platform. Even though a version of this game has already been played by a lot of people, it is nice to see wii opening up to a required title, like Guitar Hero. Wii need good games...

Buffyverse_Fan
Buffyverse_Fan

RE:RaiKageRyu The Wii version DOES have online, just read the preview up top

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

RE:CheeseEater The Wii version doesn't even have online play.

Willy105
Willy105

A lot of people want this it seems.

madsnakehhh
madsnakehhh

WOW... it seems pretty awesome, the wii motion is going to be a huge addition to the series, i hope they got some music less commercial for guys like me who is an underground metal fan, don't get me wrong, Metallica and Guns are fine, but some of us want a little more dark, like Helloween or Rhapsody, anyway, this is going right to my wish list.

cluelesspunk
cluelesspunk

This looks like it'll have the best online of any Wii game so far.

-CheeseEater-
-CheeseEater-

Yeah but for the Nintendo Wii, you can do random and match my rank match's correct? Just like every other Wii and DS game...? It's not ALL FC's...:| :?

black_steel_4u
black_steel_4u

sweet get ready to get owned wii gamers buying this game im going to rip u apart

Zaranor
Zaranor

Love the wii version, not xbox 360 or ps3 graphics, but better graphics than the ps2 version. And the controller for the wii Rocks !.

bobmcdoog
bobmcdoog

Friend Codes???!!!!!! ARRRGGGHHHH!!!!

heroofwinds1
heroofwinds1

i have never played or owned a guitar hero game but i think that i will get this game for wii because it will be great.

ultimaxer
ultimaxer

I want this game..... but not the dragonforce

fire_tidus
fire_tidus

A must buy game!!!!!!! This game is going to be awesome, I love all the 3 first games, but know, wtf? Metallica!!!! DragonForce!!! daaa- aaaaaamn, SLASH!!!!! TOM MORELLO!!!!!!!!! DAAAAAAAAAAMMMMNN 8)

wiifan001
wiifan001

This will be my first Guitar Hero game to own.

bgres077
bgres077

Sounds pretty sweet, hopefully they don't raise the price $10 from the last version.. which they will.

ImError88
ImError88

Can't wait to play Knights of Cydonia!