Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
October and November of 2007 have seen two big music-related titles released for next gen gaming consoles. One is the latest installment in the venerable (relatively speaking) Guitar Hero franchise, and the other is the brash, young upstart Rock Band. They are very similar in scope and style, and they are obviously competing for the attention, and hard-earned dollars, of gamers (or perhaps their parents) this holiday season. The question is which is the better game?
Let’s consider Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock first. Everything that you love about Guitar Hero makes a return here, and additionally there are some innovations that make GHIII the best in the series so far. You can buy the game with a shiny new guitar controller, and this one is wireless allowing you more freedom to unleash your inner rocker. The game is once again stacked with lots of great songs, but as an added bonus the majority of them are performed by the original artists, rather than by some unknown cover band. But the coolest new feature is probably Battle Mode. The developers have brought in some big names in the rock world such as Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine) and Slash (of Guns N Roses) to write new riffs for your shredding pleasure, and they even make appearances within the game as bosses you must face off against throughout your career.
During Battle Mode, instead of amassing star power you stockpile battle power, which you then use to hinder your opponent’s play. You get to do things like break one of their guitar strings, overload their amp, and temporarily increase their level of difficulty. To win the battle you’ve got to get your opponent to play so badly they fail the song, so whether you’re facing off against one of the greats in solo mode or your best friend over Xbox Live, check your compassion at the door and show no mercy.
Now let’s turn our attention to the newcomer. The biggest distinction between GHIII and Rock Band is that the former is just you on a guitar (which is certainly a blast), and the latter is you and several of your friends on multiple “instruments”. Rock Band comes with a drum set, a guitar, and a microphone. It is also compatible with the guitar controller for GHIII (as well as GHII), so you can potentially form a four person band: lead guitar, bass guitar, drums, and lead vocals. This last component is one of the more interesting (and IMO, challenging) aspects of the game, as the microphone included with the game detects your pitch and displays how closely it matches the predetermined ideal pitch for the vocals of each song. The lyrics are provided (just like a karaoke machine) so gaining points is entirely dependent on your singing ability.
Rock Band has just as many great songs as GHIII, with seemingly just as many performed by the original artists. But whereas GHIII continues the format of a series of increasingly difficult five-song set lists that you progress through in a fairly straightforward fashion, Rock Band makes things much more interesting. Your band sets out on the road, playing individual songs as well as various set lists and challenges that depend on your gig. Based on your performances you earn money and fans. As you accumulate more fans and fame you open new (and bigger) avenues on which to tour. The Holy Grail seems to be an 18 song set list at Madison Square Garden, but you'll need close to four hundred thousand fans before you're deemed worthy of such a marathon performance. The money can be spent customizing your character to a much greater degree than GHIII with a wide selection of outfits, instruments, hairstyles, makeup, and tattoos.
Both GHIII and Rock Band are great games and both are loads of fun to play, but I’ve got to say that I had more fun rocking out with two buddies of mine, one on bass and the other on drums (I was on lead guitar, natch), than I’ve ever had playing solo on Guitar Hero. Two games enter, one game leaves. With it’s group-based play and more interesting career mode, I give the edge to Rock Band.
Whichever game you choose, Rock on!