Welcome back to the world’s premier Plastic Rock News Column, for regular updates on all the plastic rock news! Well, I say “World”, just Europe really. OK, not all of Europe, Britain. And “regular” might be overstating things slightly. And it’s not really *all* the plastic rock news, I’ve only got a Wii and don’t care about the other consoles. And it’s probably worth making it clear that by “plastic rock” I mean the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games with their plastic instrument peripherals, rather than natural looking but lightweight stone substitute for garden dressing or modelling. What was I talking about again?
First exciting news, after a couple of false alarms Rock Band 2 finally has an official release date for the UK Wii version! A mere four months after the US release, we get to Rock in a Band for the second time on April 24th. With Guitar Hero instrument compatibility and downloadable content, unlike the original Wii Rock Band, I’ll be picking this up to finally compare the two Plastic Rock Behemoths. One silver lining to the cloud of the four month delay is that it’s given plenty of time for Wii DLC to become available, and while not quite up to the full few hundred tracks available on other systems there’s been a steady increase from the fifty originally available in January.
Not long after that, it’s time to get a mosh on with Guitar Hero: Metallica out on May 5th. Normally I’d grumble about that being a month after the US release, but compared to Rock Band it’s positively speedy. It’s getting good write-ups, and as a paid up person-who-quite-likes-Metallica I’m much more excited about this than the previous Aerosmith game (though some of their stuff was fun to play, I haven’t gone and bought any Aerosmith albums since playing the game, and still prefer most of the non-Aerosmith tracks).
That’s not all the guitar heroism for this year, though, as a month after that (in the US, UK release isn’t confirmed yet as far as I know) Guitar Hero: Smash Hits is released. This features 48 songs from the first four Guitar Hero games using master recordings (the first three games were mostly covers) with support for a full (plastic) band. I’m quite happy about this; I borrowed the original Guitar Hero a while back but never played GH2 or Rock the 80s at all, and most of the songs will be new to the Wii (so long at they don’t go crazy with stuff from Guitar Hero III).
There have been grumblings about cash-ins and milking the Guitar Hero franchise, especially with suggestions of at least one or two more full Guitar Hero games to come this year (as well as assorted Nintendo DS versions and other tie-ins), whereas Harmonix are (rightly) lauded for continuing to release downloadable content, building up a massive Rock Band catalogue (though the Guitar Hero World Tour library is steadily growing as well, I’ve picked up some rather splendid Hendrix and Queen tracks recently, and Harmonix aren’t entirely forgoing new games with the PSP Rock Band Unplugged to come and The Beatles: Rock Band in September). The advantages of downloadable content are obvious, you pick exactly the songs you want, but there’s a price: £1.40 per song, to be specific (on the Wii at least, and without the benefit of album or “track pack” discounts), and that can rack up pretty quickly. On a pure £/song basis (never mind the quality, feel the width), at current GAME pre-order prices Guitar Hero: Metallica comes in at 61p per song, and Rock Band 2 a bargain-tastic 35p. Another advantage of the whole bunch o’ songs on a disc is that it introduces you to music you might not have sought out otherwise, and maybe I’m just easily pleased but there are very few songs in the Guitar Hero series so far I actively dislike, and lots of stuff I’ve since gone out and bought. Overall, then, DLC is great, but I’m perfectly happy for them to keep cranking out new plastic rock games. I’d even be tempted by Rock Revolution at less than twenty quid, if it wasn’t for the fact that the Wii version doesn’t support instrument peripherals, t’ch.