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Mellon Collie and the Infinite Redundancy
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on September 22, 2008   |   Episode 74 (Show Archive)  

   

With more 80 songs on the disc and another 20 coming for free it's hard to find fault in Rock Band 2 ... but that's not going to stop us from trying!
There's no doubt about it, it's a great time to be a fan of fake plastic rock instruments. Between Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Rock Revolution, there are more fake plastic guitars and drums than you know what to do with (or have room for). This year all of the companies are starting to take downloadable content seriously, allowing their instruments to be used with other games and improving how their online infrastructure works. All of these things have only given music lovers more reason to buy every single music game coming out this fall (except for Rock Revolution), which hardly feels like a bad thing. But here's a warning: If you're one of those people who intends to buy both Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band 2, be prepared for more than a few duplicate songs.

This year both Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour feature 80 songs on their discs, which means that there's

This picture has nothing to do with Guitar Hero: World Tour, but believe me it's much more interesting!
a whole lot of rock no matter which game you buy. However, there's a troubling trend that suggests that fans of both games will have to put up with more than a few similar songs. Wait, did I say similar? What I meant to say was exact duplicates, songs that are taking from exactly the same master track.

Of Rock Band 2's 84 tracks, 14 of them are also available on the Guitar Hero: World Tour disc. That may not sound like much, but that's 1/6th of the songs in the game, a significant chunk of songs. Unfortunately these are some of the more memorable tunes, including Livin' on a Prayer by Bon Jovi, Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac and Today

Okay, we get it, Bon Jovi is perfect for this kind of game, but I won't be satisfied until I get some Huey Lewis and the News!
by the Smashing Pumpkins. These songs also include college radio favorites, such as Everlong by the Foo Fighters, Moutain Song by Jane's Addiction, and Feel the Pain by Dinosaur Jr. And did I mention that Modest Mouse, Jimmy Eat World, Lacuna Coil, The Allman Brothers and Blondie all make the list?

All these are solid songs that lend themselves well to being played on the guitar, bass, drums or microphone. However, it's disappointing that there are so many duplicates found in this year's batch of music games. It's not like these bands only wrote and performed one Guitar Hero-worthy song, most of these bands have back catalogs that go on for miles that could have been used. Instead of using the Smashing Pumpkin's top 40 hit Today, as an example, why not go with one of their other hits, such as Bullets With Butterfly

Maybe it's just me, but I liked Billy Corgan better before he went all Nosferatu on us!
Wings or Rocket. Or better yet, take a few of the lesser known Smashing Pumpkins songs, including (but not limited to) Mayonaise [sic] or Rhinoceros.

And it's not just the Smashing Pumpkins, you can go down the list with all of the bands in question. Why not give us Dinosaur Jr.'s Start Choppin' instead of Feel the Pain? Why not give us This Is A Call by the Foo Fighters instead of Everlong? Why not go with one of the better Jane's Addiction songs instead of Mountain Song? I could go down the list with each of the bands, but just by looking at names like Blondie, Fleetwood Mac, The Allman Brothers and Bon Jovi you already know that there were hundreds of other songs they could have selected.

The biggest problem has nothing to do with the fact that these songs are duplicates, but rather the fact

How did Harmonix get around putting nudity in their game? They didn't! Instead they decided to change the cover art!
that many of them aren't all that fun to play. As much as I love Jane's Addiction, it's hard not to notice that Mountain Song is painfully repetitive, as is Feel the Pain by Dinosaur Jr. These are just bad song choices, the type of selections that will bore a lot of hardcore guitar heroes. It makes no sense to include these songs over the band's more interesting cuts. Who in their right mind decides that the Jane's Addiction song we need is Mountain Song? Even if you asked a room full of die hard Perry Ferrell fans, you still wouldn't find more than one or two people that wanted that song in a video game. Yet apparently the two people in the world that wanted Mountain Song are the two people programming songs for Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour. Who would have known?

Of course, observant fake plastic instrument fans already know that this practice is

I don't care how tough you think you look, at the end of the day you're still a douche bag holding a fake plastic guitar!
nothing new. When Rock Band first hit the market last year some complained that five of the game's tracks were lifted directly from Guitar Hero III. We're talking about songs like Mississippi Queen by Mountain, Paranoid by Black Sabbath, Reptilia by The Strokes, When We Were Young by The Killers and, back again, the Smashing Pumpkins with Cherub Rock.

Perhaps it's just me, but I was willing to give Harmonix/Neversoft the benefit of the doubt ten months ago. After all, there's some controversy over how much involvement (if any) Harmonix had in making Guitar Hero III before they were bought up by MTV/Viacom. Although they didn't get to the development stages, it stands to reason that they could have been securing

Sonic Youth is one of the greatest bands of all time, but did they really need to feature Kool Thing on both Guitar Hero III and Rock Band?
songs all the way up to the day they transferred their allegiance from RedOctane to Electronic Arts. Given the short development times of both games, it wouldn't surprise me if the two companies took the tracks they had already signed and ran with them, which would be perfectly understandable given the situation.

So what's the excuse this time around? It's been well over a year since Harmonix and RedOctane broke up, you would think that the two games would branch off into two completely different directions. Yet that's not the case, instead it feels like we have the same group of people programming the tracks in both songs. With so many rock songs out there, is it really necessary to duplicate the other company's track list?

And it's not just duplicate songs on the disc, it also has a lot to do with the songs you can download and buy online. As of this writing there are five

Even this cute version of Master Chief agrees that buying downloadable maps twice would be a stupid idea!
duplicate tracks, coming from bands as diverse as 30 Seconds to Mars, Foreigner and Sonic Youth. At least with these downloadable tracks you have an option, nobody is forcing you to pay $2 for a song that you already own. And I would argue, there are a lot of people out there that bought Guitar Hero III and didn't pick up Rock Band (and vice versa), so making these songs available for a nominal fee makes sense.

One thing that doesn't make sense, however, is Harmonix's insistence on duplicating already available downloadable content. This goes beyond simply comparing Rock Band and Guitar Hero, and in all truth it probably deserves more of

"What about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy? I know him and he does!"
a mention than simply sliding it into the end of this On Running Feud. Would you buy the same Halo 3 map all over again if they suddenly added a different color or changed the time of day? Would you buy the exact same horse armor in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion if it suddenly turned from gold to platinum? Probably not, because these improvements aren't enough to warrant an addition $2 -$5. The same holds true with Rock Band, which is trying to do exactly the same thing.

In the rush to get downloadable content out the door, Harmonix released two tracks that were "Made Famous By Rush." That means, quite simply, that instead of going to the master track and getting the original song, they decided to re-record the song using their own fake plastic Geddy Lee. These songs, while good, are definitely not on par with the real deal ... which may explain why not even a year later Harmonix

Yet more proof that trashing a hotel room does not automatically mean that you are rock n roll!
has decided to re-release those songs using the original band. There's just one problem, those Rush fans have to buy them again, which means that their original cover versions are completely useless.

I hate to call for a refund, but I feel that those eager Rush fans have some sort of compensation coming. They spend $2 for each cover song, yet not even a year later they are being asked to spend another $2 for the real version of the song? At least give these Rush fans a discount or something, because once they buy the new songs there is no reason to ever play the fake plastic version again. Then again, is there anything more rock and roll than trying to get your fans to buy the same song over and over again? I didn't think so!

In the end it looks like we're just going to have to deal with duplicate songs. The good news is that there's more than enough quality content in each game to warrant the purchase, even if 14 of the songs are duplicated. The fact that neither Rock Band 2 nor Guitar Hero: World Tour is forcing you to buy their fake plastic equipment means that we can cut both Harmonix and Activision a little slack. Rock n roll isn't about being perfect, it's about yelling at the top of your lungs, trashing hotel rooms and sleeping with groupies. And as long as we can point to colorful characters like Syd Barrett, Gibby Haynes and Captain Beefheart, we shouldn't be too concerned about silly things like duplicate tracks. Do you think Screamin' Jay Hawkins would care if 14 songs were duplicated between Guitar Hero and Rock Band? Not a chance!
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