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12:23, 17th Oct 2008
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I’ve never played a rhythm action game before! What do all those colours and symbols mean?
Like all music-based games, Guitar Hero, Rock Band and the like are all about matching displayed commands to ‘play’ the tune in question. In the case of guitar, the indicated coloured button must be held down while flicking the strum bar to play the note as it descends past the bar at the bottom of the screen. Drums is even simpler – hit the corresponding coloured pad in time with the note chart, with a long horizontal line that fills the stave representing a foot pedal note. And vocals? Well, that’s basically graded karaoke, with a melody line and on-screen lyrics helping you out if you’re not so sure of the tune.
Do I need to buy the entire kit to play the games?
Not at all. The existing Rock Band instruments and older Guitar Hero guitars are all reported to work perfectly with both Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour. You’ll need something to play, of course, so if you don’t yet have any plastic instruments cluttering up your front room, it’s probably high time to invest. Both Rock Bands and World Tour feature solo play on any instrument, although each of them naturally lends itself far better to a multiplayer environment. If you plan on getting people over to rock out, splashing out on the full set-up for at least one of the games comes highly recommended – it really is a social gaming experience like no other.
So which game has the best kit then?
A lot of this comes down to personal preference. The Rock Band guitar is the Marmite of the bunch, with some swearing by it while others (usually those already accustomed to the GH axes) can’t get on with it at all. If you can find one, the old Xplorer guitars that came bundled with the 360 release of Guitar Hero 2 are easily the most robust and reliable – the black wireless Les Paul-style ones tend to have a few consistency issues caused by the removable neck. The new GH guitar is rather nice too, although oddly-placed pause buttons just below the strum bar saw us freeze the game by mistake a number of times.
The same is true of the drumkits and although the GH one is clearly the tidier of the two, the fact that it’s wireless will mean frequent battery changes. Should you opt for the RB kit though, be aware that World Tour features one more drum than Rock Band and this will be removed entirely from the note chart (or remapped to another pad) when using the older kit. How this works the other way around is currently unknown, although common sense would suggest that the middle drum of the GH kit simply won’t get used when playing Rock Band. Also of note is the fact that both the Guitar Hero kit and the new RB2 kit pressure sensitive, meaning you can get bonus points for accenting certain beats and have a few more options in the GH’s unique song creation tools. It’s not a dealbreaker but might help you make up your mind if that’s an element of GH that you’re interested in experimenting with.
Wait, so the new Rock Band gear is different to the existing stuff?
Only slightly, although the little tweaks and additions are all welcome. The kit is home to the biggest changes, now sporting a steel-reinforced pedal to avoid further snappages, pressure-sensitive pads for better GH compatibility and even expansion ports for things like cymbal add-ons. The guitar has only been slightly reworked by comparison, but a sturdier strum bar is all the improvement it really needed anyway. Also of note is that both the new guitar and new drum kit are wireless, so better stock up on AA batteries…
Which has the better songs/artist support?
We’re getting into even more preference territory here but for starters, you might want to check out the track lists for Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour to see if either immediately ticks your boxes. In terms of on-disc tunes alone, we’d probably hand it to Rock Band 2 by a whisker although as you’ll probably notice, there are no fewer than 14 duplicate tracks – presumably a little cheek on Harmonix’s part, what with RB2 having been out in the US for nearly a month already.
Another important factor is the downloadable content strategy and while Harmonix has made its position pretty clear, Neversoft is still pretty quiet. Rock Band 2 will work with all existing Rock Band DLC and you can even rip the tracks from the last game to play in the sequel if you’ve got hard drive space to burn. GH, on the other hand, won’t support older content from the previous games with the exception of the Metallica ‘Death Magnetic’ album, although they do look set to have a fair bit of content live for launch week. Pricing will no doubt be similar across both titles but with Rock Band aiming for 500 songs by the end of the year, GH will have to throw a lot of content out there in order to compete with this sheer variety and choice.
On the next page: Music creation, difficulty levels, pricing and more.
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