When it comes to most games that I purchase, I’m probably being robbed. Sixty bucks for about 5-10 hours of gameplay — by my own choice. There’s probably 10-15 hours worth of gameplay in the average game today if you consider all of the “extra modes” that games usually include to increase the perceived “good value”. But after awhile, repetition sets in and I stop playing. Most sports games have lost their appeal for me. And these days, it take a pretty special game to truly make me feel that my $60 was money well spent.
Guitar Hero is probably the only game that I’ve purchased in recent years and received more enjoyment than than the $90 put towards buying it. The original Guitar Hero provided me and my friends with hours and hours of gaming fun. It was just perfect. The song list was comprised of old time favorites and new songs that quickly became favorites. Guitar Hero II had some of my favorite tracks, but the general consensus was that it just didn’t seem to have the same appeal as the original song list. In looking ahead to Guitar Hero III, the song list seemed to return to the days of glory. My Name is Jonas by Weezer, One by Metallica, Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar, and, my personal favorite, Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones, made this new version of Guitar Hero the game to buy. However, there’s another game that was waiting behind the curtain… one that curiously enough was developed by the folks who made the first two games.
Rock Band is being developed by Harmonix — the studio that made the first two Guitar Hero games. (There’s been enough said about the split. Let’s just say that Harmonix is now doing Rock Band and Neversoft, makers of Tony Hawk, are doing Guitar Hero. OK?)
Two guitar-based games? Two years ago, we barely had hopes that the first one would be accepted. But now we’ve got this new “Rock Band” which incorporates singing, bass and lead guitar and the drums. It all seemed kinda strange to me. What could Harmonix legally take from the old series and bring to Rock Band? And more importantly, what would my old favorite, Guitar Hero, be like without them?
Well, the verdict for both games is in. I’ve played em both. Guitar Hero III has been in my PS3 for about three weeks now. And it’s fun. Real good fun. However, the one thing that I think gamers are in agreement about is the fact that, in an effort to add some flavor to the game, they’ve detracted from some of what made Guitar Hero the ‘pick up and play’ game that had Wii-like mass market appeal. It’s almost inexcusable that upon booting the game, you don’t have a complete song list. By now studios should understand that many people treat Guitar Hero and games of the like as karaoke-type games: they get a bunch of friends and play for fun. Why force people to play to unlock songs? But let me not get into details here — I’m not writing to give a review. Let’s just say what’s most important: it’s loads of fun. I look forward to coming home after work and banging out Evenflow and Paint it Black to ease some tension for many months to come.
I had a lot of doubts about Rock Band. For one, the song list seemed a bit uninspired. There were some great songs on it (Say It Ain’t So, Dani California, Epic, Paranoid, Highway Star) but as I looked over the playlist, I saw a lot of great bands — but “wrong” songs. Anyhow, my doubts also turned to the fact that at $170, would this really be worth it? How many times would I have one other person over to play — much less three other people — to justify the cost? And this big question mark for myself and many others was the inclusion of the most intriguing part of the package — the drums. See, we’ve done the guitar. (Guitar Hero). And we’ve done the microphone (Karaoke Revolution). And as much as there have been games like Donkey Konga and a few others, I had to wonder: would a drum set even work accurately? And four players?? How is all of that information going to be represented on the screen at the same time — and not give everyone a headache? (I get confused sometimes with only two guitar scroll bars on screen. Imagine four sets of streaming data??!!) And what about this new guitar? Yeah, it looks ok. But I’m used to my Guitar Hero controller. And on…and on…
Well, this afternoon, I had a chance to check out Rock Band. And…well…. I’m in love.
When I saw the demo kiosk, I went straight for the drums. Upon first touch they feel…well, ok. Not completely sturdy. But not cheap. Best Buy had wires connecting the drumsticks (theft prevention, I presume). I don’t know why I was surprised to hold wooden drumsticks. For some reason I expected them to be plastic. (Don’t ask.) My first thought standing in front of the drums was, “this isn’t going to work. I already feel horribly confused.” I quickly learned that it isn’t quite so confusing. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from the makers of Guitar Hero: each of the drum pads colors (one through four) are lined up with the scroll bar on the screen — just like the guitar. Hmm… makes sense. (One note – they didn’t include the bass drum pedal — I’m sure that would make things much more confusing.) I stumbled a bit navigating through the translated drum directions to get to the song selection screen. For me, there was only one song to start with…..(Loading screen……Say it Ain’t So…Weezer….1994)…. and with that I started.
At first I noticed the rubbery response from hitting the drum pads. The volume was turned down a bit at Best Buy, so that detracted a bit from the experience…. but not much. By the middle of the song, I was really getting into it. And didn’t realize that I had slowly formed a crowd watching the one brave soul who wouldn’t mind making himself look like a fool.
It was incredible. I played Dani California, Paranoid, Epic and every song felt more and more right. By the third song, my mind was made up: I need to have this. Honestly, already having Guitar Hero III, I originally decided I was going to skip Rock Band, but it’s been my dream for a long time to get drums…. when I was a kid, I remember watching the Mattel Synsonics Drums commercial and wanting to get it….badly. (Man, I coulda been the next ?uestlove!!). Well, maybe not. But this will definitely fill that void.
It’s only gonna be a matter of time before some fool tries to play guitar, drums and sing all at once. But I could see playing the guitar and singing. Or even Phil Collins-ing it and drumming and singing.
Rock Band…. I’m sorry I ever doubted you. This is going to be an incredible holiday season.