Guitar Hero

March 17th, 2008 by Potato

I’m a lot late to the party to be talking about Guitar Hero: anyone reading this has likely already played it long before I got my hands on it. I didn’t really see the appeal and all the hype, largely because I’m not in the slightest bit musical, but also because buying a plastic guitar controller seemed very gimicky. And since I didn’t really see myself needing a guitar controller for any other game, it also made the effective cost of Guitar Hero much more than any other game I could pick for a console.

Recently, my parents bought a PS3 to serve as a blu-ray player for their TV (coincidentally, much the same reason we got the PS2 back in the day — the price of the game console is not all that disparate from the price of a simple player). My sister got Guitar Hero 3 for it (the only game she has for the console), and I got a chance to play it a few weeks ago. It’s actually really fun, even though I suck incredibly at it. Musical talent is not really necessary: rhythm is important to beat in time with the music, but otherwise it’s a colour-matching game. There is a correlation between the frets you have to hit and the actual notes, but you don’t have to actually have any special knowledge or appreciation for the music to plow through it. We were having so much fun rocking out with it the first day that I ran out and bought a second controller, for a system that my sister has and that I don’t have regular access to! (actually, I bough a second bundle since the damnable craptivision didn’t see fit to sell a stand-alone guitar for the PS3. I would offer my spare GH3 disc for sale, but of course no one could possibly get a stand alone guitar for the PS3 to actually need it… though I suppose there might be a rare soul out there who scratched their disc beyond all readability…)

However, I first played the game over at Netbug’s house on his 360 (actually the same weekend that my sister brought home the PS3 version). The weird thing is that I actually did better that first time I tried it (managing to make it all the way through a few songs on the first try on easy) than I did on the PS3. With a lot of practice and painful failures and repetition, I was able to get about halfway through the game on easy, at which point I tried to give my pinky finger a workout by starting again on medium. I couldn’t even get past the backyard stage. Oddly enough, my fretting finger work looked to be perfect, but I just couldn’t strum properly, particularly for some of the fast notes: I just couldn’t physically move the damned strum bar fast enough to hit consecutive notes, and some “holds” stopped randomly even though I didn’t move my fingers. Slowly, this was revealed to be a bit of a pattern: some of my brother’s friends who mastered expert on other systems couldn’t hit notes on medium with the PS3. The timing was just simply “off” for the strumming.

Searching around online there are numerous complaints about the wireless guitars for GH3, the PS3 in particular. There are some really dumb design decisions with this thing. First off, it has a detachable neck that has lead to some connection issues — but the boxes are still the full length, so the separate pieces didn’t actually save them any space at all. A single unit with more robust connections would have served them better. Then there is a widely-reported problem with the wireless for the PS3: supposedly bluetooth “wasn’t ready” so they instead had a wireless dongle that is apparently horribly prone to interference from home wireless networks. I’ve sent my siblings some tips others have given on the internet (including the inconvenient step of turning off the wireless internet while playing), and if none of those work we may be returning the guitars and looking at getting a PS2 or Wii set.

Of course, that leads into another topic that probably deserves its own rant: what is up with the wireless craze in consoles? There is a wireless crazy in general in our society which I don’t fully understand. Cordless phones: sure, I like to have the freedom to walk when I’m on the phone, and while almost every room in my parents’ house has a phone jack anyway, it’s a lot easier to not have to switch phones as you walk, to not have to keep those jacks populated, and in other houses (such as mine here in London) there aren’t as many free jacks. Wireless internet: I actually don’t care for it. Prone to interference, snooping, power-hungry and not a very scalable technology; however, houses these days (even brand-new houses) aren’t wired for convenient plant-my-laptop-anywhere networking (and even then, there’s still a cable to trip over… though the power cord is somehow not prone to that) so it’s an easy way to get internet access for many family members. Wireless controllers I just don’t get. A wireless keyboard or mouse sometimes have lag issues, but more importantly, battery issues. Not only is it a huge pain to have to swap out batteries that always seem to go flat at the wrong moment, but batteries tend to be heavy. Who wants a heavier mouse to flip around the pad all day? Or a heavier game controller? Granted, the two AA’s in the Wiimote don’t add much to the weight since those vibration motors are pretty hefty, but still: what happened to the goodness of cords? For a guitar game in particular one would think that a cord would add to the authenticity (granted, I don’t play, but I do believe electric guitars plug into their amps) in addition to fixing the many woes of the PS3 wireless implementation.

One final weird kick in the pants is that the PS3 guitar dongle is “USB”. Like me, you might then think that you could take it and plug it into your computer or another console with a USB port and get it to work… sadly, that’s not the case :(

PS: I’m looking for a working used PS/2 to have as a second unit for our family. If anyone out there is selling one (in Toronto, London, or points between) let me know!

One Response to “Guitar Hero”

  1. Potato Says:

    I never know when I’m following up on my own posts whether to start a new post or just comment in the old one. No one reads the comments, especially to old posts, unless they subscribe to the comments feed… but then hardly anyone reads the posts, either. Anyhow, for the follow-up see this post.