Using a wireless guitar-shaped controller, you'll try to hit all the right notes in "Guitar Hero III," which adds rockin' new tunes and online play into the mix.
By contributor
updated 11/6/2007 6:22:36 PM ET 2007-11-06T23:22:36

Get ready to party like a rock star!

Red Octane's “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” lets you live out your rock ‘n’ roll fantasies right in the comfort of your home, whether or not you’ve ever played an instrument before.

Using a wireless guitar-shaped controller, you’ll strive to hit all the right notes on over 70 rock songs — and in doing so, make it to the top of the music biz.

But the road to rock stardom doesn’t come cheap. The Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 2 versions of the game bundled with the guitar controller will set you back $89.99, and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 bundles cost $99.99.

Since the franchise is new to the PS3 and Wii, you’ll have to buy the whole shebang. But if you already have the “Guitar Hero II” bundle for the PS2 or 360, you can use the guitar from that and just purchase the new game (for $49.99 and $59.99 respectively). You can also use a regular game controller, but the game will lose all of its charm if you do. The whole point of “Guitar Hero” is to feel like you’re rocking out, and you only get that feeling by holding an axe.

Plus, this game isn’t so much played as it is performed. You’ll fret chords (by pressing buttons) and strum your guitar (by flicking a lever) in time with the music and according to the notes that scroll across the screen. Certain notes have lines streaking from them, letting you know you can use the whammy bar to make them sound all “wavy.” Performing well builds your rock meter (a point-doubling power up that is engaged by tilting your guitar skyward) but missing notes will cause your guitar to go silent.

It’s a simple mechanic to pick up (though I do suggest starting on easy if you’ve never played before) and it really gives the sensation that you’re actually playing along with the song. Many times I caught myself rocking out like I was actually on a stage.

Of course, I wouldn’t be rocking out if the tunes weren’t good. “Guitar Hero III” has a solid soundtrack that features “Paint it, Black” by the Rolling Stones, “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys, “Reptillia” by the Strokes and many more. Over 70 percent of these songs are master recordings by the original artists, meaning they sound right when you play them.

But before you can jam, you have to pick which one of “Guitar Hero’s” five modes you want to play: Quick Play, Training, Career, Co-op Career, or Multiplayer. Quick Play lets you jump in and play a limited number of songs right away, while Training lets you practice songs (or even just certain parts) without being booed by the merciless crowd.

Career mode is the best place to start the game, and not because it tells the story of your band’s rise to the top. This mode groups songs together in various levels of difficulty, starting off easy and getting progressively harder as the game moves along. Make it through a tune without getting booed off the stage and it becomes unlocked for use in Quick Play or Training — plus you get cash that you can use to unlock goodies like different guitars, costumes and even more songs.

Also, Career mode will have you facing off in boss battles against guitar greats Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave fame) and Slash (of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver) on songs written exclusively for the game.

These guitar duels feature “Mario Kart”-ish power ups (like Double Notes which turns all single notes two button chords) that can be thrown with a flip of the guitar, causing Tom and Slash miss a beat or two. But be warned, they can throw power ups at you too.

Winning the boss battles makes Tom and Slash available for purchase and use as your in-game character. Do not underestimate how cool it is to play as Slash!

If you want to play “Guitar Hero III” with a pal, you can choose either Co-op Career mode (where you play through the game together as a guitarist and a bassist, but minus the boss battles) or against each other in multiplayer. The big news here is that you can now go head to head against others online — no more waiting for your friends to come over so you can school them in person.

Fans of the franchise are undoubtedly already on their way to the store to pick up “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.” Newcomers may be a little intimidated by the hefty price tag (hey, a hundred dollars isn’t chump change) but if you do splurge for it, you’ll be rewarded with a fun game that you can play over and over again. Plus, you’ll have the rocking-est parties in town, guaranteed.

And who doesn’t like to party like a rock star?

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