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.

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