The game responsible for getting more non-gamers playing (except perhaps Wii Sports and Madden) is Guitar Hero, an addictive mix of rock-and-roll karaoke and Simon Says. The concept is simple, strap on a vaguely guitar-shaped plastic controller, and press the brightly colored buttons in time to music note that float down the screen. That catch is that you're playing along with B and C-list classic rock tunes, and the better you play, the more songs you unlock.
Already a hit on the PS2 and Xbox 360, publisher Activision has to really come up with some new features to get fans to pony up for a third time. Guitar Hero III doesn't exactly break the mold, but adds just enough to keep dedicated fans coming back. Adding the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii to the mix opens the franchise up to new users who have so far been stuck watching from the sidelines (of course, PS3 gamers could get a third-party adapter to hook their guitar controllers up and play the first two games).
The 360, Wii, and PS3 versions come with a new wireless Les-Paul-licensed guitar controller, with swappable faceplates, while the PS2 version has a much less cool wired controller. Seventy new tracks are included, from Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones to Sabotage by the Beastie Boys. Many of the tracks will be by the original artists, rather than the cover versions found in the previous Guitar Hero games, which makes a huge difference
A new online multiplayer mode lets you play against other shredders around the world, which is probably the most exciting new feature. The graphics have also gotten a major facelift, although honestly, everyone playing the game is too busy watching the notes fly by to pay attention to the pretend band playing on stage in the background.
After ruling the charts for so long, Guitar Hero III is about to have some serious competition. With EA's Rock Band, featuring guitar, bass, and drum controllers, along with a microphone, picking up some major buzz, it's going to be a real battle of the bands for faux rock games this holiday season.
If you're keeping score, here's a list of confirmed Guitar Hero III tracks. Activision is milking the publicity by releasing a few track names at a time between now and the game's fall release, but did reveal that Guns & Roses guitarist Slash will appear in the game as a boss battle.