Thursday, October 21

The rise (and terminal velocity plummet) of rhythm gaming

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater. Ever since I was introduced to Guitar Hero 2 and decided to use it to procrastinate during university, I loved the game. The music, the challenges, the way it makes your vision go funny if you play it for too long in the dark – everything about the game made my day complete. Loyal to the core, I played it constantly and have bought each new major title over the years.

After finishing Guitar Hero 5 and Rock Band: Green Day fairly quickly, it dawned on me that I was a great player. Flying through each track with superior dexterity and with a consistently high percentage of notes hit, I decided to visit my roots and smash out a few new high scores on Guitar Hero 2.

It turns out I am not the great player I once thought I was.

Not only did I struggle through tracks from Avenged Sevenfold, The Living End and The Sword, I couldn’t even beat some high scores from my early days. It would seem my skills haven’t increased significantly; it’s just that the series has become easier.

And it’s not just a little easier either. Even my wife who plays once, maybe twice, per year can rock comfortably (and well I might add) on Medium. Half a bottle of Bacardi should turn my furious little fingers into mush but I can still stumble through on Hard.

And it’s not just Guitar Hero. Even Rock Band has suffered the touch of simplicity. While I never bought Rock Band 1 or 2, the few times I’ve dabbled in the series I’ve been disappointed at how easy the songs are to play (and the fact they included Jet). In fact it’s one of only two criticisms of Rock Band: Green Day. The other is they have you buy the game and then make you buy songs to finish it. A brilliant way to increase DLC numbers, but as a fan of Green Day, I feel ripped off.

And I digress. Back to Guitar Hero.

In addition to the simplicity, they introduced a whole bunch of pop songs that aren’t even rock. An action clearly taken to appeal to a wider audience. I don’t care what anyone says; Bon Jovi isn’t rock and should keep his Ally McBeal antics out of the game. And Beastie Boys? C’mon! They don’t even play instruments!

It’s with this in mind that I’m torn as to whether I pick up the newest addition to the Guitar Hero family, Warriors of Rock. Reading up on reviews it sounds quite promising with an all new quest mode providing power ups for your character (narrated by Gene Simmons!) and a diverse set list including AFI, Slipknot and DragonForce.

The quest mode is a welcome addition to the game and an aspect that I’ve missed from World Tour and GH5. Without a story the game seems pointless and I often wondered why I/my character was playing these songs. Far from memorable, all I can remember from previous titles is Sting falling from a rooftop and a giant flying boat from World Tour. GH5 finished with something to do with God and the Devil. Their relevance to Career Mode? I don’t know, I clearly wasn’t engaged enough.

Unfortunately the Xbox Live demo didn’t do much to help my decision either, although seeing Johnny Napalm turn into a demonic alter-ego and then roll straight into Dethklok’s Bloodlines was a nice surprise.

The demo’s other surprise was the return of a slightly more difficult Hard setting. Playing Foo Fighters No Way Back was actually entertaining, rather than the monotonous repetitive up/down strumming that songs in previous titles had delivered. Chances are that I’ll pick it up, but I’m just not in a hurry to add it to the collection.

Maybe it’s not necessarily the content that’s holding me back and more the knowledge that GH:WoR is most likely the last in the series; an unfortunate result of clear oversaturation of a niche market. Maybe I don’t want the rock to come to its inevitable end.

Or maybe I’ve just seen images of the controllers for Rock Band 3 and now have to clean my pants.


  1. Love your work TJ.

    Everything I've read suggests that I should wait for Rock Band 3. That being said though, it will cost a lot of money to enjoy all it has to offer.

    Guitar Hero 1-3 took up a lot of my study time back in the last few years of uni. I loved "Red Lottery," by Megasus from GHII. Only song I could complete on Expert difficulty. I very rarely venture beyond Normal as I lack the skills to pay bills.

  2. Coordination was never high on your list of capabilities champ.

    I never dabbled in the GH or RB arena, and I am not ashamed to admit it is because I have no affinity towards rock of form. The only one I would have considered playing would have been RB: Beatles (which by all reports is a pretty stellar, if short, game).

    That, and having to shell out $200+ just to play them was never my thing. When I pick up FIFA 11, I may do a review for you. I really enjoyed 10, and from the demo, 11 fixes alot of the issues I had with 10 (namely my players are not so easily pushed off the ball, and speed and agility are no longer the determining factor in how good a player is).

  3. Boo-urns Sambo, I'm coordinated like a fox.

    Rock Band: The Beatles is awesome, and yes it is ridiculously short. I used to love shelling out hundreds of wing wangs for plastic instruments. Still have the urge to buy a full band set every now and then.

    You're welcome to contribute my brother. Let us know if/when you get around to it.

  4. Yeah I will probably get it next week, I want to at least finish one season (should take me a couple of days, depending on my gaming schedule and what else is on).

    So hopefully maybe 2 weeks. I also figure I am probably the most qualified out of everyone you know to write it.

  5. No doubt with that one, Samuel