We put some time into multiplayer Guitar Hero III last night, and as I'm not reviewing it for the paper I'll just share some thoughts here.
To put it simply: the game is a blast. My understanding is that Neversoft didn't get any of the code from Harmonix, and had to build their engine from the ground up. That makes it all the more impressive that they've delivered, on a short timetable, a game that plays just as well as its predecessors. I've heard some complaints that the hammer-on/pull-off mechanic is more forgiving this time around, and while I agree that it is, I don't agree that it's a problem. You already have real guitarists getting elitist about Guitar Hero; let's not have expert-level players getting elitist too.
The tracklist is as good as I'd hoped, with the usual amount of bad songs that are surprisingly fun to play and good songs that are surprisingly lame to play. I wasn't expecting to be thrilled by the bassline of "Reptilia," but there you go. Metallica's "One" was worth the price of admission. Our biggest complaint in playing through the co-op campaign was that the final encore is a song called "Monsters" by a band called Matchbook Romance. The guitar part was ordinary, the song was boring, and coming as it did on the heels of songs by Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Living Colour, it was almost a cruel joke.
The new "battle mode" was a disappointment, at least from the brief time we spent with it. The idea of power-ups doesn't bother me per se, but it seems antithetical to the idea of Guitar Hero that a game can end within about thirty seconds. Any competitive mode ought to encourage more rocking, not less. As it is, we found that whoever sprang the lefty flip on the other guy first tended to win. Not really my idea of a good time. Fortunately, it's optional except for a couple stages in the single-player mode. I am willing to believe that battle mode is more fun when you get good at it. Still can't imagine it's worth playing over co-op or pro face-off.
I'm not sure I'll end up buying Guitar Hero III, if only because I don't know how much time I can devote to it. Plus, I'm still fairly convinced that Rock Band will be better. But it is pretty great, and the highest praise I can give it is that my wrist is hella sore today. That's rock and roll!