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Which to buy: ‘Guitar Hero' or 'Rock Band 2’?

Plant either “Rock Band 2” or “Guitar Hero World Tour” in front of four people, and you'll have an instant party. But which one’s better? Well, that’s a matter of taste.
Image: Guitar Hero World Tour drum set
Which is better, \"Guitar Hero World Tour\" or \"Rock Band 2?\" The former sports a better drum set (pictured) and roll-your-own music creation tools. But if you're a casual user, \"Rock Band 2\" might be a better fit.
/ Source: contributor

EDITOR's NOTE: An earlier version of this story erroneously indicated that the drum set from "Rock Band 2" could not be used as an electronic drum kit. It also stated that "Rock Band 2" did not support two singing options, which is also incorrect.

Plant either “Rock Band 2” or “” in front of four people, and you'll have an instant party. I promise. But which one’s better? Well, that’s a matter of taste.

At first blush, “World Tour” appears to be the better game thanks to improved instruments, refined gameplay, and more enjoyable note-plucking. But isolated reports of hardware bugs, a sloppy menu, and a less-than-desirable online mode complicate the choice.

For the uninitiated, “World Tour” and “Rock Band 2” feature downward-scrolling notes that must be played to the beat using a wireless toy guitar, bass or drum set. Singing is performed using a wired microphone, much like karaoke. The overall effect is extremely convincing, even for musicians, making your ordinary self feel like a bona fide rocker of real-world music.

While MTV's “Rock Band” was first to add drums and singing in 2007, Activision's “World Tour” upgrade to “Guitar Hero” is more innovative. Guitar controllers are more responsive, making you feel better prepared to hit incoming notes, and there's a new touch pad high on the neck for playing solos. (Watch out Ace Frehley.)

“World Tour” drums and singing are also improved over “Rock Band 2.” The drum set is quieter, features a softer kick pedal, and adds two raised cymbal pads, which not only make more sense than the primitive flat pads of "Rock Band," but the are easier to hit and more fun to play. “World Tour” singers also enjoy cleaner vocals.

Unfortunately, some “World Tour” owners are reporting drumming misfires. Activision has quickly addressed the issue, offering a free tuner cord that connects to a computer and corrects the problem. But it will require extra effort on your part, and it makes “Rock Band 2” more reliable out of the box and better suited for the technically challenged. (Author’s note: I’ve played one “World Tour” set that works perfectly, and another that had problems registering snare and high-hat hits).

“Rock Band 2” is also more dependable when it comes to band chemistry, even if its instruments are inferior. Both games support a four-player band mode, but only “Rock Band 2” lets players gauge easily how everyone’s doing, and assist bandmates if they’re failing. What's more, the menus in “Rock Band 2” are easier to navigate, as is playing others online.

But if you want to create your own original music and cover songs, “World Tour” is the only way to go, since it’s the only one of the two that includes a robust recording and mixing studio. The music samples sound more like a cheap Casio keyboard than something you would expect from a professional recording, but there are a variety of passable presets.

In terms of music, each game features more than 84 songs, many of which are included in both games. I found both track lists to be more than compelling, but there are differences. Van Halen, Coldplay, Jimi Hendrix, and Michael Jackson are exclusive to “World Tour,” while “Rock Band 2” has the lock on AC/DC, Panic at the Disco, Kansas, and The Offspring. If you want to download more songs, however, “Rock Band 2” has a bigger online store, but both stores are growing.

In the end, musicians and experienced rhythm game fans will likely prefer the innovations of "Guitar Hero: World Tour," while “Rock Band 2” will appeal to casual players and online gamers for its ease of use and proven experience.

Rabid music fans will likely want both of these games for a maximum number of songs, and this is the best way to do it: "World Tour" has the best instruments, and both games are compatible with the other's peripherals. So buy the complete band pack of “Guitar Hero: World Tour” for $190 (a second guitar controller and mic stand costs extra), then drop $50-60 on the stand-alone “Rock Band 2” disc for more song fun.

'World Tour' pros:

  • Improved instruments
  • More aggressive track list
  • Better tablature makes you feel like more of a rock star

'Rock Band 2' pros:

  • Better band chemistry makes you feel like a group
  • Easier setup, no buggy hardware
  • Unmatched online play