Nov 19, 2007
"No f&#*ing way am I wearing that." That was the initial reaction by many gamers when they saw the little plastic guitar that powered the original Guitar Hero. My, how times have changed. In Rock Band - the new multiplayer spin from the original GH creators, Harmonix - not only do you eagerly want to grab a fake plastic guitar, but you won't have to look far to find three other people just as willing to step up to grab a fake plastic bass, fake plastic drums and a fake plastic microphone. And together, you will be a fake plastic band. For real.
See, that's the problem. The new peripherals are not fake at all. The four pads and kick pedal mimic a basic electronic drum kit, and you still have to swing your limbs to hit each target. The higher difficulty levels require such skill that if you are not already a drummer, you're automatically on your way to becoming one. The microphone is, well, a microphone - hold it your hand, put it on a stand, swing it over your head - but you still have to sing into it and match the pitch and length of the notes on the screen in order to do well. It's not always fun, even - it's a drag to be judged so harshly. But by constrast, we can't call that fake anything - that's singing. And for all intents and purposes, you're really drumming, too.
That leaves guitar, which when played solo in Rock Band, isn't must different from Guitar Hero - well, other than the fact that it lacks Guitar Hero III's soul-crushing technical difficulty. You once again match the notes on screen to the buttons on your guitar - this time, a black Fender Stratocaster with built-in effects and five extra buttons high up on the neck, intended for solo pyrotechnics. If you dutifully march through the single-player campaigns, you'll enjoy the variety of venues, the realistic animations, and the loading screens that illustrate your rise to fame. But playing solo misses the whole point.