Available on PC, Mac, Linux
Versions reviewed 3.30, 3.100
Frets on Fire is an open source PC response to Guitar Hero and Rock Band. You can use many music game controllers, including Rock Band, Guitar Hero, and Guitar Praise; or there is always your keyboard. This game is the most fun when using the Guitar or Drum controllers. The basic game play goes as follows: You have different colored fret bars on the guitar, and when you see a colored note line up on the bottom you have to strum and press the corresponding colored fret bar. Drumming is similar using the pads and foot pedals. It takes some coordination and getting used to but it’s pretty easy to pick up. There are tutorials available that will show you the basics.
Frets on Fire can import songs from most of the PS2 versions of Guitar Hero. Music can also be downloaded from the internet if you know where to look. (I only download songs I legally own.) The mod that I am reviewing does not have the import feature built into it; it just prompts you for the song directory.
Frets on Fire X is a fork, or a standalone modification of the original Frets on Fire. It’s built off of the python based Frets on Fire engine. If you can’t run Frets on Fire, you might not have much luck getting this one to run either. With that said, I found FoFiX to be much more stable.
Frets on Fire X offers much more than increased stability. It has many great themes that can transform your game to look exactly like Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The themes it comes with are pretty stripped down. Two player multiplayer support has been added as well. If the song supports it, you can play drums too! The earlier Guitar Hero songs will not support drums.
The game modes are as follows. For single player there is quick play and solo tour. Both modes are pretty much pick-up and play unless you manually configure the career mode. The career mode is like Guitar Hero where you cannot play some songs until you beat the previous tier. Setting up the tiers is all done manually by creating and editing ini files. Having the songs neatly organized in game specific folders helps.
Unlike Rock Band and Guitar Hero, there is no story of a band or any things to acquire such as a van or private jet. The main purpose of this game is to play songs. One cool feature is that you can share and upload your high scores on the internet and really see how you rank against everyone else.
Multiplayer has co-operative and face-off modes. In the co-op mode each player gets their own note streak counter and star power / overdrive meter, but they share a single rock meter, and score. Face-Off mode completely duplicates the first player game window for the second player, with separate rock meters and scores. Whoever does better in the end, wins. Lastly, there’s a Pro-Face-Off mode where each note player 1 hits decreases player 2\'s rock meter, and vice versa; the goal is to cause the other player to fail.
Customizing Frets on Fire X is pretty easy to do. You can find tons of themes online and all you need to do is drop them into the themes folder and select it from the options menu in the game. I’ve seen BioShock, SpongeBob, Star Wars, and of course Rock Band and Guitar Hero themes. It is worth noting that most of the stages are static images. You can get animated stages with some tweaking. It is possible though.
With a fresh install of Frets on Fire X, you will not be impressed with the graphics. I highly recommend installing themes to make the game look a lot better. A more powerful PC may be needed to enable all of the bells and whistles. If you do have the power and ability to tweak it, it will look very pretty.
The audio will not disappoint as long as you can get some songs to play with. When you miss a note it will be muted in the song. There is no obnoxious bad strum noise. The songs I have in my game sound great, however I did have to delete a rhythm.ogg to make my “Freebird” song sound a whole lot better.
Stability wise this game ran pretty well for me. The occasional glitch was usually remedied by restarting the game. Vista users will have to run the executable as an administrator.
When it comes to appropriateness, it all depends on what kind of music and themes you install. Unlike the console games, you can remove songs that you do not wish to play. You can also remove inappropriate stages and fret designs. Frets on Fire X is available for PC, Linux, and Mac computers. I highly recommend it for any guitar game enthusiast. Just keep your song downloading legal.