If you rock hard enough to score an encore, you notice that the crowd is roaring, and then you look over the fence and you see – a cop car! Someone called the cops! Except they’re clapping too! You’re such a hit that even the police don’t have the heart to stop the show. The long-fought war between the pigs and the kids has finally ended. This was the first in a series of wrong notes that left me with a clammy, phony feeling by the end of the career mode...
...Guitar Hero III has no message, no heart, and no edge. It doesn’t make knowing winks about old Boston rock clubs or out-of-town gig traditions; it’s more like a fratboy yell.
I think he's right, although it's not something I ever much thought about. The first Guitar Hero was the indie breakthrough -- a lean, mean labor of love developed in a short time on hardly any budget. Guitar Hero II was like Nevermind -- the shot across the cultural bow that announced the arrival of a major player.
Guitar Hero III? It's bloated, 1977-era Led Zeppelin, buckling under its own weight.
The largesse that allowed Activision to secure so many ostensibly better songs for the series' third installment also, paradoxically, led to the drop in quality. The concern was securing "cool" music and arranging the set lists accordingly, which is why the note charts vary so wildly in quality and difficulty. This was never the case when Harmonix made the game. Their goal was to make you feel like you were playing the song, and if the song was difficult, so be it.
Neversoft seems to have used a different approach. The difficulty isn't grounded in anything organic, and feels arbitrary. There's still a lot in the game for people to like, as evidenced by its massive popularity, but there's no question it's a departure. What happened to Guitar Hero, man? It used to be about the music!