Released in 2007 by Neversoft and Activision, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock brought the addictive gameplay of the original two games to a wide variety of platforms. Just as in previous Guitar Hero games, players control the game by using a guitar-shaped controller, and use the strum bar while holding down appropriately colored fret buttons to strike notes as they scroll to the bottom of the screen. Guitar Hero III maintains the previous modes of gameplay from the earlier games (Career Mode and Co-op career mode), and introduces Battle Model, which tweaks the Battle Power sequences of Guitar Hero II by allowing players to earn attacks through superior performance that they can use against their opponent.
Gameplay for Guitar Hero III is similar to previous titles in the series. The player hits notes as they scroll down the note highway towards the bottom of the screen in time with music to maintain their performance and earn points. To hit notes using the guitar controller, the player hits the strum bar while holding down the corresponding colored fret buttons. Notes can be sustained, during which the fret button is held until the note is complete, and they can also form two- to four-note chords. The game simulates hammer-ons and pull-offs for sections with a rapid series of notes, allowing the player to forgo strumming on specifically marked notes. Missing a note causes the performance meter to drop. When the meter drops too low, the player fails the song, represented in-game by the band being booed off the stage. A string of ten consecutive correct notes earns a multiplier to increase the player's score, which can occur up to four times. Special sections, marked by starred notes, can be used to build Star Power. When the player has enough Star Power, they can activate it and further double the scoring multiplier either by tilting the guitar controller vertically or by pressing a specific button on the controller.
For the first time in the Guitar Hero franchise, GHIII saw the inclusion of real-world celebrities. A huge addition was the inclusion of Slash (of Velvet Revolver/ex guitarist for Gun N' Roses) and Tom Morello (Guitarist of Rage Against The Machine). Brett Michaels also makes an appearance in the game (excluding the Wii and PS2 version). Each had their faces scanned and did their own motion capture work for the game. As well, each of the celebrity guitarists recorded their own original guitar pieces to be played during a guitar duel against them in career mode.
In addition to the celebrity characters, fictional guitarists from the first two Guitar Hero games also make their return. Joining them is newcomer Midori, representing the J-Pop music genre. Despite these additions, some characters did not make it into the game. Goth rocker Pandora, rockabilly Eddie Knox and classic rocker Clive Winston were all absent from this entry into the franchise. They are spiritually represented in some of the in-game characters, as Judy Nails' bio states she also represents the goth/rockabilly sub-genres (her costume palette swaps also changes her hair/makeup color to resemble that of Pandora's) and Xavier Stone had been tweaked to be the game's classic rock representative as well.
Each initial character has two costumes. Each costume has a set of palette-swaps that can be purchased from the in game store. Each palette swamp not only changes their specific costume's color, but changes certain accessories/designs as well.
Guitar Hero III has four online multiplayer modes.
In Face-Off both players choose a difficulty level and each play various sections of the same song. The winner is the player at the end who has the most points. The game is balanced so that a player on a lower difficulty can still win. The player with the lower difficulty is given the easier win because they get more points for their notes as they hit them.
In Pro Face-Off players play the whole song with the same notes on the same difficulty. The winner is the player who has the higher score at the end of the song wins.
In Co-op one player plays the lead guitar section of the song whereas the other player plays Rhythm Guitar or Bass (depending on the song). Both players must work together to try and complete the song and both players must tilt the guitar at the same time to activate Star-Power.
In a Battle both players play the whole song but both may choose their own difficulty level. Instead of star power players are rewarded with 'attacks' for hitting sections of special notes. These attacks can then be used to cripple their opponents. The winner is the player that does not lose. Sudden Death will occur when both players pass the song in Battle Mode. The player's current Rock Meter stays the same and they keep any unused attacks but all further attacks are replaced with the 'death drain'. Once activated the 'death drain' will fast begin to drain the opponents note chart, eventually covering up all of the notes, thus making the opponent lose.
Guitar Hero III was the last game in the main series to include covers in its main setlist. The setlist for the game is as follows:
When Guitar Hero III launched on October 28, 2007, many gamers were overwhelmed by the steep increase in difficulty over previous entries in the series. While the first few tiers of songs were manageable to series veterans, the later tears of songs in the game such as Slayer's "Raining Blood", Metallica's "One", and the final boss battle with Lou all proved to be some of the most challenging songs in the series to date. All of those songs, however, would pale in comparison to the Dragonforce song "Through the Fire and Flames", which many players were quick to bill as the most difficult song the series had ever seen.
Not only were the songs difficult, the Xbox 360 achievements were noticably harder to obtain and carried less value per achievement than Guitar Hero II's. Among the criteria for earning the achievements were beating "Through the Fire and Flames" on expert, winning 500 online matches, earning 750,000 points on a single song in single player, and earning a 2,000-note streak in the game's co-op mode.
The PC version of Guitar Hero III suffers from noticeable graphic stuttering during gameplay. This problem only affects Nvidia based graphic cards. Fortunately, those with ATI graphic cards in their machines do not experience such gameplay stuttering. Even with patch 1.31 installed, the graphic stuttering with Nvidia based graphic cards still exist.
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock shipped with the Gibson Les Paul controller. This guitar featured a new, smoother fret board as well as a detachable neck (which made for more easy storage). While the new fretboard has led it to be the guitar peripheral of choice for the competitive Guitar Hero players, the detachable neck has led to many reported problems. Due to connection failures many of the guitars will often lose the connection at points and will be unable to register certain frets when pressed down. This is because the neck will randomly slide out very slightly and render the frets unusable until it's pushed back in again. Some solutions have been offered, such as the note card solution in which an index card is cut to fit onto the back of the slot the guitar neck slides into. This minimizes the space the neck can move and creates a better connection, however no solution is perfect.