Everyone loves music right? There's a genre of music for everybody! What about video games? Not as universally loved as music sure, but universally loved all the same. This is probably why the music-game genre was such a popular thing in the early '00s.
Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero dominated consoles when they first released, with hundreds of people buying the games along with the required gaming peripherals. Fake guitars and drums were actually outselling real guitars and drums, as hundreds turned into millions of people enjoying what these games had to offer. Sure they were offered mostly rock n' roll songs, but they were songs that were catchy and incredibly easy for anybody to rock out to!
For years, music games would continue to be wildly successful, with literally thousands of songs available to download to lengthen your gaming experience! Yes, it looked like people would be rocking out for generations to come!
But Then, Tragedy Struck!
Like I said, Guitar Hero and Rock Band were both selling like magical hotcakes, and there was no sign of them stopping. That is until, the knock-offs arrived! When you have two big musical games like these two, you can expect a couple of knock-offs; every successful franchise has them.
If you look in the children's section of stores anywhere, you're bound to find some knock-off toys, games and even consoles. You'd be surprised how many unlucky kids got the 'Polystation' for Christmas instead of a PlayStation...
Guitar Hero and Rock Band were no strangers to knock-offs. With games like Guitar Praise and Power Gig: Rise of the SixString, and mini-guitar games you could get from McDonald's, Burger King and the back of Walmart store shelves, there was no escaping these knock-offs!
And it wasn't just knock-offs, Guitar Hero and Rock Band were ripping off themselves with spin-off titles like Band Hero and Lego Rock Band, not to mention the mobile games (who would want to play Guitar Hero on their phone?!).
It was the over-saturation of the rhythm game genre that eventually led to Guitar Hero and Rock Band's downfall. The two music-game giants made their last games in 2010- with Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and Rock Band 3. And that was it...until today!
The Music Game Giants Are Back!
That's right, both Rock Band and Guitar Hero are back in the spotlight this year! Harmonix is releasing Rock Band 4 on October 6, while Activision is dropping Guitar Hero Live on October 20! Both games are coming out for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and both are definitely going to attract new and returning players alike!
But now that these two competitors are back, it's time to revive an age-old question; Rock Band or Guitar Hero?
These two franchises are rivals after all, even if they are very similar. While a lot of fans probably owned both, everyone had their preference. I preferred Rock Band over Guitar Hero, despite owning games from both series. I just loved the visuals more, and the emphasis on multiplayer.
But it's been quite a while since I or anyone else has seen these two series. So regardless of your allegiance, you're probably deciding which side of the music-game war you want to be on this generation. Well before you decide, it's important that you know EVERYTHING about these games and their differences and similarities. While the two were strikingly similar in past generations, both teams are working hard to make sure fans can differentiate them from each other.
So before you click that pre-order button, let's take a look at these two new rocking games- starting with Rock Band 4!
Rock Band 4 - October 6 (PS4, Xbox One)
Rock Band 4, the next game in the critically acclaimed Rock Band series by Harmonix! Like the previous games in the series, Rock Band 4 utilizes the instrument peripherals to mimic actual instruments. Players hit the on-screen notes (colored green, red, yellow, blue and orange) to play songs, and score points and earn rewards depending on how well they play the song. Failing to hit notes messes with the players performance, and can even result in the song ending prematurely.
There is solo play, but since the game is called 'Rock Band', playing songs with more than one person is basically like signing a contract saying "all or nothing", as every player is responsible for how well the band does. For example, if the guitarist is doing well, but the drummer isn't and fails, the whole band pays the price and the song may end.
However, players have a special ability called the Overdrive. During a song, some notes will be specially colored white- successfully hitting these notes allows the player to go into Overdrive mode. Which allows them to score double the points and potentially save the entire band. Plus, it causes the crowd to clap and cheer for you loudly, which is always an ego booster!
So now that we've gotten the old and familiar features out of the way, it's time to look at the features that make this new generation Rock Band so different from previous generations!
The RPG Career Mode!
When you think of Rock Band, or just music games in general, you probably don't think of a role-playing game- well Rock Band 4 is looking to change that! Previous Rock Band games had a fairly simple career mode. All you would really do is travel the world playing songs so that you could unlock more songs to play in 'Quickplay Mode'. There wasn't much to it but that, so career didn't really last long, nor did it have any replay value.
Rock Band 4 is making sure that you spend a lot of time playing and replaying its career mode with an all new RPG format! Instead of just playing songs to unlock songs, you'll be transforming your small town band into the most popular band in the world! The kind that plays on top of skyscrapers and at Madison Square Garden- instead of the kind that plays in the back of stop'n'shop parking lots...
Like I said, the career mode starts with you and your small band, playing songs in your garage for your super small following of fans. Eventually, you'll get more fans, and you'll want to take your band on the road to become more popular!
In order to do that, you'll have to play gigs. You'll have a choice of what kind of gigs you play, and each one will influence what kind of rewards you get, what future gigs open and how many fans you get or lose.
Playing a small show will earn you more devoted fans, but you'll get less money. But playing a corporate sponsored gig will you earn a lot of in-game money, but you may lose fans due to your blatant "selling out to the man".
Stage presence is also a really important thing in career mode. While Harmonix has stated that Rock Band 4's career is not meant to penalize players, it does help to perform well, especially when playing with other human player. The better you do, the more rewards and the more money you get.
Money you earn can then be used to customize your created characters and instruments. A cool thing about Rock Band 4 is not only are there more items to choose from when making a character, but there are also no gender related limits. This means that if you want to give your female rocker a rainbow goatee, then nothing can stop you from giving your female rocker the coolest rainbow facial hair you can find!
Freestyle Guitar Solos!
You know the coolest thing about playing the guitar in any Rock Band title? The awesome guitar solos! There's something invigorating about being put in the spotlight, and successfully jamming out to a long and cool looking solo! All the while, your friends and the in-game crowd are mesmerized by your insanely incredible guitar prowess!
Well RB4 is about to make those cool solos even cooler, with the 'Freestyle Guitar Solo' feature. When enabled, the game will show suggestions for the solo style, like single notes, longer licks, chords or tremolos (guitar player lingo I suppose). You can't fail these solo sections of the song, but the better you do on them, the higher of a score multiplier you get!
This feature is completely optional, and when disabled, you just get the regular notes during the solo that are seen throughout the rest of the song. I don't know about you, but I'd rather use the 'Freestyle Guitar Solo' feature. I mean, just look at how cool it looks!
Backwards Instrument Compatibility!
Since Rock Band 4 is a game that requires instrument controllers to play, Harmonix has teamed up with hardware developers Mad Catz to make brand new instrument peripherals for the game. While this is cool, it also makes the game super expensive- bringing the price up to $250!
But fans of Rock Band who owned the game on previous consoles will be happy to know that you can still use your old instruments for the new Rock Band 4! Harmonix and Mad Catz worked hard to make sure that the game has backwards compatibility, and while it was a struggle, they managed to do it!
You'll be able to use any guitars, drums and microphones that you still have from previous Rock Band games. There is a catch however, the instruments have to stay within the same console family. PS3 instruments can be used for the PS4 version of Rock Band 4, but not for the Xbox One version. The same goes for Xbox 360 instruments, which are only compatible with the Xbox One version of the game.
So if you've got some old Rock Band instruments and are looking to get just the game, you're in luck! If not, though the game will be more expensive, the instruments are pretty incredible looking! If you've got 17 minutes to spare, you can check out an exclusive look at them below!
Some more new Rock Band 4 features include:
New Drum Mechanics: Rock Band 4 drum players will be able to start the song with a countdown, like a real drummer in a real band would really do for real. Rock Band 4 will also change how drummers go into Overdrive. Instead of waiting for a freestyle drum section and hitting a certain note to kick it off, the game will present a number of pre-created drum fills that fit the timing of the song when the drummer has Overdrive available.
New Vocal Mechanics: Singing players will be able to use two or three-part harmonies, like the ones seen in The Beatles: Rock Band and Rock Band 3. With contributions from the RB community, Rock Band songs that feature vocal harmonies but originally released for the series without harmony support will be updated to include harmonies for free. Higher vocal difficulty settings will allow for "freeform melodies", where as long as the singer is in tune, they can improvise and their own little touch to the song.
No Online Play: Unfortunate news for those who actually used the online mode in previous Rock Band games, Rock Band 4 will not include any online play. Surveys taken prior to the release of the game showed that only about 10% of players ever really played online. Harmonix has not ruled out a patch that includes online play in the future however.
Your DLC Songs Carry Over: Good news for players that downloaded any songs for previous Rock Band titles- your songs carry over! Harmonix is working hard to make sure that as much of existing DLC song library as possible is available in Rock Band 4! So far, 1500 previously downloaded songs will available at launch. Like the instruments, the songs will have to stay in the same console family. There are a lot more than 1500 songs available for download in previous Rock Band titles, and Harmonix is working to make sure that one day, every single one of them is available to play on Rock Band 4. Don't ever say Harmonix isn't hard-working!
And in case you were wondering, you can check out the full Rock Band 4 track list here! I can't wait to play almost all of the songs on the list, but here's the one I'm looking forward to the most!
"Centuries" - Fall Out Boy
Well that's it for Rock Band 4- interested in picking it up? Well, before you decide, let's take a look at Guitar Hero Live!
Guitar Hero Live - October 20 (PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360)
Guitar Hero Live is both the next installment, and a soft reboot of the Guitar Hero franchise. Whereas previous games played very similarly to Rock Band games- specifically hitting the on-screen colored notes (they were even the same color)- GH Live is shaking things up a bit.
The basics of the gameplay are the same. Players use a guitar to hit notes on a scrolling highway. But that's where similarities to previous GH games end! Let's look at the new features of Guitar Hero Live!
Actual Live Footage!
Guitar Hero Live is called that for a reason! Ditching the videogame graphics and replacing them with actual live-action footage, GH Live makes you feel like you're on the stage! The camera is in the first-person perspective of the guitarist, you, so that you can actually see the crowd that you're trying to impress.
And yes, those are actual people cheering you on. I mean, they're not actually there as you play, it's all pre-recorded, but it's still super cool seeing actual people cheer for you and your band- which by the way, also consists of real pre-recorded performers!
You performance is judged by the crowd. If you're doing really well, the crowd will cheer you on and rock out to your awesome song! But if your performance starts to go downhill, they'll boo you, giving you two thumbs down and telling you to get off the stage. It's all incredibly immersive, so don't panic if the realness of it all causes you to suffer a panic attack. No wait, you would be panicking...
The New Guitar!
A new music game means a new instrument controller! And the new Guitar Hero Live guitar is awesome! You may notice some changes to the guitar design, as this new guitar is definitely different from the last ones.
For one thing, instead of a single line of five buttons, this new guitar has six buttons, arranged into two rows of three. In the game, there are only three scrolling lanes, as opposed to five like in previous games.
The top row of buttons on the guitar represents the black notes on the screen, while the bottom row represents the white notes. Lower difficulty levels will only use one row of buttons, while higher difficulties will use a combination of both rows. This gives the guitar a realer feel, as real guitars have more than one line of strings on them. Just like previous games, hitting the notes will cause your score to grow higher and multiply, while missing notes with cause your multiplier to disappear, and you'll fail the song.
Take a look at this new guitar format below:
Guitar Hero TV!
Guitar Hero Live has an online multiplayer mode called Guitar Hero TV. You can play GHTV offline by yourself, or you can have fun competing against others in real-time drop-in/drop-out online play!
Players can jump in and out of a song and play against others- the player who performs the best gets the highest score and, I'd imagine, some serious street cred! Players can choose to play songs individually, in playlists, or in curated "channels" that focus on a certain genre of music.
I have no idea what the channels are, but I'm hoping they've got an alternative rock channel! GHTV also uses music videos of the songs you're playing, instead of the live-action footage seen in the main storyline. Check out some footage of GHTV below!
"Discovering" New Songs!
Going further into GHTV, the mode not only serves as a free mode/online multiplayer mode, it's also a way to discover and play new songs! One of the GHTV "channels" mentioned before will always have new songs that have been added to the game mode.
Activision has stated that GHTV was developed as a means to provide players with new songs through a "round-the-clock content platform", rather than relying on scheduled DLC. This in turn allows Activision to provide a much larger quantity of songs! Players can pick up and play any of these songs that they want, and can use in-game credits to replay a specific song outside of the channel's rotation.
In-game credits can be earned in the competitive multiplayer version of GHTV, which is titled 'GHTV Premium'. In-game credits can also be purchased through micro-transactions from the PlayStation Store or the Xbox Live Store.
Some more GH Live features include:
Hero Powers: Replacing 'Star Power'- which was essentially just Guitar Hero's version of Overdrive- are 'Hero Powers'! Hero Powers are only available in GHTV Mode. They allow players to improve their score and performance. Types of Hero Powers include temporary boosts in score multipliers, the ability to clear all notes for a short distance on the track, and increasing or decreasing the density of notes.
Mobile App And Apple TV: The game will be available via an app on mobile devices that supports the guitar controller. Activision says it will "provide the full game in an uncompromised way". This app will also be available on the fourth-generation Apple TV.
Emphasis On Single Player: As you might have guessed, the game does not have backwards compatibility for instruments, due to a complete guitar and game format change. But it wouldn't really matter, because the game also doesn't have support for other instrument peripherals besides the guitar. This means that drums and bass guitar won't be usable with the game. Activision has stated that this is because the game is "all about guitars", and that they are focusing more on the solo experience- due in part to the first-person perspective.
Vocals: I'm not really sure if the game will have any microphone compatibility, but it will include vocals, so that players can sing along to the song's lyrics! I'd like to try this, but believe you me, it is incredibly difficult to focus on both the guitar notes and the lyrics- especially if it's a song you don't know!
There also won't be any transferring of DLC songs from previous Guitar Hero games- due to changes in the core gameplay. But don't worry, there are a TON of songs on-disc to choose from- you can check out the full list here! Just like the RB4 list, there are a ton of songs I want to play, but the one I'm looking forward to the most is:
"Girls/Girls/Boys" - Panic! at the Disco
Check out the video below! But just a quick warning: it's not exactly NSFW, but you probably don't want to watch it in front of others...
So there you have it! You now know everything there is to know about Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live! So which one am I getting?
Rock Band 4!
Guitar Hero Live is certainly innovative, and will definitely serve as an awesome reboot of the series, but for several reasons, I'm going to pick up Rock Band 4. For one thing, I've got siblings that love to play with me, so the multiplayer aspect being so strong in RB4 is much appreciated.
I also love the RPG career mode idea, it makes it so that the story mode will actually have hours of replayability and detail to it. The 'Freestyle Guitar Solo' feature is cool too, it provides some challenge and something new right in the middle of a song. Plus, as a last-gen Rock Band player, I'm glad that I don't have to spend a ton of money on new instruments- as opposed to GH Live, which with its required guitar will be $100.
Still, that doesn't mean I don't want to play Guitar Hero Live. It sounds like an awesome game, that I'll definitely be picking up sooner or later!
So, which game will you be getting? If you want to get Rock Band 4, you can check out the game and its many bundles and pre-orders right here! And if you're more into Guitar Hero Live, you can get it here!