Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Comparison Game

MTV sent me a Rock Band 2 bundle (!!!), but not before I had already purchased Guitar Hero World Tour -- don't worry, I only grabbed the game with guitars to replace a broken one, not the full package (I have enough plastic instruments, thank you very much). And now that I've spent way too much time playing RB2, I think it's time to compare them in my own words.

Both games do a lot of things right, and I will say right now that if the world were perfect, the two development studios would combine themselves into a mass of dense, pure awesome and all music games would be absolutely perfect. So, let's start with GHWT.

GHWT is still a Guitar Hero game, hands down. Yes, they have drums and singing and the obligatory bass, but really the only instrument that holds all the fun and fame is the guitar. The songs clearly focus on this because, let's be real here, Hendrix was not known for his drummer. Nor is Ozzy. Nor is...Sting? So, with that said, the guitar is done well, as usual, but that was to be expected, right? So let me explain why the drums suck ass in this game. Bear with me.

Apparently the people at Neversoft just aren't on the same (read: logical) page as the guys at Harmonix. It was nice of them to make the game rearrange the drum track and condense it down to 4 lanes instead of the game's standard 5, but even still, the drums are just mapped poorly. For one thing, you will hardly hit the green pad. I don't really know why, but that pad isn't a crash cymbal, ever. The condensing method they seem to have implemented goes as such: all yellow, raised cymbals of the GHWT kit are pushed into the yellow pad of the RB2 kit, and all the raised, orange cymbals are pushed into the blue pad. Okay, that's fine. But it makes certain songs unplayable on any kit (on expert).

"Everlong," by the Foo Fighters, has a very fast, constant high hat beat with an off-note hitting the snare every so often. The song is in both games. On RB2, the beat's mapped with the red pad (the left) getting the high hat, and the yellow (on the right) getting the snare -- this makes logical sense, because on a normal, right-handed kit the high hat is to the left of the snare. But in GHWT they have stuck to their guns with those raised cymbal things and reversed logic itself, making, for a right-handed drummer, the song impossible to play because the mappings are reversed. I understand their urge to be "different" with those raised cymbals, but when you're so gung-ho to your own design that you lose fun-ness... that's just, well, stupid. Case in point: I was able to finish the song in GHWT with lefty flip turned on, but not on the standard mapping. Hm.

The song list in GHWT isn't quite as good, either. Sure, they have the Doors and Hendrix and Tool (one of my favorite bands ever, and essentially the reason I grabbed this game), but aside from those few bright spots, I really have no desire to play the other songs. RB2 has me constantly wanting to play almost every song on there, with only a few falling (very) short of awesome (The Go-Go's? Ew.). And the virtually recreated GH artists and kind of cool and all, I guess, but I kind of question why they are there outside of being some kind of marketing stunt. Or, maybe to make up for GH3's kinda "meh" offering.

They have Billy Corgan song, which is also in RB2. Ozzy is there as a singer (naturally), but any song outside of an Ozzy song puts him in a very, very weird place (he sings Dream Theater at the end...huh?). Travis Barker is there, again song (which is downloadable in RB2). The chick from Paramore is there for some reason (again, one song). Sting plays bass for his single song offering (fun fact: I didn't know he played bass before playing this game), and no one cares. And Hendrix is awkwardly brought back from the dead for this game.

There are things GHWT does improve on, though. The sustained notes are a blast to come across, allowing you to hold one note down but still play other, single notes at the same time. And the open bass notes (where you only hit the strum bar, sans buttons) is really quite cool. RB2 has its new things, too -- drum solos and hammer-on chords. Both are welcome, but if all of these features were in both games, it'd be the best.

Now, the little, little things:

-GHWT loads between songs faster than RB2, but you can only make a 6 song setlist.
-The singer in GHWT's stage performance does a lot more than RB2's, but their drummer looks like a lost and scared child at a kit for the first time (still!)... ..or some kind of mentally challenged robot, if such a thing could exist (something that makes Travis Barker appear hilarious when he's on the kit).
's drummer animations are fucking amazing (still), and I will never understand how they got them to be so fluid (and I'm guessing Neversoft won't, either).
offers much more song-breakdown stats between songs than RB2 -- WHY...WHY can't I at least know my note streak between songs, RB2? WHY!? You do it for individual songs, but not setlists? The hell? Ugh.
-The tour mode in RB2 still shits all over GHWT's, which is essentially a bunch of quick setlists. RB2 offers challange tours and "battle of the bands," too, which are pretty great, though I question their longevity.
- GHWT's "new" guitar has a slider bar thing, that (supposedly) lets you slide up and down notes to play them in certain parts of songs. This mechanic is broken and stupid. Not only is it awkward as shit to try and quickly use, it doesn't work nearly as well as you would think, with lag and inaccuracies making super-hard solos impossible to use it with. RB2's mini-button thing is still kinda weird, too, but at least it's usable.
- GHWT's menus aren't nearly as pleasant as RB2's. Song selection is bulky to say the least, and just doesn't feel...clean. RB2 has album art, a clean interface, and plenty of breathing room.
-And then, finally, there's RB2's content...all songs from RB1 can be transferred, and there's something like 350-400 songs available to download online. GHWT can. Not. Touch that. They never will, either. Oh, you have that shitty new Metallica album? Go fuck yourselves, I have motherfucking RUSH. And Foo Fighters. And The Red Hot Chili Peppers. They have nothing on the Rock Band guys. Their weekly song additions are the best, most awesome thing to ever happen to videogames. There, I said it.

What it breaks down to is this: GHWT is, like I said before, a Guitar Hero game, where you pretty much only want to play the guitar. It does some cool things, but really those things only make you wish RB2 had them, because that's the game you're going to be playing more. Everything about RB2 is better than what was offered in RB1, too. Everything. If something bothered you about RB1, it was probably fixed in 2. So, just go buy RB2, it will make you happier. It will make you enjoy life. It will make you smile. I promise.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

One Down.

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine and I placed a bet that I couldn't finish 3 games by X-mas. The victor would receive a 6-pack of excellent beer (though what that beer will be remains a mystery). So, I have started this journey by completing Fallout 3.

Let me start talking about this game at the same place that a lot of people seem to start: is it Oblivion with guns? Well, if you strip the story away, the atmosphere, the physical environment, and the characters, pretty much yes, it is. You have the same kind of enemies, who act essentially the same way, the same "I'M GOING TO TALK TO YOU SO ZOOM INTO YOUR FACE" speech system, and the same feeling when walking around in the D.C. wasteland as you did in Oblivion's Cyrodiil. Of course, whether or not this is a bad thing depends on whether or not such things annoyed you about Oblivion. They didn't annoy me, so, I was fine.

But adding back on all of the attributes I previously mentioned places this game in an entirely different realm that is not only brilliantly crafted, but a blast to sift through. I simply love the 1950's-future future that's in the game. Now, I didn't play the other installments of Fallout, but I did read on them extensively so to completely understand the universe I was getting myself into. Everything about this game is fascinating. You will find yourself saying "that's cool" pretty much constantly, which, aside from being a great way to pull you into the game's offered experience, really shows how much thought was put into this installment.

And even though I beat the game, I still know that there were probably several hours of other side quests I could have gone through. And if I wanted to explore everything, whew, that'd take me forever. This is, after all, a life-sucking RPG at its core.

The notable addition to the game's FPS nature is the inclusion of the "V.A.T.S." (Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System). This was something I thought would get annoying very fast. Essentially, you hit a button and time stops. Then, your view will zoom in on an enemy in front of you, and you will be presented with the option of firing at any of its various body parts (torso, arms, legs, head). Your decision will most likely be based on which part you have the best chance of hitting, which the game aids you with by telling you what percent chance you have to hit each area. Each attack launched on that area uses up "action points" which then need to be recharged before you can use the V.A.T.S. again. Oh, and the attacks are done in super slo-mo for maximum awesome. See how that can get annoying if you use it over and over and over?

Well, it didn't. Not for me, at least. There's something extremely satisfying about blasting a creature's face off in slow-motion that never seems to get old.

The real prize of this game are the options given to the player. You can be pretty much whoever you want to -- from Jesus to Satan. Want to kill everyone and wreak havoc everywhere? Go for it! Want to help everyone out? You can! Want to help most people but every once in a while shoot a shop owner? Kinda weird, but, sure! The options are yours and the story you can create has a ton of possibilities. This play through I found myself being nice to everyone and by the end of the game I was a "Wasteland Savior" -- like I said, Jesus. Maybe next time, if I go through it again, I'll be a total asshole.

Simply put, this game is great. Though I wouldn't recommend getting it if you don't like the color gray. There's a shitload of that here. Like, it's everywhere. I understand that the post-apocalyptic world is supposed to be dreary, but damn. Any other shortcomings can be overlooked. There were several times that the game sucked me in and I didn't want to stop playing not because the gun play was excellent, but because the particular story I was following at the time was so damn intriguing.

So, what's next? It's 12:40 on a I don't know. Someone leave a comment with what to play next: Metroid Prime 3, Wipeout HD, or Crysis. Eh, I'll probably just end up coming to a decision on my own.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

To quote a reddit comment

Dear Rest of the World,

We didn't fuck it up.