Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Battle of the games

Wired reports: [edited]

Forget about Xbox vs. Wii. This Christmas, the fiercest videogame rivalry is a battle of the bands.

The makers of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock pulled out all the stops to defend their turf against rival music game Rock Band. They enlisted actual rock stars to write new riffs, and hired six guitar experts to turn dozens of real-world rock anthems into engaging game fodder.

The first incarnation of Guitar Hero quickly won fans after its 2005 release with its simple concept - play rock songs with a plastic guitar. That game, which turned popular tunes into virtual notes that players slammed out on guitar-shaped controllers, spawned a huge-selling sequel, Guitar Hero II.

But now the franchise faces its first real challenge in the form of Rock Band, a multiplayer game that extends the "let's pretend we're rockers" strategy beyond the guitar to let players tackle drumming and vocals. The fact that Rock Band was created by Harmonix, the original maker of Guitar Hero, makes the struggle all the more personal.

The new song list is packed with well-known hits, from The Killers' "When You Were Young" to Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love." The developers also added "boss battles" against virtual versions of real-life guitarists, bringing in Velvet Revolver's Slash and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello to motion-capture their signature stage moves. Both composed original guitar duets for the battle stages.

In contrast, Rock Band adds drumming and vocals to the mix, creating three distinct single-player experiences - and one crazy four-player mode - but doesn't deepen the guitar experience very much.

Perhaps most importantly, Guitar Hero III will be the only music game on Wii this year. Huang says the Nintendo console's casual game audience makes Wii a "phenomenal platform" for Guitar Hero III.

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