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Feb 25, 2009

Review: Rock Band 2 Versus Guitar Hero World Tour

Rock Band 2
MTV Game, Harmonix Music
Guitar Hero World Tour
Activion Blizzard, Neversoft Entertainment

Both Games Available for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii

When faced with reviewing both of the top music videogame currently on the market, I thought it would be more fun to review them together to see which game came out on top as the best. Guitar Hero World Tour will be bringing their new instruments to the battle while Rock Band 2 must stand their ground as the current band game title holder. Two games enter, only one game can win - who will be crowned the ultimate music band game in this first ever versus review?


Rock Band 2:
The controllers haven’t changed that much since the originally Rock Band came out on the market. The drum set had new quieter pads and the kick pedal was made with metal this time around as to withstand those heavy footed drummers. The guitar was now wireless with a new wooden look to it, but the strum bar still didn’t click when you strummed it and it was stiff as ever.

The microphone was still pretty much the same too with good sound. My biggest disappointment with the kit was that the new cymbals that I had seen at so many preview events on the drum kit were not included in the new Rock Band 2 kit and you had to buy them separately at a later point.

Guitar Hero World Tour:
Having an entire band in a box included with a Guitar Hero game is something new for the franchise, so it was quite interesting to try out all the new instruments that came with the kit. The drum set had quiet drum pads and a set of rubber cymbals which was nice, but my set had a problem with the red drum pad being not sensitive enough, so I had to really wail on it when I played. Nice thing is that Activison was aware of the problem at the time and was fixing it with free adjustment kits.

The guitar had been changed to include a new touch fret bar for special notes, but I had problems with my guitar notes sticking in place and had to call Activision to replace it. The strum bar worked fine though and still clicked in time and flowed smoothly. Honestly though, I didn’t like the new look of the guitar and went back to my old Guitar Hero guitars after a while. The microphone was pretty much the same setup as the Rock Band 2 kits and sounded great when you belted out some Jimmy.


Rock Band 2:
RB has always chosen to make their band performances look like a music video with special effects and filters, but while some people prefer this, I think it makes the game look terrible and would have rather the developers stuck with just a normal concert performance.

The band members in the game I felt were very stiff when they played and the lip syncing in the game never looked right. The bands never really looked like real bands playing.

The different stages that your bands play on weren’t anything special to look at either which really made watching the bands perform my last priority when watching others play this game. The crowd had to be the coolest part of the band performance as they seemed to react and sing along with your band as they got better.

Guitar Hero World Tour:
GH has more of an animated style for their band performances which makes watching any one play the game fun. The bands have always entertaining to watch and the developers did a great job of motion capturing the moves of Ozzy Osbourne and the other musicians in the game.

I was happy to see how perfectly the leader singers were matched up to the song choices in the game too. Each character looked like they should be singing that tune which made watching the band perform all that much cooler. Each band really moved well this time around all most like watching a real band.

The different stages in this game always had great effects, backgrounds and the added touch of in game advertising actual worked well here. The only disappointment was the crowd suffering from multiple clone syndrome and lack of varied movement.


Rock Band 2:
Of course, being that we’re looking at music games you would expect the sound to be excellent here and you would be right. The game comes with 80 songs and a code for 20 bonus songs, that all range from the 50s to the present. Almost every song is performed by the original artist and sounds as good as it did the day they first sang it. A new bonus feature allows you to rip 55 of the 58 songs from your Rock Band 1 disc onto your game system’s hard drive in order to play it whenever you want.

One thing that did irk me about the sound in Rock Band 2 though was the problem with running a set of songs that changed from a female singer to a male singer mid-way. The game would choose one band only for you for all the songs and never change up the leader singer to match the voice for the different songs, so you would have some husky black dude singing Paramore or something.

Guitar Hero World Tour:

Again the sound in this game was amazing too with almost every one of the 80 songs in the game coming from the original master tracks. Music in this game varied from the 50s to the present, but I found I liked the variety of songs more on Guitar Hero. That’s just my personal choice in music though.

I was disappointed by the midi sound in the track creator though. I figured people would be able to create real sounding music, not something that sounded like it came out of a 80s videogame. I’m sure it would have been hard to do anything else though.

Game Play:

Rock Band 2:
The single player mode has you playing different cities and venues trying to collect a certain amount stars before you can move onto the next gig. During each song, you collect money, fans and a star rating based on how well you play or sing the song. While this is a great way of integrating all the elements of a rock band into the game, I found that you are forced to play the same tunes over and over again in order to collect enough stars to progress in the game and I found this got boring real quickly.

The multi-player modes allow you to play online or locally but choosing songs online with strangers was hard without a headset for the Playstation 3. I lost a lot of lead singers because they didn’t like my song choices.

Choosing a character was easier this time around as you could just pick a pre-made character and jump into a song; no more making a character for each band or instrument. You can still modify your characters though and create the ultimate band member to play through the game as, but you can’t modify their faces and body type selections were poor.

I did like the new Battle of the Bands mode which allows you and a band to play challenges against other bands and see who successes at playing the set better. There’s a new challenge everyday and some of them are instrument specific, just to mix it up. If you manage to get the top score on the challenge, the score will remain there until someone else beats it.

Guitar Hero World Tour:

The single player mode is pretty much the same as previous versions of Guitar Hero, where you are given a venue and a list of songs to complete in order to move onto the next venue. When you choose to play with your friends in a band either at home or online, you can all progress through the venues together with all your stats, items and cash intact. You can choose to play with your own gamer tag too, or stay under the main gamer tag when playing a local game.

Your character is now completely customizable from their face down to their clothes and new items can be unlocked and purchased as you play through career mode, so you can modify your character more later on down the road. There aren't as many item options here as what you'll find in Rock Band 2, but you do have a good assortment to work with.

The newest addition and most important addition to the main game play besides the addition of extra note highways for your other band members on screen, is the purple lines that now appear between notes. These notes can be played like normal or you can use the touch fret bar notes instead for a different note sounds based on how to touch the fret.

In quick play mode, 6 songs can be chosen as a set to play back to back now to eliminate having to go back to the menu after every song. Also Guitar Hero has a new music creator section that allows you to lay down your own music with the instruments only in midi form. You can also check out other people’s music in GH Tunes and download them to play in game.

Downloadable Tracks:

Rock Band 2:
One of the areas where the Rock Band franchise really shines in the amount of downloadable tracks they pump out each week for their game. Full albums and more are released each week for the Rock Band library from artists around the world and MTV Games plan to release a ton more by year’s end.

Guitar Hero World Tour:
Activision has been slow to release a lot of tracks for the GH series which I think is hurting them in the long run. Even when they do release some downloadable content, some of the songs are by artists I’ve never even heard of. I do appreciate the free tracks they supply which happens more often than in Rock Band downloads.


So if I didn’t own either game right now and I could only choose one to purchase based on what I know after this review, I would probably buy Guitar Hero World Tour. By now, Activision has fixed all the problems with the instruments since I got my band kit back in October 2008, so the instruments possible breaking on me now wouldn’t deter me from buying the game.

The instruments were far simpler and more comfortable for me to use and I liked that the drum kit came with the drum cymbals. Plus I liked the music selection in this game better and I preferred GH’s way of progressing through a career mode. Finally the music creator allows any budding artist to try their hand at creating their own tunes which will hopefully encourage them to pick up a real instrument and create some music if they haven’t already.

Guitar Hero World Tour Rating: 9 out of 10
Rock Band 2 Rating: 7 out of 10

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