E3 07: Guitar Hero III - first look

If you were worried by the news that the Guitar Hero franchise has been handed off to a new developer (Neversoft, of Tony Hawk fame), don’t be. The songs are new, the visuals are a lot prettier and the guitar-duels are a lot fiercer, but underneath it all, the gameplay doesn't look to have changed much, if at all. It also rocks as hard as ever, as a few Neversoft reps demonstrated by shaking one of the new levels - a huge desert music festival with hundreds of revelers - with a thundering run through "Lay Down" by hard rock act Priestess.

"People are hardcore about [Guitar Hero], they want it to stay the same," said Alan Flores, Guitar Hero III's lead designer. "We really wanted to retain what was Guitar Hero, what people loved about it. … It has to evolve somewhat, but we really didn't want to mess up that experience."

Still, that's not to say that Guitar Hero III is just more of the same. The biggest addition we saw during the short demo was the new Battle Mode, which enables players to actually attack each other during duels (which you'll be able to play online, as well as on a single system with a friend). These matches replace the familiar, score-multiplying Star Power ability with Battle Power, giving you one of several devious trip-ups to lob at your competitor.

Hit him (or her) at just the right moment, and he'll suddenly have to play left-handed for a little while, or at a higher difficulty level. You can also break one of his strings - forcing him to jam on that string's button to tamp it back down before he can play it - overload his amp, double the number of notes he has to play or make him constantly jam on the whammy bar while playing. Another attack even enables you to steal your opponent's Battle Power and use it against him.

Mikel Reparaz
After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.