For years now, Guitar Hero has been leading the path for all music games. As the only guitar-controlled rhythm title available, Activision had the market cornered for two years. But after debuting the incredible Rock Band and introducing gamers to more than just a guitar, it was inevitable that Activision would change the direction of the Guitar Hero franchise to compete with its new found rival. While working on their all new Guitar Hero game, Activision still saw incredible sales for GHIII, as its obviously lower price-tag was more wallet friendly than the near $200 tag of Rock Band. Now, both games are offered in a variety of different sets, in addition to a complete bundle or stand alone game. So with both available, which game is the better one?
That's a tricky question to answer, as both games have their advantages and disadvantages. We will start with the instruments, If you've followed both games, you'll know that Guitar Hero offers the more realistic drum-set, complete with two mounted rubber hats – something I asked to see out of Rock Band 2. Below the rubbery hats are three pads, which are notably larger and quieter than the Rock Band set. The bass-pedal, unfortunately, while easier to operate, doesn't attach anywhere and grips the floor using the rubber pads beneath it, so those with carpets may find themselves annoyed.
But allow me to discuss the biggest concern with the Guitar Hero drums, and it isn't the faulty delay problems and Activision's poor fix solution; it's the material and design of the cymbals. Why Red Octane designed to use a rubber compound for the entire cymbal is beyond me – they should've just used it only for the top, and left the base plastic. Why? Because when you're drumming, the drum sticks would often get caught on the cymbal, throwing your rhythm completely off. Wood sticks to rubber, so instead of just sliding off, the sticks get stuck to the material – it's frustrating, to say the least. You can adjust the height of the cymbal, but not nearly high enough to avoid these problems.
My solution was simple, I plugged in my Rock Band 2 drum set and even though I was missing a pad, it was still extremely fun. But for those not fortunate enough to have both, some clever craftsmanship should fix the problem. And by clever craftsmanship, I mean scotch taping some paper to the bottom of the cymbals. It may not be the prettiest thing, but it works.
As far as the guitar, Red Octane has outdone Rock Band's peripheral, boasting an assortment of new features. For starters, the new guitar is a bit larger, with a longer whammy bar, quieter strum, and a redesigned Select button that now mimics the bridge of a guitar. But the coolest feature are the touch pad sensors that sit further down the neck, allowing you to use either the standard buttons, or the sensors pads. Additionally, the touch-pad sensors can be used for sustain, staccato notes, and easier finger tapping.
Now, I'll be perfectly honest…Rock Band 2's soundtrack isn't to my liking. Most of the songs just aren't my taste, and there are far too few that are. Obviously, being objective, I cannot dock the game for its soundtrack. But I can say that if you're looking for a heavier soundtrack, Guitar Hero: World Tour is where you should be looking. To me, the soundtrack is exactly what a rock game should boast – there was far too much fluff in Rock Band 2, it killed the energy of it, and if you wanted all of the great songs, you had to buy them.
World Tour features a soundtrack of over 80 songs, with artists including Nirvana, Muse, System of a Down, Korn, 311, Michael Jackson, Foo Fighters, Van Halen, 30 Seconds to Mars, Jimmy Eat World, Ozzy Osbourne, At The Drive-In, Billy Idol, Motorhead, Sex Pistols, Dream Theater, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Satriani, Tool, NOFX, Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins and the absolutely frigin' awesome Bullet For My Valentine. While a number of duplicate songs do exist between both RB2 and GH:WT, the edgier, louder, more energetic playlist definitely belongs to Guitar Hero.
While paid downloadable content has no affect on game score, because it doesn't actually come with the purchase of the game; it must be said that Rock Band's song store is certainly more diverse and expansive compared to Guitar Hero's, which is only in its infantile stage. That can change though, as Activision is set on expanding the store greatly in the near future.
Gameplay consists of the Career as the core mode. Obviously, this is where your campaign runs and how you can legitimately unlock the songs of the game. Your band will play behind you, and you can make your way through the campaign with any of the instruments or as a singer. It's fairly straightforward stuff, complete with the requisite boss fights, which have been changed around to end the cries of frustrated gamers.
Besides the standard gameplay modes is also the Music Studio mode, where you can record a three-minute song of your own using the game's instruments. A variety of options will allow the gamer to configure the sound of their drums and guitars, allowing for a diverse range of effects. Uploading your created songs to the Guitar Hero Tunes service is has limitations, as users cannot upload copyrighted material (covers), or upload more than five songs.
The visuals here in World Tour are about what you've come to expect. Polygonal versions of famous musicians make up and back up your created player. You still have the light show, on top of the motion captured animation done by the musicians, as well. Image clarity is great, so I doubt you'll have much to complain about. But at this stage, I'd personally like to see a slightly more flashy look from both Rock Band and Guitar Hero; the quirky cartoon-like presentation has worked well until now, but it's not next-generation quality and could use a facelift.
With RockBand 2, my biggest gripe with the audio was the lack of a mixer that allows you to adjust the volume of each individual instrument. To my surprise, Guitar Hero: World Tour actually has this very feature, giving the gameplay a slight boost above that of Rock Band 2. With this feature, I can now turn down the vocals and guitars in order to hear the drums or bass better. Having control over the audio like this is a wish come true. So not only does Guitar Hero continue to feature superb audio clarity, but mixing sounds puts this one on top.
As is the case with music games, it's the playlist that ultimately determines your choice. Do you like Guitar Hero's tracklist more, or Rock Band 2's? My personal choice is Guitar Hero: World Tour, as its louder and heavier soundtrack puts a bigger smile on my face than Rock Band 2's unusual mix. With fantastic multiplayer offerings, backwards compatibility with Rock Band peripherals, and flawless audio, World Tour is worth the money. Hopefully next time Red Octane gives us a pair of cymbals that don't require the need to have paper scotch-taped beneath them.