Manufacturer: Ant Commandos
Release Date: May 2008
With their classic, if a touch "hair metal," flame-red Double Range V3 wireless guitar controller, Ant Commandos has attempted to solve unquestionably the biggest problem with music games on PlayStation 3: guitar glut. The PS3 Rock Band guitar doesn't work with PS2 or PS3 Guitar Hero games; in parity, the Guitar Hero III PS3 wireless Les Paul model doesn't work with Rock Band. Worse, despite PS2 backward compatibility via hardware or software in some PS3 models, the GH3 guitar doesn't work with any PS2 Guitar Hero franchise games. To date, playing a selection of music games based on the same original game — although today they come from a variety of developers, publishers and distributors — with the same guitar was impossible. The maxim to date: Keep your PS2 to play Guitar Hero games prior to GHIII.
Also, as both Rock Band and Guitar Hero III support numerous modes of cooperative play, and competitive play both on- and offline, it's desirable to have two guitar controllers for each game (unless you're a complete loner or only play with friends who have their own plastic axes). You're looking at two PS2 guitar controllers for legacy PS2 Guitar Hero titles, two Harmonix/MTV Games Strat replicas for Rock Band, and yet another two GH3 Les Paul simulacrums for Neversoft/Red Octane/Activision's next-gen version of the now-classic guitar game.
Ideally, guitar-game veterans would have been able to use their existing wired or wireless PS2 Guitar Hero guitar controllers, via $15 PS2-to-USB adapters, with any of these music titles now on the market. Alas, it didn't work out that way. Controllers are about $70 a pop. That's a real electric guitar. Technically, it's a tuning trainer, but you could really learn to play electric lead or rhythm with thing. For the cost of just two of these controllers — essentially plastic toy gadgets — you can find a "Squier Stratocaster by Fender," which, as the name implies, is not quite a renowned Fender Stratocaster, but it's a perfectly good student instrument and a giant step up over purely consumer instruments sold at big-box retailers. If you're intent on playing all versions of all games with two guitars, you can, for almost exactly the same price, get yourself the real deal: a Fender Standard Stratocaster. Frankly, if you're going to spend over $400 on anything that looks like an electric guitar, I suggest you do just that. I'm not a "I play real guitar, not, a video game guitar" type of guy — music games are fun and introductory to the idea, especially for youth, of learning a real instrument of any kind — but, son, if you can get a Standard Strat for same price of your music game paraphernalia, then for the sake of all that is holy, get the damn Strat.
However, for the price of just one of these proprietary-type guitar controllers, Ant Commandos delivers one, count 'em, one wireless controller intended to work with Rock Band for PS2 and PS3, and all the Guitar Hero games for PS2 and PS3. (Ant Commandos does not expressly support Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the '80s with this product, but if you really want to do 1980s music right, you're better off with a Roland or Korg eight-voice polyphony synth than a plastic toy gadget game controller.)
The arrangement is a simple affair: You get the Ant Commandos guitar in the classic, although by now somewhat passé, "flying-V" design (available in flame red, electric blue, and jet black), and a little wireless receiver box with both USB connectors for the PS3 and a PS2-controller interface for the legacy Sony console. There are a few switch positions for playing particular games on particular consoles, but they're described in the accompanying documentation and easily understood without it, anyway. The guitar requires an unusual four AA batteries to operate (the wireless receiver is powered by the console via the controller connection, as you'd expect, but Ant Commandos doesn't include a starter set of batteries for the guitar), but it is billed as a double-range wireless guitar. I admit I did not call in my cardboard roadies to haul out those plastic guitar controllers and do a tape-measured range comparison, but by general use, bearing in mind radio signals are radio signals (the range of which can be affected by numerous transient and permanent factors), I can attest that Ant Commandos' double-range claim is legitimate. The only problem is, even if you've shelled out for a 50" wall-mounted LCD HDTV, any of the existing first-party wireless have plenty of range and signal strength, unless perhaps you live in a house nestled smack in the middle of a large radio antenna array. So, indeed, the AC guitar is double the range of other models, but what use you'll get out of this when you need to actually see the notes on the fretboards, well I have no idea. You might impress a few friends one time by playing in the backyard, peeping in at the TV through a window.
The Ant Commandos' multi-use guitar is built like a tank. The strap studs are secured with rubber stoppers, so they don't slowly unscrew themselves during even fairly brief gaming sessions. You can secure your AC ax to your rockin' self with either the usual over-the-shoulder guitar strap, delivered in quality nylon, or by a reasonably innovative belt clip unit providing a full 360 degrees of rotation — no limits to your wild jam using the belt clip, although the way I set off "energy," more of whack than a neck lift, the belt clip did require a style refinement. It feels, save the weight and wood, etc., about as well-constructed as a Squier Strat beater electric I keep around, with the added benefit that it doesn't eat high-E strings like they're going out of style. The overall design of the fret buttons and the strum bar are of the Guitar Hero variety. I prefer the Rock Band Strat, but at least eight of 10 music gamers I know prefer the Guitar Hero models, whether merely by habit or concrete factors; I can hardly mark down this third-party controller for going the way of such a significant majority of their target market. The Ant Commandos guitar does include the Rock Band high fret buttons and "effects" switch for full compatibility with that title, but in all other respects, including low fret-button style, feel and spacing, and the stubby "whammy" bar, it's a Guitar Hero guitar.
When it comes to slapping a score on this much-needed, multi-purpose PS3 guitar controller, I must confess that I have small hands (shut up, you snickering meatballs — that's just a myth), and Guitar Hero controllers have always been more difficult for me to manage. In the world of real instruments, I play more piano and keyboard instruments than full-sized guitars; but it's a lot easier to create workarounds for proper chord positioning with an instrument that stands upright, on its own, rather than one you most hold and play at the same time. I even have a hard time with the Ant Commandos model: In designing the controller for maximum durability to avoid the Flimsy Neck Syndrome we've all come to know in guitar-centric music games, Ant Commandos put a thick neck on their product. It feels great, but for me, it plays horribly. I can get around this by playing everything on the high frets, as younger children and most teen girls, even some adult women, may wish to do. But for any male aged 14 or older, the Ant Commandos' Double Range V3 wireless guitar controller will play about exactly like the first-party Guitar Hero III Les Paul, except it benefits from a sturdier feel, and the fret buttons don't sometimes stick. In other words, for almost all you guitar gamers who haven't already had to, in some degree, work around being hand size-challenged when jamming on the plastic ax, you'll love this guitar controller for its excellent wireless connectivity, rock-solid construction, reasonable price and multi-game, dual-console compatibility.