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  • Drums on Guitar Hero, Better than Rock Band?

    Posted on August 3rd, 2010 Shawn 3 comments

    I’ve got your attention now. I’m focusing on Expert+ drums (specifically Guitar Hero: Van Halen) versus Expert drums in every Rock Band game (prior to Rock Band 3). The 5 lane + double-bass drum configuration of Guitar Hero, easily trumps the 4 lane + single-bass drum in Rock Band. This is focused on the amount of realistic drums mapped, not on the hardware. I believe the stock hardware for all Guitar Hero and Rock Band drum kits is crap.

    I’m a Rock Band fanboy, as well as a real world drummer. It’s taken me this long to realize that the GH drum technology beats Rock Band, because I rarely play GH (though typically play RB 10-15 hours per week).

    Last night I played GH: Van Halen drums for the first time. I immediately started on Expert+ to get the best feel of the whole experience. Then quickly switched over to RB2 and fired up some of the new Avenged Sevenfold DLC on Expert. Both had copious amounts of double-bass drum in the original tracks, and lot’s of cymbals.

    As far as the GH:VH songs go, you get 5-lanes (1 snare, 2 toms, 2 cymbals) plus a bass drum line, charted to include double-bass drums. The separate orange pad for crash/ride cymbal brings some drumming realism, where you don’t reuse the same pads for toms and/or cymbals. Having the yellow pad also dedicated to high-hat/crash is also a plus. That leaves red always for snare, and blue & green always for toms. The one thing I wish the GH layout offered was a third cymbal, so that yellow could remain dedicated as high-hat, like a traditional drum set. For the bass drum, having a song with a double-bass drum part which is actually charted for the double-bass drum is as real as it gets. I played Killswitch Engage’s “The End of Heartache” (yes, in a Van Halen game…which in itself is very odd).

    One very obvious thing I noticed is the timing windows in GH:VH is much looser than any Rock Band game.  That means you can be a micro-second early/late to a beat but still get credit and not break your streak. I appreciate that loose window, especially as calibration isn’t always perfect, and that wiggle room makes for a less frustrating experience. 

    Now, for the not so good part of GH drums. The charting overall appears inferior to RB charts, in my opinion. Many times (I’ve noticed in GHWT, GH:M, GH:VH) high-hat notes were under and over-charted, which means there were times where I can hear a high-hat note but it’s not charted; or high-hat notes are charted but there is no corresponding sound in the audio track. That lack of quality control really turned me off on GHWT and GH:Metallica, making me a stronger RB fanboy.  Though, the extra orange cymbal and double-bass parts are making me reconsider.

    As for Rock Band drums, all current iterations of Rock Band have remained the same, as far as drum charts. The Expert level gives you 4-lanes (1 high-hat/tom/snare, 1 snare/tom/high-hat, 2 tom/cymbals) plus a single bass-drum line. The reuse of the four pads in Rock Band definitely takes away from the realism of a real drum set.  Though the implementation of add-on cymbals in Rock Band 2 introduced a level of accuracy. The thing that I continue to be critical of after playing RB for 2+ years is the under-charting of double-bass drum parts. It’s a real pet peeve of mine to hear a bass drum part, but not be able to play it in game.  In fact, if you attempt to play a double-bass drum part, in any RB game, you will break your streak and potentially fail the song (if repeated enough).

    Most of this is expected to be rectified in RB3 Pro Expert mode, as there will continue to be a 4-lane setup, but special icons will denote when you must hit a cymbal versus a pad. This will officially turn the RB drums into a 7 pad setup (1 snare, 3 toms, 3 cymbals). Though, the double-bass drum part is still unclear.  I’ve read blog posts and seen video editorials (RockBandAide and CenasCorner) and still do not have a clear understanding if double-bass drum parts will be in RB3. If they are, I will likely concede that RB has matched (possibly surpassed) GH drums.  Though, until then…

    To wrap-up, the 5-lane and double-bass drum parts in GH drums brings more realism than the 4-lane and 1 bass drum part in RB. The charting overall in RB is more precise and accurate to the original songs in RB over GH. Both have strengths and weaknesses, though I am coming around to really appreciating the dedicated cymbals and double-bass drum setup in GH…and will be playing more of GH:VH and possibly pick up GH:M (in a bargain bin). As for GH5, I truly dislike the on-disc setlist, and have no interest in purchasing GH DLC.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shawn has been a drummer for 30 years, and a gamer for 25. Rhythm gaming has become a major past-time and passion as it brings his two hobbies together, like chocolate and peanut butter. Shawn currently plays a custom electronic drum set made up of Yamaha (TMX) and Roland (KD8 kick, VH11 hi-hat, PD7 pads, PD9 pads, MDS9 stand) equipment connected via MIDI to a GHWT kit on Xbox 360.


    2 responses to “Drums on Guitar Hero, Better than Rock Band?” RSS icon

    • You may be right about GH drums ‘currently’ beating out RB drums for design, tech and feel. That was certainly one of the things I liked about GH5 and GH:WT was that you could be early or late on the beat and most of the time still get credit for the hit and not break your streak.

      What I hated the most was that you had to hit both the yellow and blue drums to activate your power stars – not at all the easiest thing to do when it is giving you nothing but yellows and reds. I broke more streaks just trying to activate that power than anything else. I could not get used to this at all.

      Rock Band’s ‘fill’ section to activate the streak is just a classier, more fun way to do it, not to mention that once I started getting better on the drums, my fills started to sound better right away, and more importantly they sounded like they fit with the song I was playing.

      Another thing that I did not care for was GH’s weak ‘training’ mode, it simply shows you the basics and there is no progression from easy beats to more difficult ones. Sure a lot of players don’t need or care about this feature but I personally always enjoy working through the tutorials and challenges that Harmonix builds into Rock Band – it’s a major draw to the game for me.

      I feel pretty strongly that RB3’s PRO mode will blow the doors off of everything that came before it.

    • Btw, im pretty sure its “hi-hat”, not “high-hat”

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