Lucky us got a chance to jam to a few tracks on demo at Activision’s huge stand, built around upcoming sure-fire bestseller Guitar Hero 3. To ensure maximum participation opportunities from the public only the two-player mode was on show, but that’s just the more the merrier to us. The new guitar was completely absent, but at least that proves sufficiently that you can use the GH2 guitars pictured here for GH3 as well.
There were about 10 tracks available, of which the only remotely famous one was Pearl Jam’s Even Flow from their 1991 hit CD Ten. We also played several tracks from for example Tenacious D and Pat Benatar we weren’t familiar with, to compare how intuitive the game picks up based on whether you do or don’t know a song. The three multiplayer modes available are Duel, letting the players take turns on parts of the song on their own difficulty, Duel Pro in which you play the same song at the same difficulty simultanously, and Battle, which is a whole different ballgame. No support was in yet for playing bass, lead or rhythm sections as a team as in Guitar Hero 2, but we’re sure that’s entirely due to the game’s current beta phase.
The Duel mode was kind of disappointing, since it sees you playing for 10 to 15 seconds before losing control to the other player, leaving you to pick your nose for a similar duration. Far more fun is the Duel Pro, where you go head to head trying to score the longest streaks and get a better hit percentage in than your opponent. But truly promising was the Battle Mode. Instead of building up Star Power, playing star sequences correctly nets you weapons here, which are then launched upon your opponent by tilting the guitar. An example of a frequently returning weapon is the double-note, which suddenly sees your opponent having to play all notes on one string more than regularly. Imagine launching this on an unsuspecting opponent just as he starts soloing, and hear him cringe as he suddenly has to solo on 2 strings.
The game itself appeared to be easier than Guitar Hero 2, as we managed to finish songs we’d never even heard of before on Hard mode with about 90% notes hit on first attempt. The songs on display might of course still be subject to change, but we suspect the difficulty has indeed been toned down a bit on purpose after mild public criticisms that many people got stuck already on Medium or the earlier Hard songs in GH2. All in all the game is mainly milking a successful concept further, and not much has changed in the interface apart from now showing a streak counter all the time and shuffling some things around.