When Guitar Hero first came out for the PlayStation 2, the only thing I really wished for was a wireless guitar. Well a few companies besides Red Octane has released some lately and today we're going to take a look at Nyko's foray into the wireless guitar business with their Frontman guitar.
Looking a the Frontman, you can see the design is pretty much the same as the Xbox 360 Guitar Hero II guitar which is based on the Gibson Explorer. Holding the guitar, it felt very solid and didn't seem cheap. With plastic guitars, companies can skimp out and not make it heavy enough or use cheap plastic but the Nyko Frontman feels sturdy. The guitar has a brown neck and a black body with a red plate on the front.
Let's start with the fret buttons. They look pretty much the same as the PS2 Red Octane guitar with one side being square and another being rounded. Spacing on the button is good and the feel when pressed is also very solid. They bounce back pretty quickly when let go and this is important one those hard songs where you need to move your fingers around quickly. Also there's no sideways movement with the buttons so you'll get a solid press each time. I think Nyko did a good job in this area and I didn't feel any difference moving from one guitar to the other.
Over to the strum bar, it is a little thicker than the official guitar's bar. Some may like it and some may not. I didn't have any problems getting adjusted to it though so playwise, it shouldn't interfere with you. I was able to get by on the quick strumming areas of various songs going up and down without any trouble.
One of the things I didn't like about the Xbox 360 guitar (I'm using the guitar just for reference sake.) is that the whammy bar was looser than I would've liked. On some of the defective guitars they wouldn't stay in the position I put them in and even the fixed ones are looser than I wanted. The whammy bar on the Frontman is the best one I've used in that it holds it's position firmly and it has a strong spring when pushing the whammy bar. It definitely won't fall out of place. I was able to go through various levels on the whammy bar during really long notes. If there's one thing Nyko's improved on in my opinion, it's the whammy bar.
Like most wireless peripherals, the Frontman utilizes the standard 2.4GHz range. The receiver plugs into the PlayStation 2 and looks like a pedal. Once plugged in you just have to press the link button on both the receiver and the guitar and you're all set. Subsequent playings will only need a press on the guitar link button for the guitar to be active. Range is said to be about 25 feet but who really stands that far away from the TV when playing. As with any wireless product working in the 2.4GHz range, your performance can vary depending on what products you have in your house that might interfere with it. I've got a wireless network in my house but I've switched my phones to the 5.8GHz variety so as to minimize the amount of products that are in 2.4GHz range in my house.
To power the guitar, three AA batteries are needed. I'm not a big fan of odd number batteries being needed (Manufacturers of baby toys are a big culprit.) but you're not limited to regular batteries. One great thing about this guitar is that it has a built in charger so you can stick in some nice rechargeables, plug in the USB cord to the PlayStation 2, and have the batteries charging while you are playing. Since it's a mini-USB plug on the guitar, you can theoretically plug it into a PC, outlet, almost anything that's mini-USB and have the batteries be charged up. Kudos to Nyko for using a standard mini-USB plug for it's cable. You can access the battery bay on the back of the guitar and it easily pops open if you need to get to them but won't accidentally open when playing. And yes, you can play the guitar without any batteries if you are going to use it wired.
There's no off button on the guitar but it does put itself into sleep mode after 5 minutes of inactivity. Nyko states that you should get about 80 hours of gameplay on a single charge which is plenty of time but if you put in rechargeable batteries and keep the guitar plugged in when not in use you should be pretty good during your gaming sessions.
Included with the guitar are the batteries and the should strap. I was disappointed that no stickers were included to decorate the guitar though and that's one of the fun things to do was to give you guitar a distinct flavor with the decoration. If you do want to put stickers on your guitar you'll have to buy some separately but a small pack with the Frontman would've been nice.
So how did it perform? Playing Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero II, I have to say the Frontman doesn't disappoint. I was able to go through all the songs with the same outcomes as I was with a wired guitar. I didn't notice any lag or delay when playing and I was able to do hammer ons, pull offs, and quick notes without any problems. I must admit not having to deal with a wire is really nice and I'm ashamed to say I did do the one move from the commercial for the game where I spun the guitar around my neck back into my hands. Ok its silly but at least its possible with the Frontman. When activating the star power by tilting the guitar, I didn't have to tilt too much for it to finally hit. I know some people have complained that the tilt is too sensitive but my guitar seemed to be pretty good in that I never activated star power accidentally through my testing phase. I never had the guitar stop working or the signal drop out in all my times of playing but you should always keep the batteries charged up before use. I was very pleased with the overall performance of the Nyko Frontman on all fronts and it's become my guitar of choice when I play on the PlayStation 2.
There are a few wireless guitars that aren't worth your money but the Nyko Frontman is definitely a winner. You get great performance, a great feel, rechargeable capabilities, and the freedom from being corded to the console. I also liked the whammy bar on the Frontman the best over all the other guitars I own. The Frontman does cost a bit much for a third party product though but it does perform well. I've yet to try the official Red Octane wireless guitar but I have to say I was pretty happy with the Nyko Frontman.
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