The Instruments: The Guitar and Mic

While the original Rock Band hardware will work with Rock Band 2 (which is nice), Harmonix did see fit to release updated versions for Rock Band 2. We'll start with the new guitar. Here it is:

Hold your computer upside down to look at it if you're left handed.


The first thing people will likely notice is that it looks very similar to the first Rock Band guitar. The changes are mostly tweaks that improve the feel of the guitar when playing. The fret buttons feel a bit better to press down, and the strumbar feels more solid as well.

Not really sure what all that means? Let's take a look at the make up of a guitar controller.

These are the fret buttons. You hold them down when the game tells you too.

This is the strumbar. You "pluck" it ... like a string?

In order to play games with a guitar controller, a fret button (or two or three ...) is held down and then the strum bar is either pushed up or down to simulate "playing" the note. This can take some getting used to for people who haven't played guitar before. It imitates the way playing a guitar requires strings to be pressed down and then plucked to get different sounds. Guitar controllers are a little more forgiving with the timing of things, but the general idea is there.

We haven't sticker'd up our new one yet.

Not all guitar controllers are created equal though. The Rock Band and Rock Band 2 guitars are only slightly different. But there is a much larger gap between the design of the Rock Band series of guitars and the Guitar Hero guitars. Some of the differences between the Rock Band and Guitar Hero guitars lead people to favor one style or another.

Pretty little maids all in a row.

In our opinion, the Guitar Hero strumbar is better as it has more tactile feedback. Many people prefer the way the buttons on the GH guitar are raised (making them a little easier to "find" if you get lost), but the RB and RB2 guitars are slightly more realistic in their design (with RB you feel ridges where frets with buttons slightly indented between as opposed to the raised and separated buttons on GH guitars). The kicker for us is that the Rock Band guitars feature buttons that are much easier to push down (the require less force to depress). This is a major plus, as playing fast or for long periods of time can be very difficult with the GH version (until you build up some major hand strength anyway).

The really new feature of the Rock Band 2 guitar is a built in camera and mic that can be used for automatic calibration. While automatic calibration is a great idea, there are some issues. But we'll cover that in the next section.

The guitar is wireless, and that's great, but it doesn't feature a rechargeable battery pack. It simply uses AA batteries. Wireless controllers just scream out for rechargeable batteries, especially when you've got the ability to charge over USB with the XBox 360. There is just no excuse for this.

Regardless of automatic calibration people are going to be polarized, and if you like one style of guitar controller you'll probably hate the other. For those who prefer the Rock Band guitar, the Rock Band 2 guitar is definitely improved, but not improved enough to warrant upgrading simply on the merits of the new version. At the same time, there's no reason to pick the older version if you need to buy a new controller.

The mic is still just a USB mic. It's not that great, and it isn't wireless. While everything else has the wireless option now, it's sad that we still have to be tethered to something with this one. But it does have a nice long cord and isn't going to really weigh you down that much. There isn't much interaction with the device really necessary, as it's just something you sing into.

It might be nicer not to require a controller to be used with it. Maybe Harmonix build a minimal range of buttons on there in the future to enable volume control and navigation around the screen a little easier. And then it'd be wireless and have more function. I wouldn't mind seeing a "premium" style mic with these sort of options. But for now, we're just stuck with a simple straight forward USB mic.

Index Automatic Calibration
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  • 7Enigma - Saturday, October 25, 2008 - link

    A buddy sent this to me a couple weeks ago. Insane drum playing on Expert in RockBand.">

    And just to give you an idea of how difficult this really is to play (if hearing it didn't quite sink in):">
  • silversound - Friday, October 24, 2008 - link

    Anybody have any ideas about the guitar hero world tour?
    Im planning to buy a RB2 bundle or world tour bundle since they are at the same price. Which one is better? Most of my friends got RB, any thoughts?
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, October 25, 2008 - link

    i'll try to get some quick thoughts on GH4 up after we get ahold of it.

    if your friends have RB 2 and want to play with you online ... then ... i'd prolly go with RB 2 :-)

    if you guys get together and play with eachother, it might be nice to add some variety and pick up GH4 so that you and your friends can play a little of both.
  • GhandiInstinct - Friday, October 24, 2008 - link

    Where's the hi-hat pedal?

    Electronic drum kits have 2 pedals.
  • crimson117 - Friday, October 24, 2008 - link

    "In songs with 16th notes or triplets, there still isn't much that gets by without being fairly accurte." ...unlike the Anandtech spell check process :)
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 24, 2008 - link

    Okay, I may not be the most up-to-date in terms of bands and such, but the number of songs and even band names that I recognize from the RB2 list is amazingly small. Half of the bands/groups I recognize then have one of their B-sides or some other unknown song on the list. RB1 was pretty bad in that area, but RB2 takes it to a new level. Plus there's the "20 free songs" you can get - but I don't recognize a single group or song on that list! If I were to want to pretend to be a rock star, I think I'd prefer to "cover" songs that I actually know. Guitar Hero seems to do a lot better in this regard; Harmonix appears to have cut costs by choosing cheap/free songs to license.
  • Myrandex - Friday, October 24, 2008 - link

    I felt the same way until I played it, then I realized that I recognized a lot more afterwards. also as the author mentioned, I eventually obtained a greater appreciation for certain songs or even certain aspects of songs. There are definitely songs that I didn't know that I like quite a bit after playing RB2.

    And for the 20 free songs, I am greatly looking forward to Static-X "Push It". I love that band and I could think of at least 8 songs that I'd gladly pay for to be in the game (with Push It being one of them).

    I recognized some other ones, but not too many. I don't know if the list that I saw was actually finalized or not though. The one song that I was looking forward to the most in RB2 was Linkin Park's One Step Closer. I could think of probably 15 LP songs that I'd also pay for in there.

  • jnmfox - Friday, October 24, 2008 - link

    +1 to the comments & +1 for more LP songs
  • headbox - Friday, October 24, 2008 - link

    Rock Band is genius- it gives all of the untalented people something to do other than waste money on instruments and annoy their neighbors. It's so well made that people can actually pretend they have some talent, allowing tone-deaf people who can't keep a beat to still have fun with music.
  • headbox - Friday, October 24, 2008 - link

    I'd like to add: Rock Band is to music what FPS games are to military training.

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