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.
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.
**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.