Building the Ultimate Rock Band
Okay, you have a feel for the ups and downs of the newest Rock Band and Guitar Hero games now. The two are similar and yet different enough to make both of them worthy additions to your collection. Never bought a plastic guitar or a game drum kit in your life? Don't worry, here's the bottom line on the essentials you'll need to cram into your tour bus.
The bundled mics work, but they aren't the best option to use. To make song selections, you need to keep a controller nearby, so you're likely to find yourself fumbling to grip the mic and a controller between sets. Hardly rock-god-worthy. Mad Catz's M.I.C. gets a full 50,000-lighter salute for not only creating a rugged microphone, but also integrating basic controls that let you do everything with a single device, instead of two. The Xbox 360 version of the M.I.C. sells for $60;a PS3 version is coming soon.
Lead and Rhythm Guitars
On one level, I'm inclined to recommend that you buy at least one of the Guitar Hero World Tour guitars. Though I'm not a huge fan of the toyish feel or the clickety-clack of the buttons, the new slide button feature low down on the neck is a seriously cool addition to game play. If money is no object, you can get an amped-up version of this new controller from Logitech. The Wireless Guitar Controller Premiere Edition is no laughing matter at $249 for the PS3/PS2 version (no word on an Xbox 360 unit as yet). The cherry-red finish, wooden neck, and metal frets disguise the fact that you're walking around town with what amounts to a toy. It also happens to be primed for use with Guitar Hero's new slide pad.
Though Rock Band's guitars lack the nifty slider pad that graces the latest GHWT' models, those plastic axes are more sturdily constructed and feel more substantial in my hands. I'm not saying that bassists don't deserve the extra play option, just that they probably won't miss it quite as much.
Now comes the last big question, and the answer really depends on personal preference--and how much storage room for a drum kit you have in your living room. I like being ready to rock with a two-cymbal drum kit, no extra peripherals required. And GHWT uses all of those pads well. So I'd probably buy the Guitar Hero-centric drum kit. Of course, if you really want to get into the act, why not buy the real thing--Ion Audio's Drum Rocker? For $300, you get a heavy-duty rig that you can subsequently upgrade to the real deal (with the optional Alesis DM5 professional Drum Module).
Getting from one gig to next is crucial, especially if you want to keep the heckling to a minimum. After all, people won't mistake you for a real rock icon when they see you schlepping around with a toy guitar slung on your back. Maybe you should consider investing in one of Mad Catz's Coffin Cases. The $90 hard case's exterior looks ominous, and the plush red lining inside pampers your faux axe. Of course, when you get to the venue, you need to put on a good show for the crowd. May I recommend that you check out PDP's over-the-top but amusingly cool Rock Band Stage Kit? For a mere 100 bucks, you can put together a smoke and light show that will delight the neighbors (assuming that they know what's going on and don't call up the fire department in a panic). The Stage Kit does an impressive job of reading the tracks from Rock Band and creating an appropriate light show to intensify the concert experience. Admittedly it's a little on the ridiculous/flashy side--but since when has that been considered a bad thing in rock'n'roll?
Until next time....
Casual Friday columnist and Senior Writer Darren Gladstone geeks out over gadgets, games, and odd uses for humdrum tech. In other words, he's a nerd--and he's okay with that.