Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Xbox 360
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Neversoft
Release Date: Out Now
Now I know what you're all thinking. Why is Deaf Gamers reviewing Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock? Of course it may seem a little strange, after all part of the games appeal is doubtlessly going to be the music. The thing is however, that we've been given a fabulous opportunity to review the game and with it being, by all accounts, one of the more successful game series of recent times it would be silly to pass up such an opportunity. Deaf Gamers has always been about showing how accessible games are for deaf gamers. Deaf people don't live in isolation. They have hearing relatives and friends and I daresay that there have been occasions when some deaf people out there have or will have the opportunity to have a go at either Guitar Hero III or one of the previous games in the series. After all it's a social game that's infinitely more enjoyable when you're playing against an opponent. Anyway that's enough babble! Let's take a rather unique look at Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
The modes on offer in Guitar Hero III are Career, Co-op Career, Quick Play, Multiplayer, Training and Xbox Live. If this is your first Guitar Hero experience you'll want to begin with the tutorial. The bulk of the dialogue in the tutorial isn't subtitled. However, the basic instructions are shown in text and for this reason alone it's worth playing through the various tutorials on offer. Also in the Tutorial mode there is a practice mode that allows you to pick a song, pick a difficulty level for the song (there are four difficulty levels ranging from Easy to Expert), pick a speed for the song (there are four speeds ranging from Slowest to Full Speed) and finally you get to decide whether to practice the whole song or just a portion of it. Essentially then the game gives you the opportunity to master any song in a way that's comfortable for you.
Career is the heart of the game for those who will be playing solo. You'll choose one of the crazy avatars to represent yourself and you'll also have to name your band. You can play the Career mode on one of four difficulty levels so even if you're a complete beginner you can still play through a career without too much difficulty. The Career mode is split into eight tiers with each providing a selection of songs and some providing some boss battles. For successfully completing a song you'll earn money and with this money you can buy additional outfits, guitars, guitar finishes and so forth. There are cutscenes in the Career mode and these aren't subtitled. It's no major problem however as they don't provide any useful information. The Career mode can also be played with a friend by selecting the Co-op Career mode but you're going to need a second guitar for this of course. Quick Play allows you to play through one of the songs you've unlocked. Multiplayer allows you to compete offline against a friend and there's a bit of twist here as playing certain notes will earn you certain weapons that can be used against your opponent. Finally there's the Xbox Live mode which allows you to take part in ranked and unranked battles with fellow gamers from around the world.
As you all know, Guitar Hero III is essentially a rhythm game. You have to play the colour-coded notes at the right time. It's not just a case of pressing the correct fret button at the right time, you also have to strum (by moving the strum bar either up or down). You'll play chords by simultaneously playing two or more notes at the same time. There are also advanced techniques to use such as the Hammer On and Pull Off techniques. The Hammer On technique is where you play the one note and then quickly play notes that are lower down the neck of the guitar (e.g. you could play the green note then play the red and yellow) without having to strum again. The Pull Off technique is the same principle but in reverse (e.g. you could play the yellow then red and green notes). Of course there is also the Whammy Bar which can be held down when playing notes that have to be held. This distorts the note and in some cases can increase the star power you earn. Needless to say that deaf gamers are not going to be aware of the difference in sound but the line that extends from a note which has to be held will ripple when the Whammy Bar is being used. The fingerboard will visibly shake when you've not played a note correctly.
The Strum Bar
The Fret Buttons
In the previous paragraph we mentioned something called star power. During a song certain notes will have a star shape rather than a circular one. Playing these notes will help to fill your star bar. Once a star bar is filled you can tilt the neck of the guitar upwards to unleash the star power which gives you higher score multipliers (points are earned for playing the notes correctly). During the course of a song the game will keep track of the consecutive notes you play correctly. You are notified in text when you have managed to perform a streak. You're notified for achieving 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 ... note streaks. Stringing streaks together will earn you score multipliers too so the more you streaks you achieve, the greater your score for a song will be. During the game a Rock Meter will give you an idea of how you are playing. The meter has a red, yellow and green zone. If the needle is in the green zone you are doing well, the yellow zone means you are doing OK and the red zone means you are doing poorly. If the needle should plummet all the way to the far left in the red zone the song will stop and you will have failed.
Of course the bottom line as far as this review is concerned is how good an experience is Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock for deaf gamers. The fact that the game has over 70 tracks is not important to deaf gamers. In fact all this means is that there are over 70 different challenges to tackle (and much more if you factor in the four difficulty levels). Without sound the game is still, surprisingly enjoyable. As a rhythm game Guitar Hero III can prove to be devilishly difficult and it will really test your dexterity on the harder difficulty levels. Not being aware of the music (we should add that the songs are not subtitled) doesn't necessarily harm the experience. Of course that's not to say that deaf gamers will get as much out of the game as hearing gamers will (indeed we haven't given the game a DGC rating) but there's certainly no real obstacles to stop deaf gamers experiencing what's been one of the better offline console multiplayer experiences over the last few years.