This year sees the return of both Guitar Hero and Rock Band with new installments in each series. I am excited for both of them, but one more so than the other.
To begin with, let me tell you how I came into the music gaming genre in the first place.
I had just bought my Wii, and one of my girlfriend’s friends had Guitar Hero 3 for it. I borrowed it, and was immediately hooked. The gameplay, along with rock music, was an instant hit for me.
I played the game obsessively over the next few months, even if I didn’t actually get very good at it until I bought my own copy (along with 2 guitars for multiplayer). I had a lot of fun with that, playing with my friends.
A few years later, I became aware of the Rock Band franchise. This game had even more potential as a fun party game than Guitar Hero, and after buying my own band in a box + Rock Band 2, I never looked back. Since then, I’ve upgraded to Rock Band 3, and “band nights” are a somewhat regular event at my apartment.
I’m not sure how everyone else feels, but for me, Guitar Hero was kind of dead in the water after I started playing Rock Band. I am not sure if that’s a symptom of the more party-friendly complete band experience, but that’s how it was.
This year, however, things are looking different.
I went to the 2015 Gamestop Expo in Copenhagen, and the presence of each game kind of felt like an accurate representation of the care that went into crafting each new installment of the respective game.
This is the presence that Rock Band 4 had on the show floor of the 2015 Gamestop Expo in Copenhagen:
As far as I could tell, Rock Band 4 had two employees present, and one band setup. The employees would sometimes sub in when not enough players to fill a band were available, but they were …Let’s say, not great, at the game. They did not have a lot to say about the game before letting you play. My takeaway from Rock Band 4 was kind of that it’s more of the same. Don’t get me wrong, the base formula for Rock Band is great, but the one new feature that was there, I did not like.
Rock Band 4 allows you to improvise in solo areas, mashing the buttons willy-nilly, and getting a different solo from the one in the original track. I can see the fun in this, but unfortunately it’s just not enough fun (and it doesn’t sound good enough) for me to want to replace the original solos for these DIY solos. Luckily, this feature can be switched off.
I asked the Rock Band 4 representatives about the Keytar controller, and so far as they knew, the instrument would not be supported in Rock Band 4. Even though there were not *that* many tracks in Rock Band 3 where that instrument could be used, it’s still a bummer to see it go. I’d always hoped for the ability to play The Beards with a Keytar.
Now then, let’s take a look at the setup that Guitar Hero Live had:
Since this was part of the whole Activision gaming area, it was kind of hard to tell how many employees actually had anything to do with this particular game. The ones I did talk to, though, were pretty knowledgeable about the game, and seemed to have a good grip on it. I had several chances to play on the stage (since a lot of people had stage fright, I guess), and plenty of chances to play off to the side as well.
The guitar for Guitar Hero Live has been changed to be very different from the Rock Band controller:
There are other things that Guitar Hero has changed up for the latest installment in the game; apart from the new guitar design, the most notable change is the crowd / stage experience. Guitar Hero Live (as you might have guessed from the name) is live action. The amount of work that has gone into providing an experience where there’s a real life crowd (and band) that reacts to your performance is impressive. Going into the game at the Gamestop Expo, I didn’t expect to really care about this change. After all, the important bit is the notes flying at you, right?
Much to my surprise, I really liked this change to the game. The first time I nailed a really long section, and the crowd right in front of me went wild, singing along extra loudly, gave me quite some satisfaction.
The new gameplay for Guitar Hero Live was pretty fun as well. Much to my embarassment as an actual guitar player, reaching the fifth button on the old controllers has always messed with me. Being able to make different “chords” with the six buttons turned out to be a lot of fun, though!
The Guitar Hero Live area also had tote bags with the Guitar Hero Live logo printed on the side, which was nice. I know that swag should not matter, but it’s just another small detail that tells me that more care went into the presentation of this game than the new Rock Band.
The last part of Guitar Hero Live being a more consumer friendly experience (for me, at least) is the platforms it releases on. Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4, iOS (via iPad) and Wii U. The platforms that Rock Band 4 releases on (at least to start with) is limited to the Xbox One and Playstation 4.
What that means for me is that I will have to wait until the price drops for the band in a box version of Rock Band 4 to drop. I have Rock Band 3 (plus a full host of instruments, including the keytar) on my Xbox 360. Unfortunately, of the current generation of consoles, I only have a Playstation 4. That leaves me either dropping money on a whole new console, or an entire band in a box + an extra guitar (because apparently a band does not need both a bass and guitar player). Neither of those are really within my means as a student, which means I’ll have to wait.
If Rock Band 4 were to come out for the Xbox 360 (and I can see no reason why the game would not work on that console), I’d buy it without a second thought. As it is, I’ll probably get Guitar Hero Live at some point, and then wait for the price drops for Rock Band 4.