The High And Low Notes

December 09, 2007

Controls

GUITAR HERO -- One of the game's biggest assets is its wireless Gibson controller. Although the version I played on the PlayStation 3 lost its connection from time to time (usually on long pauses), the aggravation was worth it to be able to rock out with reckless abandon and embarrass myself accordingly.

ROCK BAND --One of the main quibbles with the overall outstanding Rock Band is the number of cords on the Xbox 360 version (the Playstation 3 has wireless guitars). The multiplayer feature (playing as a band) is the game at its best, but the tangle of cords can get awkward. That said, Rock Band's guitar does have some advantages over Guitar Hero's. The controller is more to scale (it feels more like a real guitar) and has lower fret buttons to heighten the playing of solos.

Songbook

GUITAR HERO --Players can perform about 70 songs. And unlike previous versions of Guitar Hero, they are the master tracks. While some of them aren't the coolest, most of them, such as Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and the Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane," are very familiar and fun to play. ROCK BAND --With about 50 songs, the game lags in sheer numbers versus Guitar Hero III. (More tracks are available for download at extra cost.) The songs (performed by the original artists) will resonate with people in their 20s and 30s. A bulk of the catalog is made up of hits from the 1990s by Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Weezer. The designers have kept the cheese level low, but the fun factor suffers slightly as a result.

Gameplay

GUITAR HERO --With a more cartoonish vibe, Legends of Rock doesn't take itself too seriously. The final showdown has players facing the devil in a rock-off. Narrated by cartoon characters, the tutorials are similarly impish. While the theatrics are in good fun, they can detract from the replay value of the game. ROCK BAND --The story-mode here is more sophisticated and realistic. Unlike Guitar Hero, players can customize their avatars, outfitting them with Mohawks, piercings and even leather hot pants. And the tutorials - narrated by real musicians - come across like hip, private music lessons.

Multiplayer

GUITAR HERO --The third edition emphasizes competitive play more so than previous incarnations. Players can face-off against each other and use moves like "broken strings" to trip opponents up. Some players will no doubt enjoy trashing their friends on stage, but the multiplayer experience still works best as a cooperative, not a competitive, one.

ROCK BAND --With the word "band" in the title, it's no surprise that its multiplayer features shine. While players of Guitar Hero have been playing guitars and/or bass together for years, the addition of drums and vocals give each player a feeling of uniqueness that really enhances the simulated experience.

Overall

GUITAR HERO --The game chief's strengths are its songbook and its value. The game alone runs about $60, and guitars from previous versions work with Legends of Rock, making a used controller an easy find. For the casual player, Guitar Hero III is a good introduction to the world of musical gaming.

ROCK BAND --Hard-core fans of previous Guitar Hero titles should upgrade to Rock Band. While the songs could be better (more downloads could remedy that, albeit at a higher cost), Rock Band has the polish and potential for months of play that make the sizable investment worthwhile. Just make sure you're committed and won't be tempted to banish the plastic guitar to the back of the closet (next to the real one) after only a few songs.

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