First Impressions: Rock Band 2 Guitar (PS2/PS3)

I’m now the proud owner of a Rock Band 2 Wireless Guitar for PS2 & PS3. Huzzah! Figured I’d list a few impressions.

First, the visuals. The old guitar had an ugly neck & head (it was a kind of “bone” color that really looked like a shade of “this was white once but sat in the room of a heavy smoker for 5 years” yellow) but a plain black and white body. The new guitar has a nice black neck, and the head is a wood grain pattern. The body has a solid white “plate” and the rest is wood grain fading into black around the edges. I’m not a huge fan of the look of the new body, but you *can* get face plates for these things, but I’ve never seen a neck plate.

The guitar once again comes in two pieces, but now there’s a push button so you can remove the head if you need to. The new dongle has 2 USB ports on it; a nice convenience feature for folks with fewer than 4 ports on their consoles.

The new guitar is very quiet: both fret buttons and strum bar. If you like the ‘click’ of some guitars, this might be a problem, but I really appreciate the silence. The strum bar feels very sensitive. It only takes a light touch to get notes to register. The Start button has a ridge of plastic around it making it less easy to hit by mistake. The tilt sensor feels adequate. Honestly the tilt sensor on my old guitar was so borked that I’m not sure what a “good” tilt center feels like. In a silent room you can hear a spring flexing inside the guitar when you move it; I worry a little because it sounds pretty fragile.

Now keep in mind I’m a very casual music-gamer. Since coming back to the genre with RB 2 after a 6 month+ break, I’m still playing on Medium. *pauses to let the laughter die down* 🙂 My set up has audio going from PS3 to an old receiver via digital optical cable, and video to a 52″ LCD via HDMI.

The feature that blows my mind with this new guitar is the auto-calibration. You hold the guitar up to your center speaker and hit a button and let it calibrate the audio, then hold it up to the tv to calibrate the video (via a series of blinding white flashes..those woke me up!). The system “auto-calibrated’ the guitar far differently than I had it manually calibrated, in particular the sound delay.

And OMG! What a difference that made!!!! Suddenly, at least for songs that I know really well, I could play with my ears as well as my eyes. I’ve always taken it for granted that you almost had to ignore the beat of the music and play these games by watching when the notes crossed the strum bar. What a fool I’ve been!! So I fired up Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up”, an oldie that is burned into my brain, and I can actually look away during certain passages when I know the note is going to stay the same. I can play the song by ear and by feel, and damn, but that feels great! When I make a mistake, I know I made a musical error, not a ‘screen reading’ error (where I fail to correctly anticipate when the game expects me to hit the note). I got a 98% of “Pump It Up” the first time I’ve played it. I know I know, it’s still on Medium so I’m a noob, but now I see how I could get better by learning the songs better.

So is it worth it to get a new guitar to go with your new game? In my opinion, absolutely. The instrument feels a lot better made and more sensitive (though it may be a bit more fragile, too). And if you have a mixed setup like I do, the calibration tool alone makes the purchase worthwhile.