It's hard to follow up a smash hit like Guitar Hero II. It's even harder when the developer changes midway through the product.
These were the hurdles that Neversoft/Activision/RedOctane faced as they worked on Guitar Hero III, the latest installment in the music game genre that uses a guitar controller to imitate the act of playing guitar on a video game.
Guitar Hero III (GH3) was released cross-platform, appearing on the Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and the Nintendo Wii. The Wii version is the focus on this review, and while it lags behind some of the other versions (360 version namely), it is a quality product. The gameplay uses the tried and true formula from GH1 and GH2, but with tweaks to the interface and engine.
GH3's engine is much more forgiving than its predecessors by utilizing a wider time window that is a blessing and a curse. It makes some sections much easier to hit, which is probably a good thing to lure in new players. After all, what fun is it if you can hardly hit the notes on the screen because the window is too precise? However, it's overall looseness also breeds "sloppy" play; you may be strumming off rhythm and still hit notes, leading you to overestimate your skills and get off beat. Sometimes I feel like I should have missed notes, but I got credit for it, causing me to miss shortly after. While frustrating, it doesn't hurt the gameplay significantly.
The main downfalls of the Wii version are (at launch) the lack of stereo sound, the port feel it has, and the lackluster online play. The developers seem to believe the Wii was incapable of handling the full game, so used the port version that the PS2 version got (although, the Wii does not suffer from the same lag and load times the PS2 version does). Also, Nintendo's insistence on using Friend Codes makes finding competitive friends online difficult. Other systems make use of a 'downloadable content' system that the Wii currently lacks.
However, the addition of online play at all makes the game have more replayability. A definite plus for a game that can go stale after playing the limited number of tracks. Overall, the gameplay is almost as enjoyable as its predecessors and increases it with the ability to take it online and match skills with the rest of the world.