Sequel Time: Guitar Hero, Rock Band Continue

More Rock Band & Guitar Hero on the Way

It’s no secret that rhythm and music games have been getting more popular, nor that they took over the world (see: sales charts) last year. This holiday season looks to be no different with Rock Band 2 on the way from Harmonix, and Guitar Hero: World Tour coming from Activision. Both games will offer a full band this time around, possibly making the decision for one or the other a bit harder for aspiring fake musicians. There will be some differences, of course, including a couple new announcements this week.

The first obvious difference is in Guitar Hero: World Tour’s drumset. Learning from Harmonix’s experience last year, designing their drums to be velocity-sensitive (that means the harder you hit it, the louder that drum beats), more durable, quieter than Rock Band’s, and with two raised cymbals accompanying the three drum pads. Harmonix of course won’t take this lying down; the drums included in the Special Edition of RB2 will be velocity sensitive, and considerably quieter. Intrepid fans poring over the new set’s pictures also noticed slots for further attachments, like cymbals for instance. Activision counters that with the announcement this week that GHWT will have sponsored instruments in game, with players able to receive sponsorships from the likes of Guitar Center and Sabian. For fans who don’t want two plastic drumsets in their living rooms, have no fear; on both PS3 and Xbox 360, there will be 100% compatibility between the sets, as well as other instruments and microphones (no official word yet for Wii fans). If you’re playing GHWT with the RB2 drums, there will simply only be four pads shown.

So the drums are different, but not THAT different. So how about the music? Well, both will offer the biggest starting setlists yet. RB2 will have 84 songs on disc, and GHWT will have 85. Ah, not so fast, Activision; Harmonix will also have around 20 songs available for free download day-and-date with the release of the game, plus backwards compatibility (for a small, as yet undisclosed fee), with most Rock Band 1 songs from the disc, and 100% BC with downloaded tracks from the original. This easily gives Rock Band 2 the biggest launch setlist, especially for those fans who already own the first game. Both feature a solid mix of old and new music, and both have abandoned covers in favor of Master Tracks (the original recordings by the actual band or artist). Also, while Activision decided to release Aerosmith’s music as a separate game, they are now releasing Metallica’s new album as a download. Harmonix also announced this week they have secured several full albums to release as downloadable content right into RB2. Foo Fighters, Jane’s Addiction, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Megadeth all have featured albums coming to the sequel, with a special in-game only greatest hits compilation of No Doubt coming as well.

One place that Activision is definitely coming out on top this time is in innovation. Sure, they’ve essentially copied Rock Band’s interface and gameplay, but they did throw something brand new into the game, as well. Players will have the ability to record their own songs (sans vocals) through an advanced interface. The interface is so advanced that it will likely scare off the scads of casual gamers who’ve hopped on the rhythm train, but hardcore gamers and music enthusiasts should have fun with it. The songs gamers create can be shared over the Internet with friends and strangers alike.

With this battle of the bands, there can’t possibly be any other rhythm games, right? Not so fast, as there are plenty of other companies trying to grab your well-timed dollar. Activision is pulling double duty, with the portable and similarly titled Guitar Hero: On Tour and upcoming Guitar Hero: On Tour: Decades for the Nintendo DS. Also for the DS comes Music Monstars, where you use the “DS-Touchpen and play with Pianos, Drumsets and E-Guitars.” EA is gearing Boogie SuperStar, a singing and dancing game, specifically at girls. The press release announcing the game even said “Combining the hottest music hits from around the world with the coolest dance moves and total character customization, Boogie SuperStar provides girls the ultimate gaming experience: to sing and dance their way to superstardom!” The game is exclusive to the Wii, and ships in October. New editions of Sony’s karaoke game SingStar will hit this holiday season, along with Microsoft’s new karaoke game Lips and Konami’s Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol Encore 2. Konami is also getting in on the band action with a vocals-free game called Rock Revolution, which includes a staggering 7 piece drumkit (for the record, this will also include the instrument interoperability noted above). For Mac/PC gamers, there’s the previously-flash, now-downloadable Music Catch, where gamers catch certain notes while dodging others, all to their own music. These are just a handful of the rhythm games shipping this fall.

Even with all these late entries, however, the real showdown will still be between Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour. RB2 ships the game only in September for Xbox 360, with the full Special Edition set to hit October 19th on 360 and PS3 (it drops Nov 18th for Wii and PS2), just seven days before Guitar Hero: World Tour hits 360, PS3, Wii, and PS2. Who will rock the hardest? Well, the gamers, ultimately.

Twitter activity