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Battle of the (Plastic Toy) Bands

Guitar Hero: World Tour is taking the feature-set fight to Rock Band in a way last year's sequel failed to do. Hurray for competition!

Make your dude.
I was not the world's biggest fan of Guitar Hero III. It played like a high-res retread of the last two games. It was too damn hard. It also felt like The Year Guitar Hero Went Corporate, rife with product placement as it was. (Remember the Axe guitar? The Pontiac video shoot?) To be fair, Neversoft had but a year to crank out the first rhythm game it had ever tackled (as far as I know), but the quality of a game in a vacuum is what it is, notwithstanding development factors. Can't give it a pass just because Activision cracked the whip on the poor devs.

A year later, it seems like World Tour is bringing a much more robust, complete, and likeable package to the table, as if Neversoft took a look at what Rock Band is doing and said (taking a cue from Twisted Sister), we're not going to take this anymore. That's the spirit of competition for you. Pure market forces! The system works!

Vinny and I got to sit down and mess around with a pretty complete build of the game recently, after which he remarked, off the cuff, "That's a quality product." I have to agree; there's a surprising amount of features crammed into World Tour, some that cover bases Harmonix hasn't hit on yet and others that may actually trump what's in Rock Band 2. The character creation system is surprisingly robust, for instance; there are about a million sliders and skin colors and hairstyles and what have you. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em--and do it better. You can also create designs out of basic shapes to slap onto the bodies of your guitars, which is something Rock Band lacks. They'll both let you put together a multi-layered band logo, though.

Make your song.
The music creation and editing system is where World Tour has the real edge. I don't think anyone will be putting together Guitar Hero bands geared toward live performance, because you just can't get all that many tones out of five fret buttons, a strum switch, and a whammy bar (although throw in the accelerometer and the touch-sensitive tap pad and you can do a lot). So there's not a lot you can do on-the-fly. The real value of the song editor in World Tour will be apparent after enough time has passed that the more obsessive fans have spent a lot of time in the sequencer (which RedOctane likened to Garage Band on the Mac), and created some nice compositions that are pleasing to the ear and challenging to the fingers of the Score Hero set. You can map a ludicrously long list of instrument sounds to your guitar, bass, and drums--ranging from typical distortion effects to wacky stuff like sitars and video game sound effects. The proof will be in the pudding of the community's output on this one, but I think the tools are there to make some pretty impressive stuff.

Then again, don't expect to sit down and meticulously plot out the solo from "Eruption" over a period of weeks and upload it to the network; Activision has already said it won't allow covers of copyrighted material, for obvious reasons.

You might not be surprised to hear about my experience with the gameplay in World Tour. Perhaps you've played Rock Band? Yeah, it's a lot like that: two guitar controllers, a drum set, and a microphone all going at once. RedOctane still has the edge on peripherals, though, bringing their years of hardware experience to bear yet again. The drum pads had a nice soft bouncy feel to them that was quieter than the Rock Band kit (although the RB2 hardware has mitigated this issue). They pretty much perfected the guitar controller last year, but the addition of the tap pad for solos certainly doesn't hurt anything. There was no way I could use it mid-song during our demo, though, because that would require me to look away from the song (and probably fail out) to see which pad corresponds to which color. There isn't any tactile reference for the buttons that I noticed, so you're going to need to build up the muscle memory to slide your hand to the right spot without looking. (Hey, just like real guitar!)

Make like a rock star.
World Tour is still way harder than Rock Band, though, which kind of bums me out from a drunk-people-in-your-living-room-looking-to-have-fun perspective. But again, mastering tough songs is what the Guitar Hero audience is about, so you just have to manage your expectations for the difficulty here accordingly.

Lastly, I feel like Tool is worth a mention here. I've seen them mentioned on many a forum post and comment as one of the primary drivers behind the fan base's interest in World Tour, and it's not surprising: Tool is a huge band that's never done this kind of game before. They're also a pretty technical band, using lots of weird time signatures and such (I nearly failed out of the drum track on "Parabola" thanks to its irregular rhythms), which ought to satisfy those Score Hero chaps. Plus, the band got involved in the game by providing ideas for their own venue. Which isn't a venue at all, actually, but more like a pulsating, eyeball-lined birth canal that you're constantly hurtling through as you play. Yeah, why don't I just leave you with that image. Brad Shoemaker on Google+
44 Comments
Posted by Brad
Make your dude.
I was not the world's biggest fan of Guitar Hero III. It played like a high-res retread of the last two games. It was too damn hard. It also felt like The Year Guitar Hero Went Corporate, rife with product placement as it was. (Remember the Axe guitar? The Pontiac video shoot?) To be fair, Neversoft had but a year to crank out the first rhythm game it had ever tackled (as far as I know), but the quality of a game in a vacuum is what it is, notwithstanding development factors. Can't give it a pass just because Activision cracked the whip on the poor devs.

A year later, it seems like World Tour is bringing a much more robust, complete, and likeable package to the table, as if Neversoft took a look at what Rock Band is doing and said (taking a cue from Twisted Sister), we're not going to take this anymore. That's the spirit of competition for you. Pure market forces! The system works!

Vinny and I got to sit down and mess around with a pretty complete build of the game recently, after which he remarked, off the cuff, "That's a quality product." I have to agree; there's a surprising amount of features crammed into World Tour, some that cover bases Harmonix hasn't hit on yet and others that may actually trump what's in Rock Band 2. The character creation system is surprisingly robust, for instance; there are about a million sliders and skin colors and hairstyles and what have you. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em--and do it better. You can also create designs out of basic shapes to slap onto the bodies of your guitars, which is something Rock Band lacks. They'll both let you put together a multi-layered band logo, though.

Make your song.
The music creation and editing system is where World Tour has the real edge. I don't think anyone will be putting together Guitar Hero bands geared toward live performance, because you just can't get all that many tones out of five fret buttons, a strum switch, and a whammy bar (although throw in the accelerometer and the touch-sensitive tap pad and you can do a lot). So there's not a lot you can do on-the-fly. The real value of the song editor in World Tour will be apparent after enough time has passed that the more obsessive fans have spent a lot of time in the sequencer (which RedOctane likened to Garage Band on the Mac), and created some nice compositions that are pleasing to the ear and challenging to the fingers of the Score Hero set. You can map a ludicrously long list of instrument sounds to your guitar, bass, and drums--ranging from typical distortion effects to wacky stuff like sitars and video game sound effects. The proof will be in the pudding of the community's output on this one, but I think the tools are there to make some pretty impressive stuff.

Then again, don't expect to sit down and meticulously plot out the solo from "Eruption" over a period of weeks and upload it to the network; Activision has already said it won't allow covers of copyrighted material, for obvious reasons.

You might not be surprised to hear about my experience with the gameplay in World Tour. Perhaps you've played Rock Band? Yeah, it's a lot like that: two guitar controllers, a drum set, and a microphone all going at once. RedOctane still has the edge on peripherals, though, bringing their years of hardware experience to bear yet again. The drum pads had a nice soft bouncy feel to them that was quieter than the Rock Band kit (although the RB2 hardware has mitigated this issue). They pretty much perfected the guitar controller last year, but the addition of the tap pad for solos certainly doesn't hurt anything. There was no way I could use it mid-song during our demo, though, because that would require me to look away from the song (and probably fail out) to see which pad corresponds to which color. There isn't any tactile reference for the buttons that I noticed, so you're going to need to build up the muscle memory to slide your hand to the right spot without looking. (Hey, just like real guitar!)

Make like a rock star.
World Tour is still way harder than Rock Band, though, which kind of bums me out from a drunk-people-in-your-living-room-looking-to-have-fun perspective. But again, mastering tough songs is what the Guitar Hero audience is about, so you just have to manage your expectations for the difficulty here accordingly.

Lastly, I feel like Tool is worth a mention here. I've seen them mentioned on many a forum post and comment as one of the primary drivers behind the fan base's interest in World Tour, and it's not surprising: Tool is a huge band that's never done this kind of game before. They're also a pretty technical band, using lots of weird time signatures and such (I nearly failed out of the drum track on "Parabola" thanks to its irregular rhythms), which ought to satisfy those Score Hero chaps. Plus, the band got involved in the game by providing ideas for their own venue. Which isn't a venue at all, actually, but more like a pulsating, eyeball-lined birth canal that you're constantly hurtling through as you play. Yeah, why don't I just leave you with that image.
Staff
Posted by MOARgan

Im pretty excited, i want to make my own cluster**** of noises and have my friends play it

Posted by mellenman

Im gonna get rock band not this

Posted by FallopianTube

Dude its all about rockband 2. im not one of those people who say that Guitar hero is copying but none of the features and/or songs in GHWT are as good as rockband. plus, who doesent want a crappy smoke machine and light set with their rock band gear

Posted by Ontheocho

I think I'll take Guitar Hero over Rock Band 2 solely on the fact that you can make your own music.  With Spore, LBP, and now Guitar Hero, it seems that shared user generated content for the masses is the new hotness.

Posted by RHCPfan24

This game looks good but I would be perfectly fine with only Rock Band 2.  All of the DLC I have already bought and the upcoming DLC and AC/DC pack just make me love it even more.  Still, with all the compatibility with both, why not pick up both eh?  Good article Brad, as always.

Posted by Mourne

Argh, the graphics in Guitar Hero are still as unpleasing as they were a year ago. C'mon, Neversoft--get an art director in there.

Since they don't allow sharing of copyrighted material on the "GH Tunes" side of things, that makes me want it even less. I know they legally can't, but if they're going to actively combat it, it just seems like a waste of time.

I'll see how they're doing with the series next year. For now, I'll stick with Rock Band.

Posted by PlatypusPlatoon

I just want to get Guitar Hero World Tour and sing Hotel California.


Does that make me a bad person?
Posted by Stealthoneill

I think I am going to get the World Tour Bundle and then pick up Just the Rock Band 2 disc. Seems the sensible thing to do as GH gear has always seemed sturdier and they will come with the 5 notes.

Posted by sociald1077

I am excited about this. Just getting the game for now as I don't really want 2 sets of instraments in my little ass apartment.

Posted by 8

@stealthoneill

totally.

Posted by trav3ler

Looks intense, Tool is one of my very favorite bands of all time.  I'll have to pick up just the disc, though, can't afford the full pack after i just bought RB2 drums.  How are they going to port over GH4 notecharts to RB2 drums?

Posted by Junpei

Personally I'm sticking with RB. Wjile I'd still love to give this once I try, I know I wouldn't use the music creator. All my creation juices are going to LBP. Also, with the giant mass of content already out there for RB (both game discs and DLC) I don't feel the need to change. Looks like both will be good either way so it's a win for consumers regardless.

Posted by zoozilla

Rock Band 2 for me.

There's just something about Rock Band as a franchise....it's like your favorite band.

They came out with this great new thing that you totally loved.  You get really attached to that band, and when Rock Band 2 comes out of course you're totally into it.

Then World Tour comes along, and it's kind of like the cheap knock-off band "inspired" by the original.  People who never knew about the original band get really into it, as it's good stuff; those who got into the original band, though, are kind of put off by it.

Did that make any sense at all?

Posted by TomA

Ya even with all o fhis is still feels like Harmonix is just more passionate about their game,and that's worth alot these days.I'll stick with my RockBand2

Posted by Death_Burnout

Err you Could totally slap designs on your guitar in Rock Band...

Posted by Zell

"You can also create designs out of basic shapes to slap onto the bodies of your guitars, which is something Rock Band lacks"

Both Rock Band 1 and 2 have this feature,  you can add quite a few layers and paint jobs to the guitars you just can't manipulate the shape of the guitar like you can in GH:WT.

Posted by guttershark

i'd still go for rock band 2

Posted by Steven

You can strick the layered art on guitars, just like on the body as tatoos, in Rock Band.  Only certain guitars though.

Posted by Terrell

It's still amazing that elitism and fanboyism can still take hold of people who claim to be "all about the music and experience"...

"Guess what blog readers, I would rather give my money to corporation A rather than corporation B, because corporation A actually cares about their product, unlike corporation B, who doesn't care at all!  The game my not be as good, but at least I know they care! That way when I pay for their 2nd Mercedes, I can fill good I'm not giving it to some company who doesn't want to just make money!"

Seriously, this is an overstatement, but still a statement. These game are BOTH the same. The same bad things about Rock Band are in Guitar Hero, and vice-versa....  If you seriously try and make a claim that one game is noticeably better because you have a "feeling" that the game is better because the people who make it somehow care more, then you are both a fool, and walking right into their PR/marketing. At the end of the day, Harmonix/Activision just want to make money, they are both the same in that respect.

PS: there is nothign wrong with wanting to make money, its a business. But people need to realize that they reason that harmonix throws a rediculous amount of songs at you every week is NOT because they are so passionate about their game that they want you to have more music. No, they want to make MORE MONEY, plain and simple......  They listen to you say "I will pay for THIS, PUT THIS UP!!!" and they put it up, and you pay for it...

Not trolling or being a jerk, just asking people to not be so dillusioned by Brands or Brand Names...

Posted by PercyChuggs

Here's an idea: buy one, rent the other, save yourself about $195 dollars, and you'll get the same experience.

Posted by Berkie

Great job Brad!

Posted by JJ
Make your dude.
Posted by Terrell

Percychuggs:  Great Idea!! That is definitely the best way to go about it....

Posted by DavidSnakes

Third route: Don't buy a rhythm game.  I don't know about anyone else, but I'm damn tired of Guitar Hero and music games period.

Posted by TDot

I'm sure someone mentioned this but Rock Band actually does let you put designs on guitars.

Oh and I agree with Terrell. At the end of the day, you're not advocating for Rock Band or Guitar Hero. You're not even aligning yourself with Neversoft or Harmonix. You're rooting for either Viacom or Vivendi/Universal.

Posted by Terrell

TDot: Exactly....people need to open their eyes!

Posted by KeepThisKoupon

i got to play GHWT at PAX and the drums are a lot more fun the play then the rock band drums, but Rock band 2 is a better game over all

Posted by NL_Buddha

After the announcement that Tool was on the play list my mind was made up. This was the selling point for me, now to read that they were involved directly with the game is making it more appealing as well. Pick up this complete set and RB2 disc. Best of both worlds!!!  

Posted by Shasam

@Terrell, I agree that game companies only want to make money, but if they're smart then they know how that works. It works by gaining a fan base and trying not to piss them off. I was a Guitar Hero fan, and I didn't automatically switch to Rock Band when the companies switched. However, Activision managed to piss me off. GH3 sucked. The characters and general art looked dreadful, it was too hard and the Hammer-On's were too easy.

When Rock Band came out (in Europe, eventually), I bought it, and the difference between the products and the way the company supports them are noticeably different. Harmonix knows how to make a game with the right level of difficulty, pick songs that complement both their game and each other and managed to support it with regular, good DLC. The best example I can give about the difference between the two companies are the guitar compatibility. This has changed now, but Harmonix wanted all instruments to work with their game (good for the fans) and Activision only wanted theirs to work (not so good).

I have nothing against Neversoft, I just think that Activision aren't treating Guitar Hero like they should, they're whoring it out across 6-ish games next year. All the while, Rock Band sticks with more DLC and making sure you can get all its music in to one game, which kind of lets them off the hook with the AC/DC expansion.

Posted by Elazul

The touch pad sounds kinda cool, but it's still nothing like playing real guitar unless your guitar dosen't have any strings on it. Also when you're playing guitar you can actually look at the fretboard without "failing" the song you're playing, because you don't have to keep your eyes on a screen that's telling you what to play.

That's not to say that the game dosen't look awesome. I can't wait to make half-assed rip-offs of copywrited songs and not upload them!

Posted by skrutop

I made the decision to stick with Rock Band and got RB2.  I do like GH's challenge in small bursts, but RB is a game I can play for hours.

What Brad didn't mention is that GH:WT's defining feature - its song creator - is impressive, but RB2 has a big ace up its sleeve, too: backwards-compatibility with RB1 and DLC songs.  That's the primary reason I didn't hestitate to grab RB2 and pass on GH:WT.

Posted by ToRo

@Shasam

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by kennybaese

I'm looking forward to picking this one up. As a Wii owner, I just want to one with the most features that actually make it over to the Wii version. GH:WT sounds like the one that is going to have that. If they ever get the instruments working on both games on the Wii, then I'll think about picking up a RB disk. We'll see.

Also, I like the feel of the GH controllers a lot more.

Posted by n8

to me this article is totally heartening..   thanks for the post mr. shoemaker

i'm one of those that is simply going to get guitar hero because of Tool.   i have both rock band and guitar hero(s) 2 and 3 currently so this decision was always going to be a toughy...   but Tool made Activision the win.  and now i know that the hardware is actually decent and theres going to be uploadable randomness i'm totally psyched.   rock bands reign could be compromised here  ;-)

GG TOOL + RANDOMNESS <3

Posted by ValiantGoat

Totally getting World Tour, but I've not figured out if I'll get the WT drums or RB2 drums yet. I think I'll have to wait and see what the general opinion on the 2 sets has to say. The WT drum stand looks rather unstable, and the foot pedal doesn't have anything to mount to so it worries me.

Posted by Death_acolyte

Well if i get rock band 2 in Aus before 2020 ill probably get this but i prefer the RB Guitar and Drums

Posted by VincentPrice

This being my first outing with a full-band rhythm game, I'm liking the suggestion to buy World Tour for the gear and Rock Band 2 later on disk.  I understand if your living room is clogged with the crap already, but purely from a song-per-dollar standpoint, it seems to make more sense to buy both games (even taking duplicates into account) than constantly harp on how about sweet RB's downloadable selection is.  

$2 a pop adds up quick, especially compared to the 80+ songs you get with each individual game. 
Posted by Afroman269

It still comes down to the songs and GH's history of mediocre track pack releases is gonna keep me with Rock Band 2. Harmonix is great at keeping the gameplay right and at least it hasn't reach the whore stage that Activision is turning GH into.

Posted by Psynapse

Yet again... Just read the fallout 3 preview, and now this one. Awesome work Brad.

Posted by Roboto

Straight up Rock Band for me, investing in all that DLC and seeing a list of 200+ songs to play from is so badass.  Also I've never been a fan of the "baditude" of GH.

Posted by Y2Ken

If I have to choose (and I probably will, I can't afford both), it'll be Guitar Hero. I like what Rock Band is doing but for me personally the song difficulty is too low - I completely understand that a lot of people don't want anything overly challenging, but I like to have the option to stretch myself, particularly as a guitarist I find it helps build up my finger co-ordination at high speed.

Posted by nail1080

urghhh Tool suck, where's the Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam???

Posted by jakob187

TOOL!!!  Tool is worth a mention in everything, even if they have nothing to do with it.

If we were talking about cheese, you have to mention Tool.  Pudding?  Tool.  Hamstrings?  Tool.  Lacerations?  Tool.  Puppies?  TOOL!!!  I'm psyched about the Alex Grey venue, and I'm even more psyched about beating the shit out of "Parabola".  I just wish they had put "Stinkfist" or "Lateralus" on there.  Oh well, I'll make due.