Rock Band or Guitar Hero?

So, by now you have a least heard of two music based video games with fancy-schmansy musical instrument-type controllers.  These games are Rock Band and Guitar Hero 3.  These two games have set the music and video game worlds ablaze and many would-be rockers are being inspired to take up  actual instruments.  But which of these two game are better?  Is there a difference?  Let’s look at each.


Guitar Hero 3-  The reigning champ in the emerging music video game, Guitar Hero has already have several editions; Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80’s (for PS2 only), Guitar Hero 2 (PS2 and Xbox 360) and Guitar Hero 3 (PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii).  All the previous ones were made by Harmonix (more on them later) but GH3 was made by Neversoft, mostly famous for their Tony Hawk series of games.  The game play is simple, yet challenging, with your guitar controller, you hold coloured buttons co-responding with the onscreen notes and "strum" the guitar when it touches the bottom.  Sounds, easy?  Well, the guitar has 5 buttons and, depending on the difficulty and the song, the notes come at you fast and furious, requiring some fast fingerwork.  The game can include up to two players (one on guitar, one on bass.)  Any guitar controller works for you system works for it…except the Rock Band one.  Why?  Read on and I’ll tell you.

Rock Band-  Remember that I mentioned Harmonix, the company that made the Guitar Hero Series before GH3?  Well, they were an independent company that made the game for the original publisher, RedOctane, a company known for it specialty controllers such as dance mats and guitar controllers.  RedOctane ended up being bought by Activision, who now control the Guitar Hero franchise and after GH2 was put out, Harmonix, who has all the programmers that made the first few games great, was bought by MTV games.  So, since they no longer had the GH series to work on, they aimed for something bigger.

Rock Band is that something bigger.  Keeping the same mechanics for the guitar (with a licensed Gibson guitar controller), Harmonix added a singing element and a drum element to the gameplay.  Keeping true to its name, you can also form a band with three other players (guitar, bass drums and vocals) and even play in a co-op career mode.  It is published by MTV Games and EA and is for the PS2, PS3, Xbox 360 with a version for the Wii coming soon.

So, which is better?  Rock Band has one distinct advantage: the backing of MTV.  Since about January, Rock Band has been releasing at least three new downloadable songs per week for about $2 each for the PS3 and XBox360 (PS2 owners are SOL).  The downloads range from the Grateful Dead, Black Sabbath and Boston to Queens of the Stone Age. NIN and Metallica.  They plan to keep the songs coming for at least a year or more, to give the game a long life.  This is great if you have you console hooked up to the Internet and have the money to pay for online content.

Guitar Hero 3 has the name recognition with the industry, having been around for a while longer.  It’s downloads have been fewer than Rock Band’s but it also had more freebies to download.  At first, they offered a Halo 2 theme song for download and at Christmas , there was a rendition of We Three Kings.  Later on, there was a limited time download of an Aerosmith song as a teaser for the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith edition and in march, there was a Dropkick Murphys 3 pack for free.  Other than that, GH3’s songs tend to be pricier and mostly in song packs.  How long they will support GH3 remains to be seen as they already have two sequels coming out:  the aforementioned Aerosmith edition in June and Guitar Hero 4 in the late fall.  And you can bet your ass they are planning something to answer Rock Band’s "make your own band" mode.

So, which is better?  They are both solid games, but Rock Band offers more, but with a higher price tag.  You can get both games without their controllers, but your RB controller won’t work with GH on the 360, though the GH controller works on RB.  The PS3 version is worse and the controllers only work for the game it was made for.  There is a patch made by Harmonix to make the Guitar Hero controller work for Rock Band, but they were stopped by Activision from releasing it, due to "licensing issues".  See, Activision hates Haromnix.  A lot of PS3 owners who had GH3 guitars and bought just the RB game were stuck with an unplayable game, unless they get a RB controller, which is not out until April.  So if you get only one, I’d say Rock Band has the more complete experience.  If you can’t afford the $170 CDN, get Guitar Hero 3 bundle (if you’re a XBox 360 owner, you can get just the Rock Band games as the guitar works with it and you can use the Xbox headset as the mic.).  I’d also recommend GH3 to those who aren’t hooked up the Internet as there will be a new version in the summer and fall if you master the songs.

Keep rockin’!