Why Guitar Hero is dead to me

(c) Bertrand Le Roy 2007 I bought the new Guitar Hero 5 because I needed a new fake plastic guitar and Activision’s guitars are the best that are not outrageously expensive. The Rock Band guitars I just can’t stand. So as I was going to buy a guitar from them, I thought I might as well get a (couple of) cheap game(s) with it.

At first, I really liked what they did with GH5, especially when compared to the mediocre World Tour. The party mode, for example, is a very nice idea: the game acts as a media player and plays songs on its own; but you can jump in at any time and start to play any instrument. Being able to play any instrument in any number is also a nice touch, seeing as few people like to sing in public, but most are not afraid of the guitar or drum set.

I also liked the tapping sections and the bass’ sixth note.

Problem is, that’s about it. The game has 85 songs but they’re not good. Going through the career mode feels like you’re grinding through mediocre song after horrible song. And when there’s one good song (there are a few), it is usually spoiled by an absurd, deliberately “challenging” partition. “Challenging”, in Activision’s mind of course means they have to make extra-sure you’ll have no fun playing the song.

After passing most songs, I heard myself thinking “this is a song I’m never going to play ever again”.

And the design… Will somebody please do something about the ugliness and get out of that uncanny valley? The rest of the industry has, one way or another. Guitar Hero is generally very consistent about the bad taste.

Contrast that with the elegant and subdued design of Rock Band, their well-balanced, well-designed, fun partitions that have the appropriate difficulty (no song is harder in medium than another in expert for example).

And of course, until EA and Activision realize the consumer’s interest is theirs and it’s absurd to limit the songs you sell to only one media player, there can be only one. Nobody wants to switch games in the middle of a party. But that is unlikely to happen as Activision can’t even manage to be compatible with their own games: 35 songs out of World Tour’s 85? WTF? It’s as if Apple was selling iTunes 2008 and iTunes 2009 but you couldn’t play on 2009 all the songs you bought on 2008. And you had to pay again to play those few “old” songs that you bought only a year earlier.

Don’t even get me started on how they milk the franchise, from inane band-specific titles to ridiculous toy-versions.

There can be only one in each home, and for me that one is going to be, for now and I suspect for a long time, Rock Band.

Archived comments

  • bradwils said on Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Right on. My thoughts exactly!
  • vladc said on Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Same here, GH is "has been" in my home, and stil using the LesPaul. :) I finished RB Beatles in one day and will have a do-over with friends on Friday night. Awesome game, and so much fun to play, I just hope to see Activision pull their head out and take a hard look around.
  • asdf said on Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Kinda true , of all the new games in the last few years , my highest expectations of fun is the new GH Warriors of Rock , I never played Rock Band ... the songs aren't that good , I dont download songs anyway , I have GH 5 , GH Metallica , and GH 5 , what is the best guitar hero ?