the rantings and ravings of a not quite sane cow

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Closet Musician, Part One: A Day with Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band

So I've had Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band (henceforth, GHWT or just WT and RB, at least wherever I feel like abbreviating them), for a day, as the title suggests.

Today: Hardware (never mind that I only have the GHWT instruments, so I can't really compare the two games).
  • I do have the GH3 Les Paul, so I'll compare this to that. It's a little bigger, and feels a lot more solid (not sure if it weighs more... seriously, who puts a plastic guitar on a scale?), both of which are good things.
  • The strum bar is a bit longer and taller (good), it feels about the same (not a bad thing) however the noise is a bit louder, but not to the point where it becomes an annoyance.
  • The whammy bar is a bit longer, alhough I prefer the feel of the old one, people with hands not as freakishly large as mine might not feel the same.
  • There's a new touch bar on the neck, although it can be frustrating to switch between the fret buttons and the touch bar, fortunately it's optional during gameplay, so I generally ignore it.
  • The back button, which for the 3 people in the world who haven't played Guitar Hero, activates star power, has been moved. It's now fairly long and placed right next to the strum bar, so that you can activate star power easily without having to tilt the guitar (that works just as well though). There is a small circular start button on either side of it. However Xbox button and d-pad haven't fared anywhere near as well. They've been combined into a single stick (digital), with the Xbox button in the middle. It's fairly awkward to use, so navigate with the strum bar where you can.
  • Finally, and most importantly, the connection between the body and the neck which I have so much trouble with on GH3 guitars (both of them) has been improved. It's still early days, but I don't think I'll have a problem any time soon.

  • First up, I'd like to make this clear: the instructions for putting these things together are worse than Ikea instructions. I did get it together eventually, but I did have to call in help. With that out of the way, here's some thoughts:
  • The drumsticks are pretty nice, they'd probably work fairly well on a real drum kit. Don't quote me on that though, I'm hardly a real drummer.
  • The bass pedal is a decent size, I just have HUGE feet... I can get around the size problem. The problem is that it doesn't really have enough resistance, so I have to keep my foot up, which makes it hurt after a little while (and makes it harder for me to accurately hit the bass notes). Oh, and it has a couple of rubber stoppers and a bit of velcro on the bottom, and I never had a problem with it moving in the middle of a song. Finding a comfortable position was different, but I can be hard to please like that
  • For navigating menus, there's a d-pad, Xbox button and 6 face buttons (back and start on either side of the Xbox button, and the A, B, X and Y buttons in the standard formation). They're near the back of the drums and underneath and below the cymbals, so they're fairly awkward to reach. Unfortunately, they're the only way to navigate menus (okay, you can use the pads to select options, but you still need to use the d-pad to navigate up and down) which can get awkward at times. I don't see why they don't map up/down to the cymbals or something, but far be it from me to question someone else's logic.
  • There's a port to plug in a headset, but it's around the back, and the cable on the 360's headset isn't that long (that's not their fault, though). Unfortunately when wearing the headset, you can't move too far from the drums, and the cable crosses the blue pad, and gets in the way of moving the sticks.
  • There's a drumstick holder! And by that I mean a couple of bits of plastic that fold up, and you lay the sticks down on there. Better than nothing, I guess.
  • It gets kind of awkward with the cymbals raised above the 3 pads, but in-game they're displayed on a flat line. Don't get me wrong, it'd be stupid if they were separated, it just takes some getting used to.
  • They're a bit noisy. Being drums, you'd expect that, but I just find it ironic that the thing that makes the most noise (the bass drum), is restricted to a quiet pedal here.
  • Lastly, some of the pads aren't as sensetive as I'd like. The red pad picks up normal hits fine, but to hit an accented note requires a ridiculous amount of force (so I'm not doing it because I don't want to break the thing). The yellow cymbal requires a decent amount of force to register at all. The others aren't so bad but still not as good as I'd like. I've ordered a tuning kit, so I'll see what I can do when that arrives.

  • It's a microphone. It's wired, but there's a decent length of cable. It seemed to pick up my voice well enough (I failed, which is usually a good indication), so I don't know what else there is to say.

Come back tomorrow or whenever I get around to posting, for comparing the software.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hey Mr. Cow, what's with the ads? I thought you got this hosting for free!

I do! But I'm a student, and traditionally students are poor. If you don't like them, ignore them. If you REALLY don't like them, install Firefox and Adblock Plus... that'll get rid of them (and pretty much every other ad on the net).

Review: Prospekt's March (Coldplay)

Prospekt's March is an EP from Coldplay with mostly songs left over from the Viva la Vida sessions. I might review that later, but for now it's just the EP (which you can now get packaged with Viva la Vida anyway). It's important to state at this point that I like Coldplay and Viva la Vida, perhaps not so much as other bands and albums, but I won't review something I don't like (if I don't like it, I won't have it).

Since I'm not sure of the right way to do a music review (assuming there is one), I'll just write a couple of notes for each song. The unfortunate part is that it assumes you either don't know or don't care about the history and style of music. On to the songs:

Life in Technicolor II:
This is a version of Life in Technicolor from Viva la Vida, but now it has lyrics and it seems to have gained about a minute. I like it. I like the lyrics, I like the music (probably because I like the Life in Technicolor, but I digress), and it all flows together quite nicely.
8/10 - A worthy addition, though it does suffer a little bit because I've heard the music before.

Postcards from Far Away
A bit under a minute long, this piano piece is nice to listen to but it's nothing to write home about.
6/10 - It's short and nice but forgettable.

Glass of Water
Probably my favourite song on the EP, it doesn't quite beat songs like Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends from the album, but it definitely deserves a place next to them. It reminds me a bit of the song from the end of Bender's Big Score, actually.
9/10 - It's a great song, what more can I say?

Rainy Day
To be completely honest, this sounds to me like it could almost be a U2 song. Not that that's a bad thing (I'm not exactly the world's largest U2 fan, but I do like their music). Maybe that's what comes when Brian Eno produces music for both of them.
8/10 - Moves at a nice pace, sounds great.

Prospekt's March/Poppyfields
It's actually pretty slow, quiet and parts of it are just acoustic. Speeds up a little bit during the middle, and gains some more instruments, but it's probably the mellowest (is that a word?) of the whole EP. Slows down again near the end though, kind of a shame because I like the direction that it heads in, but not bad at all.
7/10 - Funnily enough, the title track isn't the greatest. It's still great though.

Lost+ (featuring Jay-Z)
I'll get this out of the way right now so that I don't waste your time. I HATE rap (or whatever you want to call it) music. I just find it annyoing, repetitive and in some particularly heinous cases, offensive to the ears. This track is just Lost! from the album with an additional vocal track stuck in the middle (rather awkwardly, it seems). Now that that's out of the way, let's move on...
0/10 - I'd give it negative points, but the skip button on my CD player works.

Lovers in Japan (Osaka Sun Mix)
As the title suggests, it's a different mix of Lovers in Japan from the album. To my untrained ear though, they're very similar.
6/10 - It's a nice song but I've (and so have you if you've listened the the Viva la Vida album) heard it before.

Now My Feet Won't Touch The Ground
Fairly slow (not so much as Prospekt's March though), and mostly acoustic (though like Prospekt's March, it picks up a little near the end), it's fairly melodic. It's only about two and a half minutes long, although ultimately, it's rather forgettable. I'm not saying that to mean it's bad, just that it's not very distinctive and blends in somewhat to the rest of the music.
6/10 - Slow, and a nice smooth finish the the EP but I bet you people won't really remember it.

With the glaring exception of Lost+ (of course, if you feel differently to me about that kind of music I'm sure you'd like it), it's all nice but some of it you've heard before, most of the rest you won't remember. Rainy Day and Glass of Water are fairly good though.

The score - not an average, not a combination, just a score - 8/10

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Guitar Hero III: PS2 vs. X360.

Okay, this isn't the first time that I've joined the wonderous "owned the same game on two platforms" club... but it's the first time in a while. And since GH3 is still selling fairly well (thanks in part to me, obviously), people should probably know the differences and which version is better.

Two things before I start the comparison: one, I'm more of a guitar zero; I can barely beat the career on normal. Two, is a brief history lesson... I got the game on PS2 soon after it came out because... I didn't feel like getting it on Wii. And I got it on 360 because... I have friends who have it who'd like to play against me over the internet.

Oh, and I apologise for the table format... you might have to scroll down. I might fix something better up next time I do one of these.

Xbox 360Playstation 2
GraphicsObviously the Xbox has the advantage here, but I never realised how big the difference would be. Models have lots of detail, textures are clear and there are some really nice lighting effects.
8/10 - I've seen prettier games, but this more than serves its purpose.
The PS2 isn't so lucky. It seems like every graphical corner possible has been cut. Gone are the nice lighting effects, models are jaggy and sometimes the textures are so bad that I can't even see what ad I'm looking at. When I say every corner has been cut, I mean every corner. The loading screen's background animation has been replaced (and the new one has only 3-4 frames before repeating), and even the YOU ROCK! when you finish a song has had its animation toned down.
4/10 - I'd mark it down more, but at least the note highway is clear enough to see.
SoundI don't really have the sound equipment to make a fair comparison here (stereo speakers), although for what it's worth, the Xbox version did sound a bit clearer, and it probably supports better options... I just can't take advantage of them.
9/10 - rock on!
If I had to pick faults, I'd say that some of the sounds (such as the crowd) aren't quite as clear as they are in the 360 version, although it may just be me.
8/10 - rocks hard enough!
GuitarThe Les Paul that comes with the 360 version feels pretty nice, buttons are fairly responsive (if only I was), it uses the 360's built in wireless, has a d-pad and an Xbox guide button so you can navigate the dashboard (or the mini blades interface) while you're playing. The fret buttons are also mapped to buttons on the Xbox controller (at least from what I can tell), so you could probably try playing another game with it... I wouldn't recommend it though.
9/10 - I'm marking it down because I dream of a rechargeable guitar.
The Striker that comes with the PS2 version is everything the Les Paul isn't (read: it sucks). It has a plug in wireless adaptor for the PS2 (fair enough, and I won't mark it down for that). I'll also mention that you don't get the kind of non-guitar guitar control (does that make sense?) that the Les Paul has, but there's not that much to do on the PS2 anyway. What I do miss is being able to turn on my console via the guitar. Wait though, I'm getting to the real problems... the fret buttons are a bit harder to press and slower to respond than the Les Paul's, the whammy bar is maybe a little bit stiffer (doesn't make a ton of difference, I whammy hard enough anyway). The tilt sensor barely works and the button to activate star power is out of the way. Oh, and after a couple of months of semi-frequent usage, the fret buttons stopped responding unless I hold the neck in just the right position and stand still... I managed to fix that in a highly technological fashion (read: shoved a tissue down the neck to hold it still), but it kind of ruins the looks.
2/10 - after all, it still works.
Exclusive FeaturesThe 360 was never going to lose this category. Online play, downloadable songs, quickplay co-op (via a patch, but it counts) and the Grim Ripper has to be the coolest of all the available players.
9/10 - the DLC is overpriced, but other than that it's all good
Hmmm.... errr.... uhhh...
1/10 - Metalhead looks kinda cool
Cow PowerDon't ask me why, but for some reason I seem to hit about 10% more notes with this version.
8/10 - In case you haven't figured it out yet, Cow Power is where I rig the results.
This is the first Guitar Hero game I got, and it introduced me to the genre. I'll thank it for that. But does that mean I'd be seen in public with it? Not a chance.
2/10 - You're a good friend. But you're like that kid with freckles - nice, but it'd kill your chances of becoming popular to be seen with you.

The fact that I have less to write about the 360 version means something, since almost I do is complain. The PS2 version loses on every count (okay, call sound a draw if you want).

Just remember that those scores are comparative... if you only have access the PS2 version, you should still get it, you'll just be missing out.