When it comes to rhythm games with tons of peripherals, the fight has always been between Rock Band and Guitar Hero . The titles inspire fierce loyalties, with people ready to defend the music game they prefer against all odds. But now, with Rock Band 4 out and Guitar Hero Live ‘s October 20 release date upon us, I’m here to say Rock Band 4 will win, despite initial stumbling concerning the importing of past DLC and a delay in getting Rock Band 3 into the game. There won’t even be a contest.
It’s all because of the way Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live are handling backward compatibility. Harmonix is recognizing and rewarding people for keeping up with Rock Band , while FreeStyleGames and Activision are creating a situation that’s calling for massive reinvestments of money and time before you can really enjoy Guitar Hero Live .
Backwards compatibility is what will do Guitar Hero Live in. Yes, FreeStyle Games and Activision are trying to do something new with the controller. It’s an interesting idea. At the same time, it isolates people who have controllers hanging around the house. They’re used to certain schematics and have the hardware, but now find that it’s doomed to life in a basement or attic again.
Conversely, Harmonix is letting people do what they want with what they already have. Yes, Xbox One owners have to buy a $24.99 adapter to use their old instruments, but it’s a small price to pay when you look at the $129.99 Guitar Bundle or $249.99 Band-in-a-Box. It’s like the company understands the situation and is making it easier to justify reinvesting in the series.
The DLC situation makes matters worse. Rock Band 4 is showing us that DLC doesn’t have to go away, with Harmonix remembering our purchases and rewarding loyalty by letting us have all of our music again. It’s still there. It’s still good. Most importantly, we still own it. With Guitar Hero Live , you’re temporarily renting tracks by using tokens to pay for permission to stream songs. Said tokens are earned by playing tracks the game tells you to play via GHTV, which you can then use to access other songs for a time.
It makes up for the initial track lists. That’s the one place where Guitar Hero Live “wins.” There are already a couple hundred songs available in Guitar Hero Live ‘s TV mode, though not it’s campaign mode. That beats Rock Band 4 ‘s 65 on-disc selection. Still, considering how loyalty factors in, most Rock Band players will go in with a massive library of their own to compliment that selection.
Guitar Hero has spent years piggybacking off of other series’ success. The basic concept was a copycat of Konami’s 1998 Guitar Freaks games. When Harmonix moved on to work on Rock Band , Guitar Hero had to copy its style by bringing in other instruments too. Going back to the series’ roots isn’t going to help things when it doesn’t even let people use old instruments or DLC.
Time will tell which instrument game will come out ahead this round. Personally, after playing Guitar Hero Live at E3 and Rock Band 4 over the last few weeks, I think Harmonix has it won with the whole band experience again. Things could change, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Guitar Hero come in second again.