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How Guitar Hero Finally Made PS3’s Rock Band Playable

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Rock Band came out for the PS3 almost a year ago (Nov 20, to be exact). Early reports indicated problems with the instruments malfunctioning or not functioning at all, particularly the guitars. EA offered extended warranties and hassle-free replacements for DOA hardware, and is still offering the same service to this day. What's sad is that a year in, they apparently haven't done anything to remedy the manufacturing defects, faulty QA, or the overall experience. It's kind of like the Xbox 360 hardware problems (though supposedly the Elite model or Jasper chipset may finally address the problem directly).

I was waiting for these fixes to make it into the retail product. Generally that plan works. Wii users had problems with the wrist straps breaking, so not only did Nintendo beef those up, they started putting Wiimote covers in the box. That doubly solved the problem of not only losing your grip, but of the thing flying into the wall and getting destroyed.

EA doesn't seem to get it, and the consumers were still getting screwed out of simply resolving the issue with Guitar Hero controllers due to Activision's stubborn refusal to allow a fix patch to go live until they got their share of EA/Harmonix's profits. However, rather quietly, with the last patch to Rock Band, this has finally changed. Having dealt with two Rock Band Stratocasters that worked like crap, I was ready to try something else.

Along came the Guitar Hero 3 Les Paul guitar controller. It's laid out with minor differences than the standard Rock Band axe, but for the better overall, in my opinion. Mainly, the whammy bar isn't loose and floppy, something that started happening sometime after Guitar Hero 2 came out. Said bar stays right where I put it, just within reach without having to move my whole hand. More importantly, it WORKS.

The main issue we had with the original RB controller was that the tilt sensor only worked for overdrive maybe 10% of the time. On the replacement we got, we couldn't get the tilt sensor to work at ALL, and the fret buttons felt less responsive than our previous one. Thankfully, we did the express replacement method and just sent back the P.O.S. they sent us. I read about people even busting open their guitars here and here to readjust the angle of the tilt sensor, which apparently fixes the problem. I wasn't going to go quite to those lengths and void my warranty. There was talk of different types of switches, from mercury to ball bearings in a tube. Surely EA would have tried something different by now, right? Wrong.

In any case, the Les Paul works just fine with Rock Band after that last patch, more or less. Before you buy anything, though, check the compatibility matrix to be sure. The tilt sensor finally works as it should, with a GH-era level of responsiveness (no more holding it up for a minute and a half for nothing; it activates instantly), but there still seems to be random general timing issues where several notes quickly repeat in succession, regardless of which controller you use. That didn't happen in GH 1, 2, or 3 (on the PS2, at least). It Seems to have started in this age of all wireless controllers. A friend of mine similarly ran into issues with Assassin's Creed where holding down several buttons at once to accomplish a particular move would fail on wireless, but worked fine on a wired controller setup.

In any event, those still struggling with EA and their sub-par Rock Band guitars would do well to pick up the Guitar Hero 3 Les Paul model. Now that they're compatible on PS3, there's really no good reason not to. The missing set of up high solo fret buttons may concern people with tiny hands who used them, but the improved functionality seems well worth the trade off.

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About Mark Buckingham

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Ken Edwards

    I had one defective RB guitar myself. Though I got it replaced very quickly and have not had any issues. I have two wired and two wireless (RB2) Strats and have had no issues.

    I never had a star power problem. The star power issues I had with the strat have been addressed in RB2. The RB1 guitars would not activate star power easily (if at all) when sitting down. Stand up and the RB1 guitar activates star power just as it should.

    The trade off now seems that the RB2 guitar, just like the GH3 Les Paul, will start star power unexpectedly, with only the slightest of movements. It is a trade off I can live with, as I regularly play GH/RB sitting down.

    Though there are some who continue to have problems, i have not heard of any wide spread issues with the guitars like there were when the game first came out. They changed the manufacturing process pretty early on, so yes, the first batch of RB1 guitars had major issues.

    I know Jason had an issue with his Strat that he bought, but got it replaced with a working one.

  • Mark Buckingham

    The one we got in the bundle had the fewest problems of the two we’ve tried so far, but it was still far from perfect. I went back to GH on the PS2 to see if I was just imagining it and I surely was not. I banged out a 98-99% on Bark At The Moon on Medium with the old original GH guitar, no problem, so it was definitely the RB guitar having issues.

    There’s a lot of skepticism out there, not helped by the overriding sentiment among many gamers that EA would sell their mothers if it would help their bottom line. I hate to say it, but I’m now one of those in the camp of “What EA can’t get right, Red Octane can.”

  • http://www.realfreebies.co.uk PS3

    Guitar Hero is so much better than Rock Band anyway… and I’ve preorder the new Guitar Hero with all of the kit, so should be pretty awesome! :)

  • Mark Buckingham

    I went back and played some GH3 after playing Rock Band for a while, and equipment issues aside, I found myself preferring GH3’s song list. I finally finished the solo career, beat Lou, and then got clobbered with that DragonForce song in the credits. Talk about a boss battle one-upping the boss battle, so to speak. That was awesome, especially with no way to fail. Just rock!

    But seeing the guys n gals of Penny Arcade obliterate “Any Way You Want It” on Expert in Rock Band on stage at PAX 08 was incredible. Each game definitely has its strengths and weaknesses.

  • http://www.hellome.co.uk John will fix it

    The Guitar hero II guitar PS3 suffers from the neak contacts intermittanltly making contact, on playing tracks with lots of fingerwork very quick some notes were bummed even thou I know i got them this was due to the flex in the neak and the contacts, being a repair tech i took my guitar apart and hard wired all of the neak contacts, never had a problem since although i can no longer remove the neck and store in 2 parts )o: The start, select and the most used fret buttons rubber membrane actually split resulting in the buttons not springing back out and getting stuck in, sometimes always making contact till you hit them from behind. This I solved again with replacement rubber mebranes I salvaged from an old office telephone, worked a treat, I did actually build in a Lithium Ion 3.6 volt @ 1.5A battery (CGR18650) and made a charding circuit that ran off the USB of the PS3 this saved me having to replace the batts ever again (o: Just a little more thought on the design and better quality components and they would of got it right and reliable first time, perhaps they should give ma a jon (o:

  • http://blogcritics.org/scitech/ Mark Buckingham

    I’d have been happy if they added USB power/conectivity support, as well as built a reliable product, like the guitars that came out on PS2 with the first two games. Guess making a quality product is asking too much of the monster publishers anymore.