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Guitar Hero vs Rock Band (or rather Activision vs Harmonix)
11 May 2017
Posted in PlayStation

As I've written in my previous post, I've discovered rhythm games and by now I've taken a deep dive into it. Since the last post, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X has arrived and I've played it a lot, but I've also taken my sense of rhythm to the instrument games of Guitar Hero (Activision) and Rock Band (Harmonix), and I'll give you my take on these two IPs/publishers.

Let me start with the list of games that I have acquired by now.
For Activision's (Guitar) Hero series it is Band Hero, DJ Hero 1 & 2, Guitar Hero 3, World Tour and Van Halen, with Metallica & Aerosmith still in the mail (they should arrive any day now). Last but not least, I also got Guitar Hero Live, but more on that later on in this post as well.
For Harmonix' Rock Band series, the list is somewhat shorter: The Beatles Rockband and Rock Band 4 and Rock Band Blitz (digital download), with Rock Band 3 still in the mail.
For ease of reference, I'll write GH for all Activision games & hardware (unless I need to specify a game) and RB for the Harmonix games.

Let me start with the hardware, or rather the controllers. I have 2 GH guitars (one from World Tour and the other from Band Hero), and one drums set from Band Hero. Sadly I don't have any RB controllers, but no worries there, they are exchangeble between the two publishers, except that the Mad Catz (Harmonix) guitars won't work on GH Aerosmith (according to a wikia I found - no clue why though).
You will also hear that the Activision drums are not compatible with RB, but that's not true. They are compatible, but with RB using 3 drums and 2 chimes and RB using only 4 drums, there is some kind of 'conversion' when playing. The left (yellow) chime of the GH drums is the yellow RB drum, while both the blue chime and green drum from the GR drums are the green drum on RB. It is something to get used to, but with RB drums being extremely expensive (100 and more without P&P), the GH drums are an alternative. The RB drums set also has an 'Pro' expansion that'll add 3 chimes to them, which is not compatible with GH at all.

Then the games. Harmonix has put a lot of effort to make all games downward compatible by allowing imports of the old songs into the new games. Sadly for me though, I started too late and I can't import RB 1 & 2 anymore because Harmonix' license for these songs have expired While the track packs can still be imported when using a new copy of them (or being lucky and find an old copy with an unused key in them - I'd rather not chance it ). These imports are also compatible from PS3 to PS4 (or XB360 to XB1 - XB1 users keep in mind that you DO need to buy a legacy adapter convertor though)
GH games on the other hand don't have any import from other games. They are all stand alone games with a number of songs in them that you can play. And while talking about GH, here Activision shows it's ugly face. With GH Live, they really said to screw their loyal fans by making the old controllers no longer compatible with the new game and came with a completely new controller. Needless to say that this incarnation of the game is the least popular - when browsing 2nd hand sale sites (like craighs list, ebay on my Dutch marktplaats.nl) for Guitar Hero, you see an aweful huge number of GH Live games.

An other thing that shows a clear difference in approach of the games between GH and RB is a difficuulty meter. All of my GH games, except for Band Hero, don't show a difficulty level of the instrument played, while all RB games do have one. For starting playeds like me it's something that's really required, because some songs have such a high learning curve to play (read: lots of notes to shift to and from) that playing them on hard (which I perfer) is kinda hard. Also, in RB's practive mode you can also control the speed of the song from 70% up to 100% to learn certain hard parts, while in GH you can just practive the song af normal speed. This alone makes the RB series my favorite one . Also, The Beatles Rod Band is *THE* perfect game to learn how to play rhythm games in general, solely because back in the 60s they didn't do such extreme things with the guitars in general

As a metal head, I'd prefer the Guitar Hero (not DJ Hero or Band Hero or Live) series because they hold a lot of rock and metal songs, while RB has more songs for a wider audience (pop, R&B, rap/hip hop up to all sorts of metal). But I gotta say that there's a lot of songs in all of games that I've never heard of, both rock & metal as all other genres. And those songs are the most challenging ones actually. I just play them and see where the rhythm flows me.

Last but not least, online play. GH series are all very old already (except for Live), but their online play is still available, but that doesn't mean that you'll have a chance to play with (or against) anyone though. But when you have someone on your friendlist with the game game, you can make arrangements for it.
RB(4) on the other hand has an online module for sale in the console's store (for a 'mere' 30 and it does include a couple of songs as well). I've watched streams on the PSNetwork and there's a lot of people playing in co-op mode there. This makes RB(4) a very good online game to play I'd say. Sadly though, most people playing online are playing on EXPERT mode and the hardest songs, which for me is still a long way to go

In general, I think both GH (except Live) and RB are very good games, though I lean more toward RB than GH. If you don't mind playing only career mode with a 'small' (around 65) set of songs and still own a PS3/XB360, then GH games are a good and cheap option. If you want more songs (over 500 with an ever expanding library) and optionally online play, then RB is the one for you.


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