Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, like all the past Guitar Hero titles, comes with a brand new wireless guitar controller. While it doesn’t compare to the real guitar for the upcoming Rock Band 3, it’s pretty darn good in it’s own right. How good? We compare it to the past Guitar Hero guitars to find out.

The Guitar Hero franchise is built on, well, guitars. Obviously. The first plastic instrument for the Xbox 360 (not pictured) was wired, but each subsequent guitar is wireless. Numerous changes occurred since the earliest model, each getting closer to perfection. The original developers of Guitar Hero, Harmonix, took a different route for their music games, and frankly I can’t stand those models.

My affinity towards Activision and Neversoft’s guitars has been based on two major factors: the clicky strum bar and the very button-esque buttons. The resounding click of the strum bar gives confidence in each stroke, so I never feel like I didn’t strum, and more importantly, I know when I didn’t. The buttons feeling like buttons, something durable and curiously enjoyable to push. No one cares about realism when there’s 50 notes to play in 3 seconds on the screen. So long as I’m focused on playing well and not worrying about the buttons, I’m happy, and the Rock Band Guitars never gave that satisfactory feeling.

As for the wireless Guitar Hero guitars, not much has changed. The body has grown and evolved, and I like the openings where the sides connect to the base. It’s more convenient to move the guitar slightly by picking it up on the center, where the weight is. That center mass makes the guitar feel solid, more than the others, though I’ve dropped it twice now and both times the attached sides unclipped and fell off. They’re a snap (literally) to put back on.

Everything else is much tighter. The buttons feel just as good as the previous two guitars. (Note to new buyers, if you don’t already know, it takes about an hour to break in the new buttons. During this period, they’ll feel slightly unresponsive. You should continue playing with the guitar for at least two hours before worrying about poor responsiveness.) The strum bar is slightly louder, which can be a bother, especially in quiet settings. Likewise, the whammy bar is identical to the most recent previous model.

The big difference is in the battery enclosure (moved into the guitar neck), which is less convenient than the simple back panel of previous guitar, but barely so. I like that it keeps the weight distribution centered, and helps the neck feel more solid, ever so slightly. The back and start buttons are huge, especially the back button. And, compared to the most recent wireless controller, there is no more touch-sensitive fret bar. I actually told the guys at Activision while playtesting Guitar Hero 5 (or World Tour) that it’s useless, because moving your hand away from the buttons is too hard, and pressing the buttons super fast is actually pretty fun. So it was good to see them remove it completely in favor of a buttons-only guitar.

And playing on it? The best videogame guitar experience yet. With past guitars, I wore an armband because my wrists would hurt from leaning on the sharp edges. Activision fixed with their latest axe. It feels good to hold, mostly because of the centered weight. The strum bar is a tad loud, and I found that playing Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock with headphones is much more enjoyable than with speakers. The openings on the sides, and the larger back button, help gameplay move along faster because there are multiple ways you can strum, all equally comfortable. Prior guitars were very specific in how users could hold the guitar, so it’s nice to finally have plenty of options.

I absolutely recommend purchasing the new guitar, if you need to upgrade. There isn’t a big enough difference to switch from either previous wireless guitar, but if you’ve had yours for years and it’s time to upgrade, definitely do so now.

The Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Guitar is available only as a bundle, with the game, on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii. The bundle retails for $100 at all major electronics and videogame retailers.










James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.