Monday, 5 October 2009

Music games can STILL cock off


When last I left you, I was bemoaning the abundance of music games on the market. Last time I talked about Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and the idea that Harmonix would exploit the popularity of the established franchise in order to make shameless profit. No doubt you've spent the entire week running that concept over and over in your head: video game companies overdoing a franchise and running it into the ground? NEVER!

Well I've got news for you, nay-sayers: Shut up!

After the decent sales of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith , Harmonix were faced with the difficult task of revitalising their franchise after Rock Band had been released, offering superior gameplay in the form of a full band mode and superior downloadable content and online options, with many titles already available and more reasonable value for the tracks. Harmonix and Activision decided that the most sincere form of flattery was imitation, or in this case "Shameless ripping off".

So they released Guitar Hero: World Tour , a VERY similar game involving a full band setup. However, to their credit, they did work out a lot of the issues with the band hardware that Rock Band owners were suffering. I, for example, had to return a guitar after two days because, of all things to go wrong, the STRUMMING MECHANISM failed. Nicely done on a guitar peripheral, eh? Incidentally, have you ever tried to deal with Play.com's support page on the subject? Not much fun.

Not content, however, with making the equivalent game to Rock Band and releasing it under their own moniker, they then set about to release another band-centric release in the form of Guitar Hero: Metallica , another moderate seller. Then they seem to have lost the plot completely. Guitar Hero: Van Halen ? Think of the poor singer! Let's be fair, awesome though Van Halen were and are, there's not really much there in terms of lyrics to keep the singer busy.

Add to that a catalogue that now includes three DS games, a Greatest Hits compilation that collects the favourite songs from the first four Guitar Hero games and jazzing them up with the full band (which, I'll concede, is a cool idea) as well as a couple of new games such as DJ Hero and Band Hero , and you would be forgiven for thinking that maybe there are plenty of Guitar Hero games out there to keep you busy. I mean, The Simpsons Game teased the idea of Sitar Hero, but I honestly don't think we're far off from actually having the obscure instruments. Accordion Hero anyone?



And another thing: music games, rather than being marketed at the party audience, have actually ruined the concept of parties. Picture the scene: you're at a party round at your friend's house. There are about ten to twenty people there, and your friend has Guitar Hero or Rock Band at their house. Kiss goodbye to the concept of being able to talk to any of your friends or otherwise socialise if you're not playing the game. The games take up not only the TV, but the sound waves as well. I don't know about you (and I don't want to), but I can happily ignore a gaming session at a party if it's a football game or a shooter.

Besides which, have you ever found yourself going "Oh God, I love this song. I hope the singer is shit, and sings over the top nice and loud so you can't enjoy any of the other stuff going on. Oh, and I hope it makes that stupid plink sound when someone misses a note, and only lasts three out of the five minutes because the drummer's never heard the song before"? Exactly.

Don't think though that I've got bias for Rock Band just because I'm aggrieved by the saturation of the market with their games. They've got their issues too. I already mentioned the hardware issues I had, but it goes beyond just that. The developers recently announced LEGO Rock Band and punched my childhood in the throat. Hard.

I mean, I don't know what offends me more about the concept of LEGO Rock Band . This is a game series that we have been told is about as fun and accessible as it possibly can be, and there is plenty of argument to be made in favour of this being true. Oh wait, apparently there's an easier game to play, that will happen to be purchaseable soon, I imagine in time for Christmas. I love the smell of shallow marketing and franchise shilling in the morning. Smells like commerce.




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