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One issue many Guitar Hero and Rock Band guitarists have had with the series was with its inability to accurately reflect chord slides. On an actual guitar, a chord slide is strumming a chord lower on the neck of the guitar, holding that fingering, and sliding down to a new position to produce a new chord sound. This was used heavily in the song "Gemini" by Brian Kahanek in Guitar Hero 2 and caused a lot of unnecessary difficulties; instead of strumming the lower chord and then simply sliding to the higher chord like Kahanek did, the GH2 game engine forced you to strum both the low chord and the high chord, causing many players to lose combo and become frustrated at doing something even the actual guitarist didn't need to do. For the first time ever, RB2 has introduced "ho/po chords", which allow for a player to hold down a previous note or chord and hammer-on to another chord. While it sounds like the end-all, be-all solution to chord slides, it admittedly is a bit flawed. In order for the slide to actually work the way it is intended to, the highest note needs to be hammered on. For example, "Pinball Wizard" has a section after its acoustic strumming where it makes you strum a RY chord and hammer-on a RB chord. It repeats this and then makes you hammer on a GY chord to a RY chord. The RY to RB chord transition works exactly as it is supposed to, where you hold down the R and slide from the Y to the B. The GY to RY transition didn't work quite as smoothly. Instead of holding down Y and simply sliding from G to R like common sense would tell you to do, in order to actually use the ho/po chord, you are forced to strum the GY chord, let go of the entire chord, and hammer on the full GY chord. While it is relatively easy at the slow speed to just ignore the ho/po, it doesn't serve the purpose it is supposed to. Perhaps even a bigger example of a ho/po chord not working where the game says it should is found in the song "Bodhisattva". As seen here at around the 2:37 mark, the guitarist starts a sweep followed by a chord sweep. While this chord sweep shows that every single chord can be ho/po'd, this is not the case. Hammering on a BO chord after you just finished playing a BO chord doesn't work in any sense, whether you're playing GH or a real guitar. Instead, the chart should be reflected as the initial zigzag was, where the second of the repeating chords should be forced strums.

imageLast October, Guitar Hero 3 introduced the idea of manually place ho/po's into their series. Before this was implemented, every note that was at least a 16th note or higher would be an automatic ho/po, while anything lower than that was a forced strum (there are few instances where 8th notes were also hammered-on, but they are few and far between). While this did serve the purpose of usable ho/po's, they weren't always 100% accurate, either leaving you with a ridiculously long ho/po sequence (see Laid to Rest's outro of 230+ notes that are hammered on in a row) or a choppy sequence that would've felt much more accurate with ho/pos (see the "Six" verses; the parts in between the gallops should be ho/po's). With the introduction of this to the series, not only would any note that is supposed to be a hammer-on or a pull-off be reflected correctly, but any note that is supposed to be strummed would also be correct. Rock Band 2 has chosen to also use this feature of manually placed ho/pos to make more accurate charts.


Overall, drums have become vastly more difficult, chart wise. Comparing the hardest of the hard from RB1 to RB2 makes "Wont Get Fooled Again" look like child's play. Throwing in songs like Dream Theater's "Panic Attack" and Abnormality's "Visions" has certainly raised the bar for technical players everywhere. The engine feels a bit more refined, almost forgiving (without making the timing window larger). There is only a single possible charting error, in "Panic Attack", during the main guitar solo. Much like the "Next To You" glitched note near the start, this charting error returns with a vengeance during a technically challenging section, forcing you to play the blue pad later than the bass hit when they should be at the same time. Another new feature is the Solo Sections, which are functionally identical to how Guitar Solo Sections work. When playing on the RB2 stock kit, during fills and Big Rock Endings, the engine will actually respond to the weight of your hit by producing a different sound, pretty much the same as Guitar Hero World Tour's velocity sensitive pads. This has no bearing on anything else in the game and is completely optional, unlike Guitar Hero World Tour's velocity sensitivity where more points are awarded for harder hits on specific notes.


The RB2 vocals engine is much more forgiving than the RB1 engine. No matter what aspect you choose to look at, be it talkies, pitch, or in most cases, the songs themselves, vocals seems to be the only 'instrument' of the four to get easier instead of harder. The biggest improvement to the RB2 vocals engine is fixing talkies. In RB1, the "talkies," as they were commonly referred to, were planned to be one of the greatest things to happen to a singing game. However, due to a faulty phenome detection system, the talkies quickly became most vocalists' worst enemies. Instead of saying most words the way they were intended to be said, you had to say some phrases with such twisted emphasis or timing with literally a 13 ms window that battling talkies became harder than singing most songs. Harmonix saw this issue and decided to start from scratch by (apparently) removing the entire phenome detection system. Instead of battling talkies, you can now do whatever you want during them, such as...well, reciting The Declaration of Independence. It's even possible in certain instances to hold a single tone throughout a talky phrase and still get an Awesome on it if you chose to do that instead. However, not all talkies are as easy to hit as the ones in the aforementioned video. In "Painkiller" by Judas Priest, two rather long talky phrases are almost impossible to hit unless you match the lead singer's pitch as he screams; essentially, you need to ignore the fact that the phrase is supposed to be a talky and imagine his pitch lines as he screams. While very difficult to do, it is proven to be possible. In fact, the only "broken" talky in the entire game can be found in "One Way or Another" by Blondie. The second "getcha getcha getcha" phrase doesn't allow for the pie to fill much (if at all) by conventional means, and while the song has been FC'd at this point, the overall consensus of most vocalists is that the phrase is indeed broken.

imageAs mentioned earlier, talkies aren't the only things fixed within the RB2 Vocals engine. The original Rock Band all but forced you to sing rather robotic-like with most pitch phrases in order to actually hit them, which turned "having fun singing" into "working to hold the correct pitch at every possible instance." RB2 has loosened up the window for pitch phrases to what almost feels like RB1's Vocals engine on Hard, allowing for you to have a bit of leeway when it comes to actually singing phrases. While RB2 requires that you still have some vocal experience or practice to be able to sing on Expert, it is still easier to FC songs than if the same songs were in the RB1 engine.

RB2 also has a slightly larger range to actually Awesome a phrase when compared to RB1. In RB1, it was the general consensus that an Awesome phrase instantly gave you 1000 points and let you keep combo. However, a few rare instances would pop up where vocalists would get 999, 998, or even 997 points and still maintain their multiplier. Because of RB2 loosening up the window, these "rare" instances where you could get a sub-1000 Awesome seem to be much more prevalent. After testing how low one could get before losing combo, it has been proven that the cutoff for an Awesome phrase is supposed to be about 990 points per phrase, which means you only need to fill the vocal pie to about 99% and keep combo. Here's a table showing the cutoffs for each grade of a vocals phrase:

Awesome 99% 990
Strong 90% 900
Okay 75% 750
Weak 60% 600
Messy 0% 0

However, there have been a few instances where people have reported to get lower than this by getting 989 and 988 and still somehow keeping combo; the truth of those claims remains unverified.

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