Guitar Hero has been THE staple for music games ever since its introduction into the gaming world back nearly four years ago in November of 2005. Developed by Harmonix and published by RedOctane, it was deemed innovative, groundbreaking, or in one simple word: awesome. Gamers and non-gamers alike flocked to the virtual guitar as if free handjobs were included with every purchase. Everyone and their sister has either owned or at least played some incarnation of the game. And as Activision got their grubby, greedy little hands on the franchise in 2006, an explosion of music-oriented games was just around the bend.
When RedOctane was bought out by Activision, a $100 million expenditure simply for the Guitar Hero name mind you, Harmonix went they’re own way and were eventually gobbled up by MTV Networks within the same year. The final collaboration between the two companies originally behind the Guitar Hero series turned out to be one of the least critically acclaimed titles, with GH: Rocks The 80′s receiving lukewarm reviews at best because of its high price-tag and meager track list. With the two original companies going their separate ways, the music-game genre was ready to explode with the highly anticipated sequel to GH2 and the arrival of innovation delivered by then “newcomer,” Rock Band.
A battle for supremacy was about to unfold in the holiday rush of 2007, with all the players and pieces ready to strike. “Who won,” you ask? Well, that’s hard to call. Both games received very positive reviews and reached the “million copies sold” mark pretty swiftly. Both games bolstered deep, varied track-lists, superb first-hand peripherals, and stylized avatars that seemed to do away with basic human anatomy (the character’s hands in Rock Band are god-damn ginormous). As similar as the two games were, besides the added instruments, there was one defining difference: RB destroyed Guitar Hero 3 when it came to downloadable content. Seriously. MTV and Harmonix just decided to drop trow, and literally shit all over Activision. By the time 2008 reared its head and the stupid drunken sluts were dumped on doorsteps proper, pristine women were escorted home, Rock Band’s playlist had nearly doubled, and within its first year, over 100 songs were available for download.
However, it seems that Activision had a trick up their sleeve. I’d first like to state that I was a very avid supporter of the Guitar Hero series from the get-go. I even shunned its superior counterpart for quite sometime. Until, though, Activision tried to pull the wool over my eyes (again). The beginning of the summer usually yields promising titles for console gaming; an effort to get gamers through the grueling, cancer-causing summer sun and gear them up for the fall and a real reason to stay inside all day. Yet, instead of a quality, entertaining title, Activision greased up their rape stick, bent over the entire GH community, took aim and firmly pushed.
Otherwise known as Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, I fell right into their money grubbing trap. I couldn’t believe, after 5 hours, that I not only beat every Aerosmith song on expert, that I had also completed the entire game. The first five minutes were bewildering; I couldn’t have possibly finished this game already, GH3 took me weeks and weeks of practice to finally beat on expert. After my initial confusions, I knew what must be done. I climbed the mountaintops and shouted at the top of my lungs: SHENANIGANS (see: definition two). Why were these songs not included in GH3? Why were they not available as DLC? And why was I being forced to pay $60 for rehashed graphics and a good portion of songs that have already appeared in Rock Band ? GH: Aerosmith received lukewarm reviews, being very reminiscent of Guitar Hero: Rock’s the ’80s, and Activision realized it was time to step up their game.
And so brought round two of the rhythm genre battle, and with MTV and Harmonix holding a slightly commanding lead, Activision had its work cut out for them. This past fall saw both the second installment of RB and Guitar Hero: World Tour, two fantastic games that offered similar, yet varied aspects of the music-game genre. With Rock Band 2, gamers saw a relatively unchanged core game, but with the ability to incorporate both the original RB playlist and all of the downloadable songs, RB2 featured well over 200 songs available to play on its release. GH:WT on the other hand, needed to catch up to the Rock Band series. With World Tour, Neversoft (GH3 and beyond developer) added character customization, finger-tap solo sections, the ability to gain further “star power” if already active, full band game modes and peripherals, and most significantly, the ability to create your own songs. However, the song creation mode was very difficult to use, not to mention that the end result sounded as if you produced it using an electric, toy keyboard.
Its evident that Rock Band is the clear winner, garnering an extensive playlist, greater sales, and better critical reviews. But don’t count out Activision just yet. They’re gettin’ the rape stick ready for the next couple of months again. Guitar Hero: Metallica is shaping up to be another GH:Aerosmith, with Metallica only bolstering an extra 7 songs, and some songs have already appeared in either previous GH games or in RB. All those songs you downloaded for World Tour? Can’t use ‘em. One thing I am looking forward to is that most of the Metallica content is from earlier in their careers, rather than the post-Black album bullshit they’ve been known for recently (barring Death Magnetic). But a $60 pricetag is hardly worth twenty-or-so Metallica songs I haven’t played yet. But hey, to each their own. Look for GH:Metallica at the end of this month.
Yet, Activision is not quite done with stealing your money. Sometime this June, we’ll be receiving a compilation of the “greatest” songs that have appeared on Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero 2, Guitar Hero: Rocks the ’80s, and Guitar Hero 3. Justly entitled Guitar Hero: Greatest Hits, the idea behind the game is to let an entire band rock out on GH’s most popular songs. Lets not forget that this game is gonna cost you another $60 for songs you already own. Once again, Activision is readying that trusty rape stick this June, rather than appeasing the gaming community and make these songs downloadable. I give them a little credit; they do keep to their guns when releasing any substantial amount of content at nearly $65, after tax. But sticking to your guns doesn’t mean shit when Rock Band has over an incredible 400 songs available for download, and that number doesn’t even include the songs that come standard with both discs. Over 30 million purchases have been made for Rock Band DLC, seemingly crushing any chance for competition within the downloadable market.
Oh and that Beatles themed game? The only actual band-themed game that, in my opinion, is worth making? (besides, that is, the impossible) Yeah, its under the Rock Band label. Paul McCartney was on that mountaintop with me, calling shenanigans on Activision’s tomfoolery.
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