Battle of the Bands 2007

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Guitar Hero III vs. Rock Band

The battle between Harmonix and Activision has really taken a strange turn since the defection to MTV Games, and from what I've seen this year, we all benefit from it. As if Guitar Hero III wasn't good enough for us, we were treated to the debut of Rock Band, and the rest is history. But one has to wonder which game is better. Over the last month I did a lot of research with both games in terms of which is better and much to everyone's delight, it turns out to be a winner for both sides, but to choose one depends on how you plan to play.

Single Player Gameplay:

Those who are familiar with the Guitar Hero franchise know the story by now. Songs are grouped in tiers based on difficulty. For Guitar Hero 3 there are eight main tiers with four songs available at start, as well as a separate list for bonus tracks and downloads. However after the tier's songs are completed, there is the opportunity for an encore song. In addition, Guitar Hero 3 debuts guitar battles against Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Slash of Guns and Roses/Velvet Revolver, and Lou (aka the Devil.) Neversoft also increased the single player significantly, as even some of the medium difficulty songs can prove a challenge to the hardened Guitar Hero veteran.

Rock Band's single player tours also go on a tier based system, with a separate section for bonus songs and downloads. But where the bonus songs are purchased in Guitar Hero III, they are unlocked in succession as the previous track is completed. With the depth of the local band world tour mode, I can only wish that it could have been implemented in solo tour mode.

Winner: Guitar Hero 3 (1-0 GH3)

Local Multiplayer:

This is where Rock Band completely shines. While both games have faceoff/tug of war and pro faceoff/score duel, it is the Band World Tour that makes Rock Band the great multiplayer experience that it is. Rather than going through tiers of varying difficulty, bands travel from city to city to gain fans and popularity, eventually opening up newer venues and earning perks such as buses, planes, roadies, and the chance to get into the Hall of Fame. Sadly this feature was dropped in the PlayStation 2 version, in favor of the old tier system, so that comes as a slight disappointment.

Winner: Rock Band (1-1)

Online Multiplayer:

Both games feature the competitive modes mentioned before, but Rock Band also features band multiplayer. Sadly, Band Multiplayer is a single song affair, as Band World Tour is not available online. I'm still waiting for the patch to come out, and hopefully Harmonix will follow through, but still being able to play with others online cooperatively is a plus.

Winner: Rock Band (2-1 RB)

Song Selection from the start:

With 71 songs available compared to 58, Guitar Hero III has the larger variety. GH III does feature some original recordings for the guitar battles from Tom Morello and Slash, as well as a unique rock version of The Devil Went Down to Georgia, and re-recordings of Cult of Personality and Anarchy in the UK. The only catch is some of the songs (such as Suck My Kiss) are unlockable by multiplayer. All the songs in Rock Band are unlockable in both single and multiplayer.

Winner: Guitar Hero III (2-2)

Downloadable songs:

Guitar Hero got a lot of flack in the past because of the high cost of song downloads, at 500 Microsoft Points ($6.50) per three pack. Sadly that is still the case here. Granted there were a few single song downloads available for free (such as the Halo 2 Mjolnir Mix) but still people are forced to buy downloads they don't want to get the songs they do want.

Rock Band is taking advantage of this. In addition to offering three packs, they are also including individual songs (both as master tracks and covers) and even full albums (Metallica and The Who are on the schedule.) New songs are available every week without any sign of stopping. If only Guitar Hero III can catch up to that.

Winner: Rock Band (3-2 RB)

Visuals:

Maybe it's just me, but I'm more partial to smoother frame rates. While Guitar Hero III has some pretty strange looking characters (singer Frankenshaggy comes to mind) the 60 frames per second animation looks amazing, even on the PS2. That's not to say that Rock Band is ugly; far from it. I see where Harmonix is going with the music video style effects, and they work quite well. I just like the smoother animation. On the bright side, the characters can only be as ugly as how you make them.

Winner: Guitar Hero III (3-3)

Sound:

Music quality of master tracks and covers aside, what really makes Rock Band shine is all the additional effects. As if the guitar having the five way effector switch wasn't enough (and I will say adding that wah-wah effect to Paranoid really makes that song shine,) hearing the crowd join in when performing a near 5-star performance is a religious experience.

Winner: Rock Band (4-3 RB)

Guitar Controller:

I praised the Les Paul Wireless controller when I reviewed Guitar Hero III and I still stand by that approval. However I am also partial to the Rock Band Stratocaster. To me the fret buttons just feel natural and I actually found it easier to play hard songs with it. I admit I did have some issues with the strummer bar as sometimes it will do a double note but it doesn't completely detract from the whole experience. Personally, I don't think you can go wrong with either controller.

Winner: Draw (5-4 RB)

Overall Winner: Rock Band with a score of 5 to 4!

But…

In the end we really have two winners here, though Rock Band wins on points. Both games are above and beyond and they are both worthy of being Game of the Year candidates. But in the end I find myself favoring Rock Band more because of the online and local multiplayer community, the variety of instruments, and the always evolving song list. But for those who favor the single player experience, then Guitar Hero III would be your better choice.

Currently Playing: Contra 4 (DS,) Rock Band (Xbox 360)

Waiting for: Online Band World Tour in Rock Band

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