We’re drawing progressively closer to that day when we’ll be picking up our plastic guitars, pulling out the USB microphones, and pretending to be the greatest musicians’ in the world. With the release of these games looming, Daily Reaction is looking at the comeback of rhythm games and which one they’re most excited to see return.
Chandler: I was heavy into the rhythm games at the peak of their success. I was all about Guitar Hero, and followed Harmonix when they went on to make Rock Band. I picked up the Green Day and The Beatles editions of the game. I had countless plastic guitars, a couple of plastic drumsets, and I even tried out DJ Hero just to see what it was all about. Of course, by tried out, I mean “bought the special edition of the game.” I am very passionate about music and loved the idea of fundamentally fusing two things that I highly enjoyed: music and games. That being what it was, I was happy that the genre stagnated. It allowed me a bit of freedom, both in my time and financially, though for ages I still had the plastic instruments piled up in my closet.
A little over a year ago, with a little help from my wife, I was able to let go of my plastic tethers. I sold my rhythm games for a pittance and got rid of the heaps of plastic instruments — save for the very useful USB mics. I was finally free of that burden, and a mere few months later, the next iterations of Guitar Hero and Rock Band were announced. I looked at my wife, a glint of hope in my eye, but she just shook her head. I let it go. I wasn’t planning on taking part in the genre again. I’d had my time. I was done. Of course, these new games couldn’t help but sweeten the pot on the deal, and long story short, I’m chomping at the bit for this reunion tour. Let’s take a look at what each one is offering and why I can’t wait to get back on board.
Rock Band 4 looks like it will be a true revival of the rhythm genre that we knew before. They are still doing the full band idea — guitar, bass, drums, and vocals — though they are dropping the keyboard accessory introduced in Rock Band 3. What’s the biggest draw for Rock Band 4? Backwards compatibility. If I hadn’t gotten rid of my closet full of plastic instruments, these would still work with Rock Band 4, as the core of the game is not changing. There’s also the hundreds of songs that I purchased for the Rock Band series on the PS3, which will be almost fully compatible to be downloaded in Rock Band 4. Massive applause to Harmonix for making this happen. It gives massive value to Rock Band 4 for longtime players right out of the box.
Guitar Hero Live originally didn’t have me excited. I was always a Rock Band man myself after Activision took over the GH name, and this new one looked like it had some goofy idea going on with the first-person view camera. That is until I was shown the game at E3. The first-person camera actually helps immensely with the immersion of the game. You aren’t actively looking at the background while playing anyway, so it’s more of an ambience, which really works in a live gameplay setting. There’s also GH TV, which is basically a streaming music network that can be picked up and played at any moment, and this mode plays the music videos or live concert videos of the song you are playing.
Guitar Hero Live is my current frontrunner, with its focus on distribution of music similar to the way we actively consume music now — via streaming — and its network that offers vast potential for expansion and improvement without requiring players to buy DLC tracks. It’s also focusing strictly on the guitar (and vocals), which allows them better craft a game around that focus. And that redesigned guitar? I would be lying if I said I wasn’t itching to master the new setup. Sorry Rock Band 4, your dedication to yesteryear just isn’t quite as enticing as Guitar Hero’s vision for the future.
Dan: After having seen how Guitar Hero is pushing the rhythm game genre forward, I can completely understand why you would be leaning towards it, and for the most part I do agree, as the biggest issue I am having in convincing myself to jump back into stocking up on plastic instruments is the premise of worry that this will just be more of the same.
From a quick look at both platforms, it is easy to see that Guitar Hero is doing its best to evolve itself from being a simple game and push itself to be more like a platform. What this means is that gamers will have a great deal of content coming at them, which can be accessible, albeit somewhat limited, unless of course they pay for it. This is great for just about every type of user, as regardless of what you are looking to do with the game, you have an option that would best fit you. On top of that, it also has a new guitar layout and something that is a bit more of a middle ground between the real thing and something that won’t scare beginners.
This is what I used to love about Rock Band. As it was the franchise who focused a great deal on bringing in new content and expanding on the already guitar heavy focus of other titles. The ability to play other instruments, especially the drums, was a great concept and one that I had a significant amount of fun with. But, with Rock Band 4 and its return to form, it is difficult to see what is bringing to the table that can re-captivate its audience. This franchise has always been my go-to choice for wailing on a plastic instrument, but I have those experiences and i’m not sure the investment is going to be worth trying to rehash them.
So, looking at both offerings I can honestly say that I think Guitar Hero would be my choice over the classics, but I really think I am at the point where I would rather just unpack my real guitar. With other titles like Rocksmith, that let you actually use a real instrument, I think as the rhythm genre has aged, so has its user base. This could be a great for gamers who are just now getting to the point where they can group up with friends to play, but given that both titles hit demographics of all ages only a few years back, I do wonder how successful either will become.
In all honesty, I doubt either franchise will fail to see a decent number of sales, or will have any issues continuing to bring new content to users. But, I highly doubt we will see a resurgence of the craze that once took the industry by storm ever again.