Guitar Hero World Tour Vs. Rock Band 2

ghwt-vs-rb2 This holiday season brings us two band-based rhythm games: Guitar Hero World Tour, featuring the name that started this crazy thing, and Rock Band 2, from the people that actually did the coding behind what started this crazy thing. With the economy in a hole, where should you splurge your hard earned cash?

  • Music List: Tie

Both games have their ups and downs. On the plus side, Guitar Hero World Tour has Jimi Hendrix, Ozzy Osbourne, and Tool while Rock Band 2 has AC/DC, Alice in Chains, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. On the downside, Guitar Hero has some forgettable foreign songs while Rock Band 2 includes songs I’d rather forget but can’t easily categorize. There’s also some bands that have songs on both sides of the fence like Nirvana, Paramour, and Metallica. Honestly, it’s a toss-up.

  • Difficulty: Guitar Hero World Tour

Take this for what it’s worth, but I prefer a game give me a challenge. When I play a song on Medium in Rock Band 2, I feel that I’m being treated like a retard at times. Not that I appreciate Guitar Hero World Tour’s occasional missing notes in Eye of the Tiger’s long single-note stream all that much more, as it seems its only purpose is to make sure I’m paying attention. But if you want to break down into these games’ game-play and musical-scale-conversion theories, you’ve come to the wrong place. I can definitely say that each game seems to have its own notion of how difficult a song is to play in real life and tries to adjust the notes coming down the highway accordingly rather than have some steadfast conversion rule and then rate the resulting difficulty.

  • Team Play: Rock Band 2

In Guitar Hero World Tour, Solo and Band are separate career paths even though the character you decide to use can accumulate dosh from both. This means you have to unlock locked-up songs twice, pay double to unlock the paid-for venues, and you can’t unlock songs before your friends come over nor can you keep any unlocked songs when your friends leave.

Rock Band 2 has a single path that you can play solo or with friends, so you can unlock stuff by yourself before friends arrive and you can keep whatever you and your friends unlock. Rock Band also has a No-Fail mode that prevents you or your band from getting kicked off the stage. While Guitar Hero World Tour’s Beginner difficulty has the same heart, sometime it’s more fun to see how badly you can fail at a song.

Rock Band 2 also has separate gauges for how well each member is doing. Guitar Hero World Tour’s unified Rock Meter leaves it up to guesswork and finger-pointing.

  • User Friendliness: Tie

Guitar Hero’s half-spherical notes are a lot easier to read and give a much better indication of the “hit box” you have to hit notes. I’ve found myself hitting notes on Rock Band 2 when their break-apart animation is almost off the highway. Having the sides of the highway turn blue in Guitar Hero World Tour when you’re able to use star power allows you to keep your focus on the notes.

On the other hand, Rock Band 2 makes it so easy to take the difficulty up or down a notch. Great for people who are working their way up the difficulty ladder as this allows them to try songs they nail on harder difficulties or take it down a notch on songs that kick their ass.

  • Gamesmanship: Rock Band 2

Let’s not forget that we’re actually playing a game in which we pretend to be rock stars. Rock Band 2 feels a lot more like a game when it rewards (or punishes) you based on how well (or poorly) you did and gives you opportunities like double-or-nothing (double your fan base or cash earnings if you get a four-star rating or higher), chairty fundraisers (no cash, more fans), private parties (less fans, more cash), and switching out the last song for something that’s harder for a particular instrument (usually for a sponsorship from an instrument manufacturer, sometimes for more cash and/or fans). You can also win better traveling arrangements and open access to managers who will put their own spin on the game.

Comparatively, Guitar Hero World Tour just plops you in a venue, hands you a set list, and asks you not to fail. The only driving motivation in Guitar Hero World Tour is of the completionist variety — what’s the hardest difficulty you can pass a song on, what’s the highest score, and how much money can you earn along the way? Rock Band 2 eventually boils down to this, too, but there are plenty of twists along the way.

  • Instruments: Rock Band 2

Rock Band 2 wins by default. Google “Rock Band 2 [instrument] problems” and the only slightly relevant hits would be problems from Rock Band 1’s instruments. Do the same for Guitar Hero and you’ll be inundated by reports of the guitar’s strum bar failing and the drums being way too insensitive. You would think that the Red Octane would have seen the mess Rock Band 1 made of its instruments and strive to do better. Apparently only EA/Harmonix learned a lesson over too-cheaply produced fake instruments.

Having said that, it’s almost pointless to go on about the other aspects of each guitar, but I will anyway. I actually like Guitar Hero World Tour’s new guitar design better than Rock Band 2’s. Rock Band 2’s guitar feels more like a guitar that Guitar Hero World Tour’s, but Guitar Hero World Tour’s guitar makes it easier to tell which frets your fingers are on without looking. I also like the extra room between the strum bar and the whammy bar on Guitar Hero World Tour’s guitar. Rock Band 2’s guitar feels a bit more cramped in this respect. Of course, none if this matters if your guitar fails within two weeks.

Guitar Hero World Tour’s slider bar and Rock Band 2’s solo buttons can both go to hell as (1) it’s difficult enough to keep track of where my fingers need to be on one set of buttons let alone two, and (2) neither control set works on the other company’s platform.

  • WINNER: ROCK BAND 2

While Guitar Hero World Tour is certainly not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, and in fact great fun can be had for owning both games, it’s become obvious who held all the creative juices during the Activision/Harmonix era. It seems that Guitar Hero World Tour is in copy mode, but it’s copying from Rock Band 1. Which is funny, considering Rock Band 2 is also pretty much a copy of Rock Band 1, minus the instrument quality. Ouch.

If you can’t decide which way to swing, I’d highly recommend picking up a Rock Band 2 set and renting the stand-alone Guitar Hero World Tour game. If you decide Guitar Hero World Tour is more to your liking, you can trade in Rock Band 2 at your local used game shop and keep the higher-quality instruments.