Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Guitar Hero II (360) quick impressions

I put off getting Guitar Hero II for the PS2 because my controller had broken (it turns out that spilling beer on it is bad). Didn't make sense to pay for an all-new guitar and game when I could wait a few extra months to get it on the 360 instead. I think it was the right call, but it's not all wine and roses for the next-gen version. A few quick impressions follow.

The Good:

Achievements -- Well, duh. It's not as though achievements are even optional. But they add something to most games, especially when the developer has a sense of humor as Harmonix does. One of the achievements: decline to play an encore.

Hardware -- Less time saving and loading games means more time rocking. The performance boost is noticeable. So too are the HD graphics, but as I've always felt about this series, the graphics only matter when you're not the one playing.

The Motherfucking Trooper -- The song selection really does seem weaker in the sequel, but the addition of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" to the 360 version is practically worth the purchase all by itself. This has been one of my top-five most wanted songs for Guitar Hero, and now I've got it.

The Future
-- There's no downloadable content yet, but there will be plenty of new songs -- not to mention the entire tracklist from the original Guitar Hero. Score!

The Bad:

The Gibson Explorer -- The new guitar is a big problem, and it's probably going to assuage much of the dismay that PS2 owners might feel about the game's port to the 360. First of all, it plugs into the USB port on the back of the console. I can get to mine more easily than a lot of people probably can (I've got the system lying flat on my desk), but even so it's a pain to have to run a cable around my desk like this. This has got to be much more annoying to people with full-blown home entertainment setups. Why isn't it wireless?

Even worse, the asymmetrical contours of the Explorer are much less comfortable than those of the SG. There's a sharp protrusion right where my forearm naturally rests when I put my hand on the strum bar, so I can't lay my arm flat to play. So far I'm using a combination of three less than ideal solutions: 1) I can tilt the guitar upward and come at it from a different angle, but this causes the star power meter to go off when I don't want it to; 2) I can loop my arm around the protrusion at a right angle, which basically works but puts more stress on the arm than the more natural position; 3) I can angle it so that the top of the guitar faces a little bit upward rather than straight ahead. The third option is the one that seems to work best.

No doubt I'll be getting used to this, but what a horrible sensation the first time I strapped on the Explorer. Furthermore, didn't anybody else have this problem when they were designing the peripheral? Am I an exception? Or were they just married to the idea of using the Explorer? I think almost any other design would have been more comfortable. It's a huge, huge drawback.

Online Multiplayer -- Doesn't exist. Lame. On the other hand, I'm not even sure how you get offline multiplayer to work. It doesn't say anything about it in the instruction manual, and I only saw one USB port on the back of the console. It is a puzzlement.

11 comments:

Johnson said...

Wow, I was not aware that the controller was USB-only. With only one USB port, I do wonder how multiplayer is supposed to pan out. I wonder, indeed.

As far as it not being wireless, ISTR hearing lately that MS has some inexplicable no-3rd-party-wireless-controllers policy. Or am I thinking of Sony? Or of something else altogether?

Good to hear it's not the greatest thing since sliced bread, despite the fact that I'm picking up a 360 any day now.

Johnson said...

Oh, also, when you reference "Achievements" are you actually referring to a specific gameplay mechanic not present on the PS2? I'm confused.

Also, at least on the PS2 version, the "encore" is just the last song of each group.

One more question: does The Trooper replace something in the PS2 version, or is there just an awkward extra song jammed in there somewhere?

Mitch said...

There's obviously something I don't understand about the controller and the connectivity options, but apparently you're supposed to figure it out by trial and error. The manual is really thin on this stuff. It doesn't even tell you where to plug the guitar in. You may be correct about Microsoft keeping its wireless specs close the vest -- I think I've read something similar to that myself.

Yeah, Achievements are an Xbox 360-specific thing. Every game contains several specific tasks, and completing each one nets you a certain number of Achievement points. Retail games contain 1,000 possible points. Other Achievements I've gotten so far in this game include a 100-note streak, over 100k points, over 200k points, and stuff like that.

I never played the PS2 version single-player, so I don't know how the encores are different. But here it's like "The crowd wants you to play an encore do you want to play an encore y/n."

There are a bunch of new tracks spread out among the different song groups. I think they actually re-jiggered all the groupings.

avixe said...

Don't know if yours is like this, but on our 360 there are two more USB ports on the front, to the right of the power button. They're hidden under a flap.

I only mention because I originally plugged it into the back one like you did, and only noticed the front ones an hour later.

Mitch said...

Fuck.

Mitch said...

And I'd say again that if they just put this information in the instruction manual, it would have been easier from the beginning.

Johnson said...

And I'd say again that if they just put this information in the instruction manual, it would have been easier from the beginning.

Yeah, but then it wouldn't have that rockin' garage band feel that it currently has. *sigh*

Thanks for the info on Achievements, I was completely unaware of that. That's kind of cool for a console-wide feature.

I'm this close to picking up a 360, by the way. I believe I'm going with a Premium console, extra controller, and Gears of War to begin with.

Mitch said...

I don't think you'll regret that purchase. One thing I would say is to keep an eye out for any stores offering specials. A lot of them will throw in a controller or a game or a pre-paid MS points card. You won't save a ton, but why not save a little if you can?

Johnson said...

One thing I would say is to keep an eye out for any stores offering specials. A lot of them will throw in a controller or a game or a pre-paid MS points card. You won't save a ton, but why not save a little if you can?

Funny you say that; I was looking at the bundles they have at Circuit City. Premium console, check. Extra controller, check. Gears of War, check. Play & charge kit, eh, wasn't going to buy it anyway but it's only $19.99 retail and can't hurt, check. I actually priced the whole bundle individually, though, and it came out to $0.03 less than the bundle as a whole.

Needless to say, and mostly on principle, I picked up everything separately.

I also nixed the second controller for now when I realized I had to pay $100 for a WiFi adapter, which they never saw fit to build into the thing. What a strange world this is outside the comforting fold of Nintendo.

Is it too much to ask for a console with built-in wireless that actually has multiplayer games (never mind a good online service)? I guess so.

Mitch said...

Is it too much to ask for a console with built-in wireless that actually has multiplayer games (never mind a good online service)? I guess so.
You could always get a PlayStation 3...

Johnson said...

I thought the verdict on Sony's online service was "eh" so far, at least in comparison to XBL. True, though.