2007-2010 was an exciting time for music game fans. Music games were all the rage and I would always look forward to each new release from Activision and Harmonix, even if meant buying 10 games a year. Both companies fought tooth and nail for rhythm game dominance only to have both franchises die a sudden and expected death. During the four-year battle, both companies did whatever they could to gain a competitive edge on the other, even signing artists to exclusivity contracts that would last years and years. Back then it was difficult to tell the games apart. Both featured four instruments, similar looking note highways and even the same songs.
What’s interesting with this year’s music rivalry is that both Guitar Hero and Rock Band appear to be going in completely different directions. Guitar Hero Live (GHL) is more focused on reinventing the franchise while Rock Band 4 (RB4) feels like a gradual evolution of the series. So what does each game offer? Let’s break down and compare each game across several categories.
Instruments & Their Features
Guitar Hero Live
Gone are the bass and drums in Guitar Hero as the game’s main core focus is the guitar and vocals. The guitar peripheral has been completely redesigned and now features six buttons. The new guitar peripheral feels terrific and playing GHL feels like a fresh new take on the series. Playing GHL for the first time offered a similar experience to playing Guitar Hero 3 for the first time (my first Guitar Hero game). As someone who played past games in the series on expert, the new button configuration offers a steep learning curve. Even after beating the campaign and putting countless hours in GHTV, I still haven’t advanced to expert difficulty.
The big downside to GHL is that none of your old Guitar Hero or Rock Band instruments work on GHL (except for the microphones). If you don’t have a microphone lying around, you can download a free companion app for your mobile device and use your phone as a microphone. It works surprisingly well.
Rock Band 4
Rock Band 4 allows you to use most of your old instruments from past Guitar Hero and Rock Band games. If you’re on the Xbox One, you will need the $25.00 legacy adapter to use your old peripherals. Old peripherals work fine on the game and the new features such as the freestyle guitar solos and vocals work great on your old instruments. RB4 also has some new instruments. The new guitar, drums and microphone have some improved functionalities and aesthetic features, but the steep price for a band or guitar bundle present a high barrier to entry. If you have old instruments lying around, I would recommend using them rather than buying new ones. For those wondering, you can use a GHL guitar on RB4, but it doesn’t work very well and is very laggy.