The two competitors are finally out for all systems, but which band simulator is king? Not everyone can be as dorky as I and have tons of plastic instruments scattered around their house, and at almost 200 bucks for each whole set (Drum kit, guitar, and mic), it sure doesn’t make sense to buy both. So I’m going to take you down the list here to show which one’s the better deal. It’s not as cut and dry as you might think….
Firstly, let’s take a look at the instruments.
Rock Band 2–
The guitar is a minor improvement over the old Rock Band guitar. It’s modeled after the Fender Strat and has the same five lower frets to use for solos that people hardly ever use. The buttons are quieter and the strum bar’s more responsive and less mushy feeling. Better than the first try, but no big innovation.
Guitar Hero World Tour–
The new guitar has the same great feel of the great Guitar Hero 3 guitar, except it’s larger- heavier and sturdier. The little bit of heft makes for a better feel, and there are a couple of new innovations that add to the gameplay experience. First off there’s a touch-sensitive pad lower on the neck that allows you to play interconnected notes (they’re strung together by a purple line, and are usually the most insane solos). You can even hold down the fret button and tap the slide to play it, like you’re playing slap bass. Where the bridge would be there’s a big black button that allows you to deploy Star Power almost by palm muting, an ideal choice for people who want to hit it at an exact point and not jerk the guitar around like an idiot trying to get it to go off.
Love the feel of this one, although I have to admit to being biased to the Guitar Hero guitars, and always loved the clicky feeling of them better.
WINNER- Guitar Hero World Tour
Rock Band 2– While the drums are much improved from the original kit, with their more responsive, bouncier touch (and metal bass pedal) once again it’s mostly the same as before. This kit has a few new inputs in the back, promising future add-ons of cymbals and a second bass pedal, but it’s not here yet.
Call it old reliable.
Guitar Hero World Tour–
Not even a question who’s the winner here. This is an awesome kit. The pads are larger and have more bounce to them, feeling much more like the real thing. And it’s so much more fun with the cymbals. The way that the (wireless!) drums are set up allows each pad to be their own seperate drum. You’ll know what each one sounds like and when you hit it it’s so much more satisfying and more like playing the real thing. The drums are also sensitive (they cry at night) and can tell when you’re tapping on them or smashing them, and there are notes that are hard hits that give you more points when you hit them hard. It’s fun, even though I wonder how long the kit will last when it encourages you to play it hard.
There’s a drawback to this, however. More realistic is great, and for the best songs you’ll feel like a real drummer, going all around the kit and smashing the hell out of the harder notes. But for the more boring, bland songs with a static beat? You’ll be hitting the yellow cymbal and red snare over and over and over again, with no stopping. This is because there aren’t any included fills, like Rock Band smartly included. Throughout each song there are fills in Rock Band that give your arms a bit of a break and allow you to make your own beat. Here, the only fills given are during norrmally silent parts of the song, which leaves you feeling like an
idiot, especially during a slower, more boring song like the Tool ones
where you have literally minutes to mess around. For the songs with a simple beat like Michael Jackson’s Beat It you’ll be stuck hitting the same notes with no stopping. This leads to people giving up the drums much more soon than they did with Rock Band, mostly because your arms will get tired much more easily with no break.
But still, play a great song and it’s clearly the better setup. Going back to Rock Band drums after this is just hard.
CHUDTIP- Picking Ozzy and singing a girly song like Spiderwebs is sure to induce lols at your party.
WINNER: Guitar Hero World Tour
It’s just a mic. Both are unfortunately wired, and both work. Not really enough similarities here to compare. GHWT allows you a choice of static or scrolling (Rock Band-style) lyrics, and controls mostly the same way, except that you start Star Power by tapping the mic. Since there are no tapping sections, Rock Band’s got a bit of an edge for vocalists, but the instruments perform the same.
Here’s where things start to change.
The campaign modes are different for each, but Rock Band 2‘s is almost infinite in comparison. You’ll only play through each of the songs once, by picking various sets on the way. The problem with making every level a 5 song+ set is that you’re going to run into a lot of the crappier songs in the game. Ah well.
But bassists have reason to rejoice with GHWT. First of all, there’s a solo career mode, finally. They’ve
also managed to keep things fresh and interesting for the maligned
instrument with the inclusion of new open notes. While playing
first-timers will be surprised by what looks like a bass line scrolling
at them- this is actually an open note that you play without hitting any
frets. It’s generally the lowest notes in the song and it’s a great way
to change up the gameplay, because it’s just strange to not hold a note
down while strumming.
There’s lots of other little differences in how things work, but for the most part GHWT ripped Rock Band off nicely. It does do a few things weirdly, though. For example, each person contributes Star Power to a collective pool that anyone can take from at any time. This can leave you without Power when you need it most. Also, if a player fails, the band fails. There’s no rescuing people- everyone’s working for themselves. Pretty crappy for a group experience.
The difference here is also obvious in the actual songs. Rock Band‘s always had the stronger note track, and it’s no different here. If you’re a Guitar Hero virtuoso you’ll likely love the challenge in this new one, but most people won’t be playing this game with experts anyway.
WINNER- ROCK BAND 2
Another clear choice. Rock Band 2‘s set list is absolutely stunning. Almost every single song is one you’ll want to play, and even the ones you might not be familiar with are fun. The variety on display is just as amazing- you ‘ve got everything from Pearl Jam to Mastadon to Elvis Costello.
CHUDTIP- In either game, everyone hitting the Star Power or Overdrive at the same time is key to get a huge score.
The thing that Harmonix has done so well is that since they know that people get together in big groups to play this, they’ve included almost nothing but party songs. They’re all fun and the sort of music that plays perfectly in a bar, perfect for getting drunk and playing for hours. While the 20 free downloadable songs were lame there’s another 80-plus that will keep you playing for months.
One of the most shocking things is the amount of overlap between the setlists. Over a dozen songs are shared by both games, and since Rock Band came out first, I’ll blame Guitar Hero World Tour for this stupid oversight.
GHWT clearly has the weakest set list, though. While there’s some great stuff like Hendrix, Ozzy, The Doors, and Van Halen, there’s a shocking amount of filler… songs that sound like they’d be ok fitting in with Rock Band‘s atrocious 20 bonus songs. (Fuck you, Stuck in the Sound. I wish I never heard of you.)
To offset this there’s a Studio mode that allows you to create music. It’s pretty nice but way too intensive for the quality of the music you get. However, people are already uploading a ton of fantastic pieces. Just sift through the tons of video game covers and you’ll find a lot of pretty decent stuff, that even puts to shame the bonus tracks Neversoft included on the disc.
CHUDTIP- Play as Travis Barker to unlock the “Don’t Blink” achievement. Ironically, Barker just unlocked the “Can’t Blink” achievement himself.
But it’s not enough to make up for real bands. Rock Band 2‘s the clear victor here, especially when you add in the fact that 5 bucks will give you all the songs from the first game, and that Harmonix has been doing a fantastic job of releasing new content for the game every week. I’m sure GHWT has some stuff up their sleeves but when all they have is friggin’ Oasis and the Alicia Keys Bond theme song, well…
WINNER: Rock Band 2
Rock Band 2, easily. It’s funny because if it weren’t for the mediocre setlist this wouldn’t even be a question for new owners, as GHWT‘s instruments and new features add so much to an already reliably fun experience. It’s fun to play as rockstars and the whole thing’s a lot more jokey, as always. The instruments are just plain better and the drums in particular a lot more fun, but they haven’t quite gotten to the point that Rock Band has with gameplay, songs or overall experience just yet.
It’s important to note, however, that all instruments work across both games- even the drums. There’s no doubt that people will have a blast with GHWT but there’s a better choice out there.
Guitar Hero World Tour – 8.7