Tag Archives: Music

#64: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock

Format: Xbox 360 Genre: Rhythm Action Released: 2007 Developer: Neversoft

I had a very embarrassing moment a few months ago. My girlfriend came home unexpectedly and caught me stood on top of the sofa, throwing rock poses and windmilling my ‘rock arm’ like there was no tomorrow as I powered through ‘Paranoid’ by Black Sabbath. Perhaps this would have been acceptable if I was playing a real guitar, but it’s definitely not cool if you’re playing a tiny plastic guitar with big multicoloured buttons. And if you’re wearing slippers.

Guitar Hero 3 box art Xbox 360

But hey, where’s the harm in indulging your rock fantasies every once in a while? Sure, a tiny part of your brain is telling you that you’re not really playing a face-melting solo to an audience of thousands, but a much larger, fun-loving part of your brain is screaming “OH MY GOD THIS IS AWESOME, YOU ROCK!!!” The same part of your brain might also prompt you stick out your tongue and waggle it like Gene Simmons or attempt to stage dive from the sofa.

All good clean fun I reckon – as long as no-one else is watching that is.

No prizes for guessing who this character is based on.

I’ve always preferred the Guitar Hero games to the Rock Band ones, probably because Rock Band takes itself a little too seriously in my opinion. As far as I’m concerned, the more ridiculous and over the top the Guitar Hero games get, the more I like them. Do I want to play as the Grim Reaper? Hell yeah! Do I want stage sets featuring fire-breathing dragons? You betcha! Do I want to go head to head with the devil in a guitar-solo battle for my very soul? Bring it on, Grandma!

Ahem, sorry, I seem to have come over a bit ‘gung-ho’ there all of a sudden… must be thinking about all this rock that’s doing it. I need a lie down and a cup of Earl Grey…

Judy 'Nine Inch' Nails.

[Sound of cup being replaced in saucer] OK I’m back. Now what was I saying? [Riffles through the index cards of memory while tapping a finger to his temple.] Lars Umlaut! That’s it! That’s what I wanted to talk about!

I’ll explain. There are a number of reasons why Guitar Hero III is considered the best in the series by many. One is the fantastic selection of tunes – one of the strongest line-ups across all five Guitar Hero games. Another is the excellent career mode, which gives you a real feeling of progression (something that was distinctly lacking in Guitar Hero: World Tour). But the thing that stands out for me is that Lars Umlaut is still defiantly fat.

Lars Umlaut - still defiantly fat.

For some reason, the designers stripped Lars of his belly in World Tour – something tantamount to criminal damage in my opinion. Where would rock be without fat guitarists? I mean, everyone loves a fat guitarist – almost as much as they love a fat drummer. Yet there’s poor old Lars in World Tour, shorn of his gut and pumped up with ridiculous arm muscles like some sort of Kiss He-Man. Where’s the justice? And to top it all, you can’t even make fat characters in World Tour. When did games get sizeist? There I was trying to create the ultimate custom drummer – Fat Phil – and the fattest I could make him was a little bit short of what I’d call ‘stocky’. Tch. I ask you, what is the world coming to?

Lewis

(Screenshots from http://www.crispygamer.com/)

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 2007, Neversoft, Rhythm Action, Xbox 360

#63: XIII

Format: Playstation 2 Genre: First Person Shooter Released: 2003 Developer: Ubisoft

OK, let’s get this out of the way first: I’m not saying that XIII is one of the greatest games of all time – in fact, it’s not even one of the greatest first person shooters of all time – but I enjoyed playing it immensely. The reason? The utterly sublime soundtrack.

Music and sound effects aren’t often what people single out when they praise a game, but a really good soundtrack can elevate any game beyond the ordinary – one of the reasons I didn’t enjoy Perfect Dark as much as  GoldenEye was that it lacked the aural finery of its spiritual predecessor (although as GoldenEye had a licensed soundtrack, perhaps that’s not the best example of musical creativity). The basic gameplay of XIII is fairly uninspired FPS fare, but the original score really draws you into the action.

Weapon noises are helpfully spelled out for the hard of hearing.

The music is obviously inspired by classic seventies action films such as Bullitt and The French Connection (listen to ‘The Big Chase’ here to see what I mean), and it reacts dynamically to what you’re doing on screen – open a door to a roomful of baddies and suddenly the bass kicks in and the hammond organ steps up a notch as the bullets go flying. One reviewer described the soundtrack as ‘jazzaphonic electronic tripped out funkuphoria‘ (try finding that section in HMV), and he’s certainly on the right track, if perhaps the victim of the NME disease of making up random meaningless but slightly cool-sounding words.

Headshots were accompanied by the appearance of three comic frames in the top-right corner of the screen, giving a snapshot of the immediate aftermath of your actions. A nice, but gruesome, touch.

The other major plus point was the plot – not something you often hear said about first person shooters. The game is based on a French graphic novel of the same name, and it’s a little like 24 in the sense that it revolves around a conspiracy to kill the president – the major difference being that the president’s already been assassinated before the game starts, so it’s more of a race to unravel the nefarious plans of those involved. Initially it borrows heavily from The Bourne Conspiracy (the novel of which was released a couple of years before the XIII graphic novel), with your character waking up on a beach with no memory of his past but with the key to a bank vault in his pocket. You’re rescued by a blonde female lifeguard in the classic Baywatch get-up, but almost as soon as she introduces herself she’s gunned down in cold blood by your unknown pursuers. I actually found this bit surprisingly affecting – there’s no shortage of shootings in most video games, but usually the characters on the receiving end are evil assassins/criminals/robots/ninjas…  it’s not often you witness the heartless killing of an innocent whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Like in the Bourne films, any weapon is deadly in your hands. Although in this case, a gun would definitely be preferred.

Other parts of the game are less successful – some of the level design is uninspired and the bosses in particular are badly thought out. For example, why does some random military general take several minutes longer than an average grunt to keel over under gunfire? Do they get some sort of armored undersuit on promotion? Also, I seem to remember the cel-shaded graphics didn’t go down too well on the game’s release – I think a lot of people were put off by the cartoony look at a time when most ‘serious’ first person shooters were moving towards realism. I admit that the cel-shading does seem an odd decision at first – and it really dates the game to that time in the early 2000s when cel-shading was all the rage – but I think it suits the overall feel quite well once you get used to it.

"Quick, get his wallet."

Still, despite XIII‘s shortcomings, the plot was good enough to keep me hooked to the end – and even made me buy another copy of the game. Frustratingly, a scratch developed on my first copy which meant it crashed about two-thirds of the way through, and I ended up scouring eBay for a working version just so I could find out what happened in the end. In fact, I enjoyed the story so much I’ve even got the original graphic novel on order…

But in the end, whenever I think about XIII, it’s not the intricate plot that pops into my head – it’s that ‘jazzaphonic’ seventies action film soundtrack. Have a listen for yourself:

Lewis

(Screenshots from http://www.armchairempire.com/)

5 Comments

Filed under 2003, First Person Shooter, Playstation 2, Ubisoft