When the first Guitar Hero received critical and social acclaim, Activision naturally green-lighted a sequel and promised a few updates to the winning formula. Guitar Hero 2 once again struck commercial gold, but the most hardcore fans found several elements less than stellar, one of the most glaring being flimsy hardware. With Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock, Red Octane hopes to fix that issue, and after spending several hours of hands-on time with the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii peripheral guitars, we can assure you that the new hardware delivers on that goal in a big way.
The term “hands-on” preview is overused, but in the case of Guitar Hero 3, it actually means something. This franchise is nothing without its guitar-like input device, so the literal “hands-on” experience with this game is as much a part of Guitar Hero as the software itself. For Guitar Hero 3, Red Octane custom-engineered a wireless guitar for each console, the first time a third-party wireless peripheral has been designed native to each platform. As impressive as that achievement might be, though, even more so is the fact that, well, this isn’t your mama’s wireless peripheral.
The Guitar Hero 3 Les Paul guitars we had a chance to handle are some of the sturdiest peripherals we’ve ever held, regardless of the platform (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii). Not only is the neck sturdy enough to avoid all chances of twisting it, but the fret bar is sexier, the buttons have lost their sponginess, and the strum bar has gotten some improved connections for better and more accurate response times. In addition, a rim now encircles the start button to avoid accidental pauses, answering the frustrated calls of many would-be rockers.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the new hardware, though, is that the neck detaches for easy transportation — and, you guessed it, for easy customization. Although Red Octane is remaining mum on future neck designs, new faceplates for each guitar will be available at launch, from hardwood to dark blue to a chrome face that just looks tough. Future neck designs may also be in the works, but again, Red Octane is remaining mum on that point, saying simply that the company is focused right now on delivering hardware that’s durable and appropriate for each system.
For instance, while the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 guitars each use the respective system’s wireless signals, Wii owners can flat-out insert their Wiimote directly into the hardware in a slot directly above the strum bar. This of course means the guitar supports the Wiimote’s accelerometer, but that’s not necessarily special; Red Octane has used accelerometer technology in each guitar in hopes of “future proofing” the peripherals for future software. What is special about the incorporate of the Wiimote is that the guitars use the built-in rumble feature to let players know when they’re missing notes or really rocking, and the Wiimote’s speaker even emanates a sound when players miss a note.
With each guitar having wireless functionality, durable construction and a certain level of future proofing built in, the only question that remains is whether true rhythm game fans will be able to use the Guitar Hero 3 peripheral with EA’s Rock Band. Unfortunately, Red Octane truly doesn’t know, nor does EA, as neither engineering team has been granted pre-release software on which to test the cross-game functionality of either title’s respective instruments.
Regardless, Red Octane has stepped up with its hardware for Guitar Hero 3 and should deliver in every conceivable way with gamers’ call for a more-durable peripheral. Even if gamers can’t use the Guitar Hero 3 controller with EA’s Rock Band, what they get out of the box with Guitar Hero 3 is worth the hardware investment alone. You know, if rockin’ is really your thing. And if you’re reading this article, it probably is.
— Jonas Allen