This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee gaily shreds Guitar Hero III.
Guitar Hero and I have a history. Sometimes it's been a good and loyal friend; sometimes it's bent me over the furniture and whaled on my ass with a steak tenderizer. But I take all of that with good grace, because we both know that the promise of simulated rock-stardom would always bewitch the pasty, nebbish fantasists that are gaming's core demographic.
It all began when I had some colleagues were around a friend's house for completely heterosexual reasons and we broke out Guitar Hero I on Easy mode in celebration of our manliness and our complete lack of desire to fondle scrotums. And once we'd reached the point where the game wasn't yelling at us all the time for sucking so much--that is, sucking at the game, not sucking each other's dicks or anything--it was a lot of fun. Its triumph was in following the philosophy that if you're going to make a game designed to humiliate the player, the least you can do is have some decent music in it. So while we'd all stand up there holding undersized, squeaky Fisher-Price plastic guitars as you'd hold a small, yappy dog, we could at least close our eyes and pretend we were on stage with Joan Jett (holding a small, yappy dog).
Guitar Hero became one of those staples of our weekly manly get-togethers along with lifting weights and talking about chicks. And when the time came for us to move up to Medium difficulty, it seemed like an impossible task; I'd gotten so used to only using the first three buttons, my pinky finger was an atrophied pork scratching stuck on the end of my hand with Pritt Stick. Once again, the house rang with the plunks and wails of missed notes, but it never stopped being fun, even when I was having to duct-tape bags of frozen peas to my arms to stop them seizing up.
And when Guitar Hero II came along, well, obviously it was time to gird our loins, grow enormous beards and move up to Hard difficulty. Again, it seemed like madness; actually having to move your hands up and down the neck to hit the fifth button felt like a good way to get wanker's cramp. But I kept playing and eventually some kind of breakthrough was reached, right around the time I was jerking off some tattooed love boys, and everyone had a good time.
Don't believe the lie of Guitar Hero III, it's actually the fourth title in the series, the third being Rock the 80s, which I haven't played, but the day I fork out 70 bucks for an expansion pack is the day I swallow razor wire, pull the end out of my arse, and floss myself to death. Guitar Hero III is the hasty cash-in the publishers threw together after they left the cage door open and the old Guitar Hero developers escaped into the wild. Unnecessary changes in lettering and graphics give an unscrutable feeling of unease, as if a stranger has come into your house, thinly disguised as your best friend, and you're wondering if he intends to leave soon or murder you and cannibalise your body.
But the point I'm trying laboriously to get to is that Guitar Hero III made Guitar Hero stop being fun. Oh, it was fun for a while. Rattling off the ridiculously long hammer-on sequences in Cult of Personality like the fret board was the crotch of a loved one and I had only a vague idea of where her clitoris was, was challenging enough to make me feel awesome for pulling it off, but then I got to the last venue and the last group of songs on Hard mode it came to a screeching halt because they are fucking impossible. No, stop, do not reach for your email client; I do not want to hear about how you five-starred Blood Rain on Expert, because if you did, you are a fucking freak, a freak with either three arms or a trained pet spider working the buttons for you.
But aside from erecting a massive brick wall at a point around three songs before the end, Guitar Hero III brings a couple of other new things to the table. Co-Op Career mode is a welcome addition, despite there being no faster way to fall out with someone. Battle Mode, though, feels a wee bit broken. The first time we played, the very first power-up either of us acquired crippled the other player and ended the match within five seconds in a clear case of what is known as "Mario Kart Syndrome." As for the whole "Legends of Rock" thing, perhaps "Legend of Rock," singular, would have been less misleading because the only one is Slash from Guns N' Roses. Well, there's some guy from Rage Against the Machine, too, but, wishing no offense to the man, if he's a legend of rock then a grilled cheese sandwich is haute cuisine.
Everything Guitar Hero III brings to the series is balanced by what it left out. For one, Co-Op Career mode is nice, but plain old Co-Op Quick Play mode is out on its ear for no adequate reason. For two, the game has more product placement than the last Terminator movie and about as much dignity. For three, what happened to Clive Winston? He was my favorite character. For four, what the fuck happened to Clive Winston, you pricks?! In his place we've got some multicoloured, giggly J-pop creature, and you can't play classic rock with that...thing. It's like cock-slapping the Mona Lisa.
Anyway, a review of Guitar Hero is always going to be abrupt because they're little more than jazzed-up colour-matching casual games. It's still a good thing to have around at a party when everyone's drunk and gotten bored of Pictionary. The song list's got some pretty good stuff, some pretty mediocre stuff as well, but hasn't that always been the case?
On the whole, though, it's just not as good as tonguing another man's balls. I mean, as it used to be. (beat) I'm not gay.
- Riffs in every sense of the word: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
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- Don't tell me I just suck at Guitar Hero I four-starred Freebird on Hard in the last game