Rock Band vs. Guitar Hero
We’ve had a lot of success at my library with our Rock Band nights, and I know we’re not the only library to get results from such an event. But now with the releases of Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band 2 there’s the issue of which of these two platforms to support. So, now that I’ve had a chance to play both (Rock Band on the 360, Guitar Hero on the Wii), here’s the run down.
The on disc soundtracks are a bit of a toss up. There are a dozen songs shared by both games, including some of the best ones (American Woman, One Way Or Another, Everlong). On top of that there are also a number of bands represented by both games, which also covers a wide range of Rock music (Steely Dan and Nirvana for example). So clearly both games are coming from a similar background.
But there are a few differences that give the edge to Rock Band in this category. Rock Band has a clear advantage due to its head start on downloadable content. As of now there are about 200 additional songs that can be purchased to add to the game, not to mention about 2 dozen free songs (including the 20 free downloads that come with the game). I’m also going to give Rock Band props for having a bit more variety. Guitar Hero has 3 bands represented multiple times on the track list, and while having both Purple Haze and The Wind Cries Mary available is nice, I prefer having extra bands represented given the option (save the duplicates for the downloadable songs).
Here Rock Band is the clear victor. Guitar Hero doesn’t feel like it was adequately play tested. For starters, many of the songs feel unbalanced, I don’t know why anyone would be interested in playing Stranglehold on vocals for example, unless you’ve really got nothing better to do in your life for a few minutes than not singing into a microphone. Similarly the easier difficulty versions of many of the tracks don’t seem to synch terribly well to the audio.
Which brings me to Guitar Hero’s greatest fault, its designers forgot that what makes these games so good is their immersiveness. Rock Band tries to be believeable in its characters and settings, Guitar Hero tries to be ridiculous instead. Everytime I see a poltergeist flying through an auditorium, or the stupid evil eye background whenever you play a Tool song it takes me out of the experience and reminds me I’m playing a game and not music.
Neither of these games are exactly renowned for their graphics, but they don’t really require much. However, I’m bringing this up because of how awful Guitar Hero actually is in this respect. Somehow it’s gone backwards, producing a game that looks far worse than its predecessor. The animation makes all the characters look inhuman (which is unforgivable considering the amount of motion capture done in the game) and the visuals often don’t sync up with the audio. Rock Band by comparison is smart enough to not show someone playing when they shouldn’t be.
So comparing the two games really comes as something of a blow out. Guitar Hero has a good soundtrack, but almost nothing else going for it. Rock Band 2 is just a solidly constructed game. Plus today Harmonix was awarded the exclusive for developing the Beatles repertoire into a future game, so they have some added momentum going into the latest round of the console wars.