Game Review: Guitar Hero: World Tour vs. Rock Band 2

Time again to pit two similar games against each other.

This time we’ll be looking at rhythm game behemoths Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band 2.

Two games enter… one game leaves…

UPDATE 11-13-08: I have received my Drum Tuning Kit from Activision. This purportedly fixes issues that I was having with the drum kit. Read my impressions and the results of the software fix here.


Both games have have rock solid frame rates (no pun intended) and are pleasing on the eyes, but I found strong visual indicators of Star Power, missed notes, note streaks, and even score were annoyingly difficult to keep track of in Guitar Hero: World Tour. The problem is somewhat mitigated when playing by yourself with a single instrument, but with multiple bandmates on screen it becomes a logistical nightmare.

The perfect example of this is when playing as a band with Vocals, Drums, and Guitar. Vocal tracks scroll (or stay static, your choice) across the top, with the rest of the screen being split by drums and guitar… and the score indicator/life meter are displayed in a VERY small area in the upper left hand side of the screen.

Positioning wouldn’t be quite so bad for the meter if the damn thing wasn’t so small. My review rig includes a 62″ HD display and my eyesight is 20/20… and I had a hard time seeing my own life meter with any real accuracy.

Contrast that with Rock Band 2’s meter which runs nearly the entire vertical length of the screen, and you’ll see what I mean.

Menus in GH:WT are many times confusing and buttons needed to access functions are frequently vague, non-intuitive, and sometimes not even displayed.

In one menu the circle button takes you back or exits, in the next menu you’ll use the X button instead… and while most OTHER commands are displayed, the game doesn’t let you know there was a change. Ever bounced between two menus wondering why it won’t let you exit? I have in GH:WT.

HINT: when MOST controls/commands are displayed along the bottom of the menu, and you have to guess at random buttons that aren’t listed, just to find a way to EXIT THE MENU… that’s bad design.

Character creation in both games is still a little weak, but I’d say that ultimately Guitar Hero gives you a few more options.


The Guitar Hero series has always been known for a steep difficulty curve, and perhaps being a little TOO difficult on harder settings. World Tour continues this tradition, with Medium setting being about right for average players,  and Hard being nearly impossible for non-mutants… only minor deities need apply for Expert level.

Where Rock Band is decidedly easier on nearly any level, making it more accessible, the hard core rhythm game addict will get more of a challenge out of World Tour.

World Tour gameplay suffers from a leftover calibration system left over from Guitar Hero III; calibrating for video/audio lag can provide wildly arbitrary results. The only way I could get an accurate calibration was to manually enter the settings that I had already detected using Rock Band’s calibration tool. If you’re using a standard CRT television, you don’t have to worry about that.

Once you’ve overcome the lag problem guitar parts play exactly like you remember from GHIII, drums are what you would expect, and vocals… well… vocals are closer to SingStar than to Rock Band, but they work.

The biggest head scratcher in World Tour for me is: ‘Why do we have to activate Star Power on drums by hitting both cymbals at the same time?’ Seriously… I can’t seem to activate it without, you know, MISSING NOTES AND ENDING MY STREAK BECAUSE I WAS HITTING BOTH CYMBALS INSTEAD OF THE MAPPED NOTES.

The song list for World Tour is comprehensive and varied (Willie Nelson?!?) and fills some of the void in the Rock Band set for classic rock tunes. High points include Van Halen, Ozzy, Jimi Hendrix, and Tool.

I’d give Guitar Hero an edge on song selection, but with a constant barrage of DLC and the ability to use Rock Band 1 songs… I gotta go with Rock Band 2. If Activision wises up, gives us LOTS of content at a decent price, and lets us import (at least the guitar parts) previous Guitar Hero track, I’d likely change my mind.

Music Creation

Full of potential… and almost no one will use it. It smells mightily of gimmick, and as a musician I noticed that it was INCREDIBLY hard to record a live performance that was usable.

Delays between the time you strike a note and it registering with the recording software make it nearly impossible to get a decent track without using quantization… and if you’re doing that, you might as well point and click to create music, the performance isn’t really a performance.

I’m sure there are going to be a few VERY patient souls out there that will create some interesting pieces, but I see a future full of painful-to-listen-to songs, and an arms race to create a barrage of notes that makes Dragon Force look like their moving in slow motion.

No thanks, I’ll pass.


This is what you were really interested in, right?

We’ll start with the Guitar Hero microphone. Or is it the Rock Band microphone? The Logitech microphone? They are all the same thing. Really… they are all made by Logitech, have the same specs, and the same form factor. No difference between them at all.

The new Guitar Hero axe is simply amazing. Giving credit where it’s due, this is by far my favorite plastic instrument so far. A little on the heavy side, the weight makes the guitar feel sturdier, without making it uncomfortable to hold for hours on end.

A slightly thicker neck, quieter low profile buttons, a longer strum bar, and a d-pad built into the ‘volume knob’. The placement and feel is emmaculate and accuracy is never a problem. 

Placement and size of the start and select buttons is also a huge leap from past instruments. The start buttons (there are two) are small counter-sunk nubs next to the ‘bridge’, and are nearly impossible to bump accidentally. Speaking of the ‘bridge’, it IS the select button.

This offers you a very convenient method of activating Star Power without tilting the guitar.

I’ll reserve judgement on the new touch pad, it was more than a little weird to use on solo sections, and didn’t track very well. Despite that, this guitar is amazing, and works flawlessly (except for lack of solo buttons) in Rock Band games.

The drums…

**sigh** guess I have to talk about them, don’t I?

In theory: realistic cymbal placement, velocity sensitive, ultra compatible, and ‘sturdier’.

In practice: unrealistic cymbal placement, velocity insenstive/oversensitive, not so compatible, and a flimsy pedal.

The touted ‘realistic’ cymbals are anything but. Despite being able to raise the cymbals, even at their highest setting they are far too low. No REAL drummer would put their cymbals there because THEY GET IN THE WAY WHILE YOU’RE HITTING THE LOWER PADS.

I’d just be getting a good streak going when I’d accidentally tap the underside of a cymbal (setting off an inadvertant note) or catch my stick on one of them. Let me extend the mounting arms about 6-10 inches further, and I’ll be happier.

As amazing as it is to have velocity sensitive pads, Activision is quickly learning that if you can’t calibrate the sensitivity manually, you BETTER have it set right at the factory.

And they didn’t set mine correctly… and apparently many others as well.

My particular kit (and this is a fairly common problem, if you look at Activision’s support forums) has an overly sensitive orange cymbal. If I hit any other pad even remotely hard… I get a cymbal hit as well.

Contacting Activision netted me a unique solution: ‘Don’t hit the other pads so hard.’

Interestingly enough, my RED pad is INSENSITIVE, so it doesn’t register a hit at all unless I hit it VERY hard.

Anyone seeing the problem here?

If I play the red pad hard, it sets off a phantom orange hit. If I play the red pad softly, so as not to trigger the orange pad… it doesn’t register at all.

Activision is promising a software solution (Windows only) to allow you to calibrate sensitivity manually for each pad. It may even be available by the time you read this.

Will they be able to do the same for the interference the wireless drums cause?

Yes, the wireless drums cause my guitar to spontaneously activate the strum bar in time with kick pedal usage. I tested it with a wireless GHIII guitar and got the same result; it’s the drums.

And for all the promises of compatibility (anyone remember the same promises last year?) the drum set does NOT currently work for PS3 versions of Rock Band 1 or 2. As much as I’d like to believe a patch is coming, Activision blocked a patch for interoperability for nearly a year with guitars… I have a hard time thinking this is going to work out in the consumer’s favor.

The Rock Band set DOES work with GH:WT, but with one less pad, and with the interference problem and the sensitivity issues, I don’t think I’ll be using the World Tour drums at all.

I’ve thought about buying the ION Super Duper drum set, but apparently GH only maps it as 4 pads and a kick… just like Rock Band drums.


You would think that with YEARS to study Rock Band and Harmonix that Neversoft would be able to pull off something that was remotely close to the functionality of Rock Band 1. They didn’t manage even that.

Crazy gameplay decisions and broken hardware FAR outweigh the cool new guitar and great setlist.

Guitar Hero: World Tour – Dodge It (unless you just want to buy the guitar separately)

Rock Band 2 – Buy It

Matt Ellis is a co-founder of Bag Of Mad Bastards, co-host of the podcast Drunken Monkey Tech, and a rabid fan of music games.

Both games were played for review on Playstation 3 hardware with no after-market accessories.


0 thoughts on “Game Review: Guitar Hero: World Tour vs. Rock Band 2

  1. I have owned rockband since it came out, as well as every single guitar hero game. Your review is extremely baised and misinforms people. If you ask anyone who has played both you clearly find GH:WT far superior than RB2. I have played both of the games reviewed here and I believe Rock Band 2 to be inferior to GW:WT just as much as Rock Band 1.

    Even though I WASTED money on 50 something songs and all the equipment for rockband and purchased rock band two, I still prefer GH:WT. I ditched the rockband controller because of all it’s notorious problems. In my opinion, worst guitar controller ever.

    The game play of GH:WT is far more interactive with the touch sensor, you’re just not good at it and didn’t give it a fair chance. You didn’t even mention how you can “hang on” to sustained notes to make the sounds resound better and rack up extra points. Perhaps you were too busy bashing the game to notice.

    I play all of these games on a 32″ wide screen TV and had no problem finding not ony the special meter, but each individuals performance meter. Personally I find it much more clever than putting everyone o nthe same meter with an icon next to it (rock band).

    The menus are only confusing if you don’t read the screen and constantly mash a single button asking “why can’t I play a song”. Don’t rush through the menus and don’t constantly cry “Why isn’t this like rockband?!?” It isn’t rockband.

    I do agree with the crappy cymbal placement and use of the special on drums. They really didn’t think those through.

    I will straight agree that my article is baised, but I have reviewed all of the games available and beaten them on expert difficulty and find overall the guitar hero line is the better deal.

    Nobody can deny the effect Rockband 1 had on Guitar Hero. Everone knows they had to follow or be left behind.

  2. Some salient points… critical reviews are subjective.

    You like things I don’t. Makes the world go around.

    Maybe I DIDN’T give the touch sensor enough of a workout. Point taken…

    RB has the worst guitar controller ever? If you’re only counting GH and RB stock controllers, you’re absolutely right. I’ve tried some third-party controllers that make the RB guitar look like the best thing ever invented.

    Then again, I didn’t bag on the GH controller, in fact, I said very nice things about it.

    Saying that the article misinforms people? No… everything listed is a verifiable fact. No lying, no stretching of truths, no convenient oversights. If stating exactly what happened is bias… color me guilty.

    If I ask anyone who has played both, GHWT is superior? Sorry, I have a dozen people (many who write on this very site) who have strongly disagreed with that statement. I TOO have played every iteration of both games on every system available except Wii. I’ve finished them all on Expert except World Tour… I was waiting for my drums to be fixed, then I’ll continue working through that. With that experience, I disagree with your assessment, and that means certainly not EVERYONE agrees with you, because I don’t.

    The meter thing? Personal preference I guess.

    Menus confusing… yes, they are. Don’t know which version you’re playing, but in the PS3 version many menus are not documented on screen at all, and in a few HORRIFIC cases, they ARE labeled… incorrectly.

    Broken gear out of the box, mislabeled menus, and my PERSONAL OPINION all add up to a failing grade for GHWT.

    When Activision gets around to sending me the midi cable so I can fix my drums (I have one, but as part of the process I want to know exactly how long it takes them to fix the problem), I may feel a little more favorable, but at the moment (for me) the game was literally broken out of the box.

    For all that can be said about Rock Band hardware failures, at least the game worked when I tried to review it.

    If you’d like to discuss this further, have a friendly competition with the games (I’m always up for playing with or against good players), or would like to tell me what an idiot I am, send me an email.

    That being said, don’t come here throwing ‘teh bias’ around just because I don’t agree with you.

    I don’t go to your site and make an ass of myself, do I?

  3. I have to agree with Matt on this one. As someone who is competent with GH games and the RB duo I was very disappointed in GH:WT. My setup is all for 360 and I have been a musician my whole life – even got a degree in it – and the cymbals are just as you say – unable to be placed correctly. I’m highly anticipating the release of the 3 cymbal kit for the rock band 2 drum set on Nov. 30th – and still very unclear as to why the 2 cymbal kit came out already but not the single or triple kit. (anyone know?)

    Recording studio – You can’t record vocals? Lame. Just plain lame. Even though I can be fairly competitive in all of the GH and RB games on all instruments, not everyone is. And if you want to throw a band together or just jam out with your clam out, the best thing to do for your musically challenged friend is to give them the mic and let them belt it all out like they did on KR:American Idol last weekend!
    The controls on 360 are cryptic as well. As a musician I was pleased to see that they are including actual note names on the instruments (for use if you want to change keys or sync instruments for arranging pieces) but there’s no rhyme or reason to them from a musical perspective. It was a poor attempt to bridge the art of music with the game of music. stick to one side or the other if you’re not going to do it right i say.

    GH: WT – my guitar is cool – touchpad rocks, but i have small fingers so the spacing is too big for me to accurately use it. Plus, there’s no clear indication as to when the solos are coming so that you can migrate down to that end of the neck – where’s the blue section like in rock band? No prep time means no time to setup my fingers for a different placement and missed notes/solo. My biggest problem out of the box however is that my star power activates without movement or pushing of the select bar. I was so excited about a dedicated and smartly place bar for overdrive/star power and then it automatically activates as soon as it becomes available…no saving it or timing it with other band members or parts of the song. I have not been able to find anyone else having this issue so if anyone has any advice on this – please let me know.

    Drum set – I admit, that i went to my RB drum set to play GH:WT because it was more natural – i have played drums since i was 13. And i 100% agree with Matt – if you stop to try it, you’ll miss notes. If you’re using the RB drum set since the colors don’t match up correctly and you don’t have cymbals (yet) you end up having to hit the bass pedal and the yellow pad in order to activate – ha ha – what a weird combination.

    I realize this is not my review site and i am merely commenting on what i considered to be a very good review/comparison, but I hope my input helps others – or perhaps just gets people thinking.

  4. You’re always welcome to comment Kelly, and so is Mag Guy… you don’t even have to agree with me.

    In fact, I LIKE it when people disagree with me and bring up thoughtful dialog. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been wrong before, and I’m perfectly willing to change my mind on a subject.

    I just took exception to charges of bias that were without factual basis, solely leveled because my opinion differed from his.

    If someone prefers GHWT, I can’t fault them for that… reviews are subjective and can vary widely based on personal preference.

    I related my experience, and based on that, I can’t recommend this game.

    Sounds like the guitar didn’t work out for you, and that really sucks. Mine is working perfectly, and WHEN IT DOES, it’s a great instrument. If the cymbals were a little higher, and if my drum set actually worked, I might feel good about the drums too… I just can’t in their current state.

    Sounds like we have similar backgrounds (started on drums at 10, Music Education was my major in college) and similar taste in games.

    We got our hands on a 2 cymbal set for Rock Band, and will be doing a review soon. So far, my big complaints with them are minor: they are LOUD and feel excessively hard when hit, and with only 2 cymbals… it doesn’t feel right. Can’t wait to try the 3 cymbal kit.

    BTW: the height is MUCH better on these cymbals.

  5. I have to agree. Rock Band 2 is better in almost every aspect besides the guitar. Playing both games on drums, for example, Guitar Hero World Tour’s drums just feel off, the drumset anyway. The sensor for the drums are just horrible, velocity sensor doesn’t work, and same with other peoples pads, you hit a certain one too hard, it will strike a red, for example. Overall, to me, GH:WT feels like a giant rip-off of Rock Band. Harmonix made GH1 and GH2, then when RedOctane jumped to Activision and Harmonix made Rock Band, it was phenomenal. Activision tried with this game, but lets face it: Rock Band is often imitated, never duplicated

  6. I agree with the review… Menus in GH:WT are not as user-friendly, our band found it was much harder to keep track of things like individual performance meter or star power because the gauge is stuck up in the corner (how anyone can say this is better than the RB performance meter just baffles me)… and the new guitar hero controller is the best one yet.

    We didn’t bother with a GH drum set (after seeing many YouTube videos of people having problems we decided it wasn’t worth it), so playing with the Rock Band drum set took some getting used to. Activating star power was kind of strange, and getting the ‘freestyle’ drum fill sections to sound good was a challenge as well. That may just take some getting used to, but at this point I prefer Rock Band when it comes to drumming.

    Music selection in GH:WT is simply amazing. Great track list, fun songs, and lots of potential with the studio tools. However, I worry that we missed out on some great guitar instrumentals because of the need to have vocals… those who have been wanting for some classic Satriani will probably have to keep waiting. Still, I personally like the more ‘metal’ leanings of the GH games over the ‘rock-pop’ feeling of Rock Band.

    I wouldn’t say ‘dodge it’ … I’d say ‘get it with a guitar controller’, but at this point I don’t see the value in picking up the drum kit, especially if you already have one from Rock Band.

  7. Ok, your take on the difficulties of the game frankly just does not make sense to me. You described Guitar Hero as basically being impossible on anything above medium which is far from true. Any person no matter what skills you have could easily reach at least the hard level with a moderate amount of playing. I do not at all believe that the expert or hard difficulties are too difficult at all, in fact at times they seem almost to easy. The hardest levels of a game should be challenging and force a player to improve or step up their game. Why would you just want to play Rock Band and be able to beat it easily when there is still more room to grow. I think the difficulty of Guitar Hero adds tons of replay value and excitement to the game, and is not at all a detriment to its value.

  8. Wow not to double post I read your reply to Mag Guy and was completely shocked. Personally I found his post to be perfectly correct in almost every area. I do not understand how you can say everything you said was pure fact. That is totally false. It may be fact to you, but to the rest of us it just looks like a bias opinion.

  9. I own Guitar Hero World Tour, and I have played Rock Band 2. As a matter of fact, I play Rock Band 2 every single week at least twice. It is a fun game, but how can you possibly say it’s better than Guitar Hero? When I got my drum set it worked perfectly. I know that’s not the case with everyone, but I’m happy with my drum kit. Anyway, you said the set list for Rock Band 2 was better than the one for Guitar Hero. How is it better? Rock Band 2 has the exact same setlist as Rock Band, plus 50 new songs, whereas Guitar Hero has more than 110 new songs including the songs created by developers. Now we move on to DLC. Guitar Hero already has over 20 songs for download and its only been out for a few weeks. As a plus, Activision is bringing some Floyd into the game (Take that Harminix). As an avid Rock Band player, I can honestly say that in comparison to Guitar Hero, it’s just way too easy on all instruments. I played through on drums and guitar on expert within two weeks, and I got bored of it. I don’t play it anymore, and I don’t plan on playing it for a long, long, long time. Cymbal placement on the drum kit is O.K. in World Tour, but it’s not as bad as you make it look. The Rock Band drum kit is just plain stupid. Since when does a drum have 4 flat colored pads? And about the menus, you got to be retarded not to be able to navigate your way around the menus. Let me explain, Red=Go Back, Green=Enter. Your opinion is completely biased so please don’t give any more opinions. (Just kidding about the retarded thing.)


    Did you read the article?

    I never said RB had the better song list… quite the contrary. Go read it again.

    And as far as the ‘Red=Go Back, Green = Enter’, I don’t know what version you’re playing, but I’m on the PS3 version, and that’s NOT the case. In some menus, yes, but not all of them.

    Just finding it odd that people are showing up on the site, claiming I have a bias, then backing it up with patently false claims.

    I think when you spend this much money on a title, you feel a need to justify your purchase. And while I’m glad you enjoy GH, I did not. The problems I saw (and some that I noticed but did not mention, like lack of Trophy Support on PS3) make it a lesser experience for me.

    But again, people are polarized by an expensive purchase… I just don’t see the people that are happy with RB coming here and throwing around the terms ‘bias’ or ‘retarded’.

    The review is my opinion, some of which is based on personal preference, and some of which is based on mystifying decisions made by the developer.

    You don’t have to agree, but to suggest my OPINION is biased, so I shouldn’t give any more OPINIONS… you sir or madam, have a screw loose… and to say these things anonymously? That’s a special brand of cowardice.

    When comparing two different products that are so closely related there are bound to be judgement calls and matters that are subjective. You should be intelligent enough to gauge the subjective material and say ‘hey, that doesn’t matter to me, so I’d be happier than the reviewer’ and make a judgement call of your own.

    So, I’ll keep offering my opinions, you don’t have to agree… and you can’t stop me.

    Go start your own site, send some hate mail (I get tons from the B!tch Sl@p podcast, it won’t hurt my feelings), or start a mud-slinging campaign.

    Based on what you’ve written, your opinion means little or nothing to me. Appears to me that you feel the same way about me.

    Why don’t you go somewhere else to read your reviews?

    You know, some place that completely agrees with you on games you’ve already purchased.

    I know a troll when I smell one.

    M.R. Ellis

  11. i played both on ps3 and they are both fun i think the only thing that seperates the two is songs and drums i bet if they drums for world tour didnt come out crappy like they did probably some people would change their minds about the game but you have to think this is a first for ghwt but im pretty sure things will get better i mean all new products have glitches but its only opinions personally i love ghwt its just my cymbals a tad bit too sensitive but i found a way to fix it and the guitar is a amazing but whateves i still plan on buying rockband 2 also im just not looking forward to the guitars blah is there a way to use guitar hero guitar for rockband so ill only have to buy the drums

  12. I completely agree with you Matt. I’ve played both [and am currently trying to decide which one to get], and know now the problems with World Tour. I still have Guitar Hero III, but I plan to sell it [along with the guitar; hated it for some reason] and get Rock Band II. I had originally planned to get GHWT [because I thought I would have to pay $100 for the Xbox 360 Wireless Adapter for Xbox Live until I realized there was a different way for free lol.]. I have played GHWT and though I wasn’t disappointed, I wasn’t happy either. Rock Band II is much more organized [plus a blue theme color is better than black ;-)] and GHWT’s menu [and vocals’ scrolling lyrics] look like a piece of trash compared to Rock Band II.

    Buying : Rock Band II.

    Thanks Matt. Great review. Definitely the best I’ve seen [all the others were written from a perspective that showed the good in both, which I didn’t care about; yours showed the bad and helped me choose my Christmas present [I’m such a kid lol]]. Rock on, brother.

  13. I liked the review Matt, as you said reviews are subjective. It just seems the Guitar Hero World Tour fans are a much more aggressive lot than the Rock Band group.
    Perhaps it is the more challenging game play? Or the frustration of using the menus?

  14. @ Gameclucks

    Really? Because I own RB, RB2 and all the GH games and I far prefer RB 1/2 over GH:WT. Don’t get me wrong I’ms till enjoying WT (Willie Nelson!!!) but nevertheless I find the RB games to be better polished.

    The note charts are more intelligent (albeit more easy but at least you’re not playing notes that aren’t there) and the general interface is better.

    Also how is seperate life bars cleverer than clearly and concisely merging all of them into one that is much easier to glance at to check progress?

    Answer: it’s not. Unless of course you’re a fan boy.

  15. Hey Matt,

    I put together a review to help people decide which game they preferred and came to the conclusion that Rock Band 2 was a better route for group play or when you just want a bunch of friends and family to get together and have a great time.

    I found Guitar Hero World Tour leaned more towards the hardcore gamers or to the people who played through the first couple and were hooked on the series. This is their first round with drums, so I am sure by the time GH 5 comes out they will be incredible.

    Of course Rock Band 3 will also be out by then and hopefully everyone wins as they all make continual improvements to make the games even more enjoyable.

    If you are looking for another take on Rock Band 2 versus Guitar Hero World Tour you might find this link helpful,


  16. I like both games have both games but im going to go with rockband on this one I was kindy disipointed on WT mostly the drums.The gutiar is just great I perfer it over the rockband guitar for sure and same goes for mic but the drums just….I expected something better.The cymbals are to low and adding the orange note makes it harder.I have a ion drum kit for rockband and I love it no problems works great and feels great.Another thing is that the rockband square notes is one thing that I really dont like I prefer the circle notes for guitar hero(they are just a little easier to understand instead on the squares