the new console war

The whole 360/PS3/Wii battle is so last year; right now, the real console war is between Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Thanks to Activision’s fear of making Guitar Hero games compatible with Rock Band instruments, the release of Guitar Hero World Tour is going to mean a lot more crappy plastic instruments in loungerooms, and I’m sure more than a few people will have trouble justifying two sets of drums in particular.

I’ve bet on Rock Band, of course, but if you want an explanation, this review of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith pretty much covers it. Guitar Hero 3 was clearly inferior to 2: the note charts are often either not fun or are just plain ridiculous, and to make up for that, they made the timing far too loose. The final track, Metallica’s One, is such an incredibly bad song for the game that I still, after some 8 months, haven’t mustered the energy to actually finish it and hence get to the end of the Hard career.

I was hoping that Neversoft would get the hang of things after their first game, but it sounds like Aerosmith is just as bad, if not worse. Guitar Hero has lost its soul, but what did Activision expect would happen when it handed the franchise to a developer that’s been producing the same tired and stale skateboarding game every year for the last decade? Then again, even Activision’s CEO has said that Guitar Hero will be “exploited on an annual or close to annual basis”, so perhaps it’s all going exactly to plan.

rock band 2 — fuck yeah!

Harmonix announced Rock Band 2 about two weeks ago, but information about it has been very thin on the ground until today at E3, when it announced the complete set list. It’s one hell of a list, too: 75 tracks, all of them master tracks (no covers!), with 9 indie bonus tracks, spanning a huge range of tastes. There’s simply too many highlights in there to bother mentioning them, so check the list and see for yourself.

Other awesomeness confirmed for Rock Band 2 so far includes:
* new guitar and drum instruments which are apparently much improved — they’re all wireless now, and the guitar includes a light sensor and microphone that’s used to automagically determine the AV lag on your system
* if you have a spare US$300, you can a real Ion electronic drum kit that works as a drum controller
* DLC from Rock Band 1 will work seamlessly with 2
* if you have the Rock Band 1 disc, you can copy most of its songs in to Rock Band 2, probably for a nominal fee (I’ve heard “less than $5” mentioned)
* new game modes, including a Battle of the Bands mode, and a drum trainer mode that effectively teaches you how to play the drums

Of course, it’s all still compatible with Rock Band 1 instruments, and Guitar Hero instruments on the 360, so Harmonix is basically being as totally super-awesome as they can be, in stark contrast to Activision/Red Octane’s monopolistic bullshit. One thing Rock Band 2 lacks, which Guitar Hero World Tour is promising, is and editor that lets you create your own music, but to be honest I’ll be surprised if Neversoft manage anything genuinely usable in that regard — no-one wants to rock out to canned guitar sounds arranged MIDI-style.

The major unknown is whether or not this will see any kind of local release, given the delays that have plagued Rock Band 1. I’m not expecting it until some time next year, but I’m hopeful that it will happen. If not, I’ll just have to import a set of drums, and hope that it’s at least released in the UK sooner rather than later, so I can import the disc from there.