Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Guitar Hero IV

There have a been a flurry of announcements about Guitar Hero IV in the last two weeks, and I like almost everything I've read. Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry, which summarizes the changes:
The traditional single player Career Mode has been reworked, following a similar mechanic as Rock Band's Band World Tour mode. A player will encounter gigs during career mode, which offers a choice of songs to play, all of which are not required to complete in order to proceed. Furthermore, while the difficulty levels (Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert) remain in the game, this Career Mode will allow to drop to a lower difficulty without restarting their career if they have difficulty with one song. The player will also be able to switch to a different instrument during the same Career without having to restart. There are four total instrument career modes within the game: lead guitar, bass guitar, drums, and rhythm guitar.

There is also a Band Career mode, which mirrors Rock Band's "Band World Tour" mode as well. However, this mode can be advanced by oneself or with others offline or online. A player that has not progressed as far as another player's band will still gain benefits for successfully completing songs when playing together. The interface for playing with others is described by Game Informer as being the same as Rock Band's. Full four-player bands will be able to compete with other bands online in a "Battle of the Band" mode.

There's a lot to like there: a less linear (and more interesting) career mode for single players, the ability to switch instruments during a career, and a bass career. Plus, being able to have an online band is going to be lots of fun.

There's also a new music creation option where you can create and record your own songs. No vocals, though I can't imagine why. Are you telling me that ten thousand songs with some guy saying "*uck" two hundred times would be a problem?

People might laugh at this music creation feature, and 99% of the songs created will be garbage, but that doesn't matter. That 99% never matters. All that matters is that 1%, and there will be some very creative people in that tiny sliver.

The drums have three pads and two cymbals (plus the bass pedal), and they're pressure-sensitive. I don't think anyone doubts that the hardware is going to be excellent, because that's Red Octane's strength.

When I see a video like this, though, I get concerned. It's 1:45 long, and it's all about the new drum kit, with drummers like Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Stewart Copeland, and Travis Barker (Blink 182). There's plenty of drumming--except none of it is on the new drumset. There are exactly four clips where people are actually using the new drumset, and they all last for basically one second (two, at most).

The drummers also seem to think that adding a drum kit a year after Rock Band did is some kind of sensational gaming revolution. I'm sure they've never heard of the game that's grossed $200M plus. We know they know, and they know that we know, but they're going to pretend like they don't anyway.

This is exactly the kind of bullshit video that's 99% fluff and 1% substance that I expect from Activision, because this is how they've marketed the series from the day they took over.

My other concern is the note charts, because they took a significant step backwards in quality in Guitar Hero III. Given that absolutely no one has mentioned them, it's a fair guess that they're not going to be changed signficantly, so tricked out note charts to compensate for the giant timing window will probably make another appearance.

What is unquestionably good about all this, though, is that it puts pressure on Harmonix to continue improving Rock Band.

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