Written by  :  D Michael (232)
Written on  :  Jan 05, 2008
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Great fun, provided you have the hardware...

The Good

Let me say that I compile this brief review from the perspective of having never played any other game of this type. I've never played any other GH installment, Rockband, or even DDR. For me, Guitar Hero 3 is my first experience with this type of game.

I was very hesitant to purchase this game for the PC mainly on the grounds that there are several reviews which claim that the PC version is flawed in that there is a ridiculous amount of stutter, lag, and the like making it less enjoyable than its console counterparts. Well, I did my homework and went on YouTube and found quite a few recordings of the game in action. Truth be told, there were a LOT of videos showing the lag and choppiness of the game. However, I did notice that most of these examples were played out on machines that were borderline to system requirements and such (which are themselves quite steep).

I endeavored to put off playing, until I played the xbox 360 version at a department store and decided that I had to have it. Well, being that I’ve committed to wait for a Wii (none are available right now), the only way I could play TODAY would be to buy the PC version. What the heck I took a chance.

I was delighted to see that none of the criticisms about lagginess or unplayability were present when I took my first go at the game. My machine however, is a bit above the specifications for those that drew issue with the game. Running on an Athlon 64 x2 5200+ with 2GB RAM, Windows XP sp2, and 256MB 8600GT x2 (in SLI) mode, I have zero technical issues.

The game is just plain fun, and like other guitar hero installments there are a wide variety of popular songs that are fun to jam out to. I quickly found that being completely new, any difficulty setting above “easy” was a waste of time on me. Like a real guitar hero, I needed to practice and build my skills before moving on to bigger and faster riffs. For the really serious player, you can also practice sections of songs at reduced speed, so that you can learn the proper keys and chords without having them thrown at you at light speed.

Playing the guitar actually produces an effect. If you’re hitting the notes, you can hear the guitar prominently represented in the song. Miss notes, and it sounds like crap. This gives one the feel of really playing a guitar.

The career mode is of course the meat and potatoes of the experience. You start off by picking a character, playing a few gigs, and working your way up the ladder of fame. At one point, I had Tom Morello of “Rage Against the Machine” challenge me to a guitar battle. The way to win was to get power-ups by hitting the right notes at the proper time and then tilting the neck of the guitar upwards (the controller detects being tilted) which makes you hit Tom and messes up his playing. Beat him down enough, and you can be a guitar loser and still win. Seems silly, but adds to the variety and I like it. Once he’s defeated, you can play “Bulls On Parade” with him. Nice.

Multiplayer is present, but you aren’t missing a whole lot if you pass on it. Really this is the kind of game that one can really get into all alone, or can appreciate an audience of people watching you jam out. Multiplayer just mainly allows for you to compete against another player’s skills, but so much of the game is based on competing against oneself and one’s own abilities that it seems silly to involve other people.

The PC version was a full $20 cheaper than the other versions where I live!

The Bad

Some of the flaws are inexcusable here. For example, nothing that you buy for your characters really does anything. All of the upgrades in the world won’t make you a better player, or allow you to really do anything that you can’t at the start of your career. What’s the point of allotting me cash if nothing I buy with it makes any difference?

Some of the songs are too long and just plain annoying. I understand that there are a variety of tracks in an effort to appease just about every kind of guitar fan, but it amazes me how some of these ever made it into the game. For example, why do we have “Story of My Life” from Social Distortion in there, where I can hit the same key over and over for what, 6 or 7 minutes? Not fun. Some songs just don’t translate well to Guitar Hero as they just aren’t fun to play. I was disappointed to see that some songs I really liked are absolutely no fun at all to play, while others that I don’t really care for work out much better.

I got to thinking, how does the guitar controller detect when it’s tilted? I can only think of one answer; a mercury switch. While it’s probably pretty safe under normal circumstances, a mercury switch could pose a problem should the kiddos decide to take apart their guitar, or worse even, a drunk friend smashes the toy guitar against the ground after an encore performance, potentially scattering highly toxic material over your entire house.

I must comment on the technical issues of this game even though I have experienced none, simply because there is an overwhelming crowd of highly dissatisfied gamers that experience trouble with the game running smoothly. Make sure that if you want to enjoy smooth play here that you have a high end machine. A dual core processor is required at minimum. You’ll want to be well above recommended specs and probably running SLI to avoid problems. For this reason, if you have an alternative (such as an xbox 360 or Wii), go with that and avoid the PC version.

The Bottom Line

Guitar Hero 3 is so much fun, I feel that I wasted time writing a review when I could have been playing, “Even Flow” by Pearl Jam. Go for the game on other platforms if you can, but if you do have a high end PC and no alternative, this version will work out for you.