After manning the Rock Band guitar for a few sessions, I’m much closer to my Guitar Hero III comfort level. Overall the transition from a GH3 Wii guitar to an XBox360 Rock Band guitar isn’t too bad, but there are some differences.
Rock Band guitar is “splashy”
While the GH3 controller has a lot of tactile (and audible) feedback through the clicky buttons and strum bar, the Rock Band “axe” is much less chatty. The first time I picked up a Rock Band guitar it felt like I was trying to play on a blanket or something; you press on the thing and wonder if it had any effect. And if your part doesn’t stand out in the music, then you have to pay close attention to the explosion animation of the notes, especially if you have people singing and slamming on the drums around you.
Rock Band guitar meta-buttons are poorly situated
On my GH3 controller I never go to town on the whammy bar and find that I’ve accidentally paused the game or activated star power; on Rock Band I’ve done both… several times.
Rock Band hammer-ons and pull-offs need more distinction
In GH3, the hammer-ons and pull-offs and very clearly marked by “glowing” notes; Rock Band denotes them by displaying hammer-ons and pull-offs at about half the size of regular notes. Maybe this would be fine if my friend were a good consumer and had a nice 50″ plasma to go with his Rock Band rig. As it is, a 27″ CRT with voice, drums, and guitar crammed on there makes things hard to see.
Rock Band is easier
I won’t go as far as to say that Rock Band’s Hard difficulty level to equivalent to GH3′s Medium, but I’d listen to the argument. The Rock Band difficulty scale is definitely easier than GH3′s. On GH3 I am about a 3 or 4 star Hard player, though I’ve been failing out of the later songs (the “galloping triplets” on that Muse song keep defeating me). In Rock Band I can hit 4 or 5 stars on Hard for almost every song. As my friend says, this makes sense because Rock Band is not a guitar-focused game.
Rock Band does not hide star phrases
I recall running through an Easy or Medium GH3 song, hitting every note, and being confused at seeing that I had not hit every star phrase. The problem is that if you are in star power mode, then GH3 converts all star phrases to regular notes. I’m not sure what the rationale is for this; maybe this would result in situations where you’d be able to stay in star power mode for the entire song? Rock Band does not have this restriction from what I can tell. If memory serves, hitting an SP while in star power mode will simply increase the power you have remaining; I like this better than GH3.
Overall, GH3 is superior to Rock Band in terms of pure guitar game play – makes sense what with the Guitar Hero and all. However, the party atmosphere that Rock Band promotes defines a whole new level of social gaming. As Rock Band improves, I’m not sure that GH will be able to compete. Why buy a guitar simulation game when you can buy an entire band simulation game that includes the guitar aspect? Watching these franchises over the next few years will be interesting.