Just like the actual Rock Band 2 game, the new Rock Band 2 peripherals work more at refining the experience than redefining it. The wireless guitar and wireless drum kit add a bit of freedom from tripping and crashing into coffee tables, as well as minor design decisions that only improve your fake rocking out. The improvements aren't different or better enough for Rock Band 1 owners to throw out their current gear and buy these versions, but they are a great bonus for people who are buying the Rock Band 2 set.
The Guitar: The differences between the wireless Rock Band 2 guitar and the wired Rock Band 1 guitar are minor. The most obvious one is the fact that you can now, as Bruce Dickinson advises, "really explore the studio space" without yanking your Xbox 360 onto the floor. It may sound like nothing special, but it's one of those things—like getting waxed—that you have to experience for yourself to understand.
The strummer is almost exactly the same as the first, but has a slight increase in firmness to it. Nowhere near as clacky like Guitar Hero's, but Rock Band fans like it that way. The fret buttons are also exactly the same, with five up on top and five down below for solos. These are also slightly modified to feel better to the touch.
The exterior design is modelled after the Fender Stratocaster, with a faux wood finish look (the guitar is still plastic) that's nicer than Rock Band 1's. It's also slightly shorter by a couple inches. It's not an amazing upgrade, but definitely improves on the old version in every way. All these miniscule changes made our playing better. Not incredibly better, but just enough that we notice a difference. Still not good enough to pass Green Grass and High Tides on expert though.
The Drums: Rock Band 2's wireless drums are also slightly changed from the original, including a reinforced kick pedal to address breaking issues and velocity-sensitive drum pads. The target smack in the middle of each head makes it a lot easier to hit the centre of the pad and not the edges because there's a subtle difference in sound when you hit compared to the rest of the face. The wireless on these drums isn't a huge deal because unlike the guitar, you're not roaming around your living room while drumming. It is useful for keeping the area between you and the TV clear, which is always great for clumsy drummers and singers. We didn't get a chance to test the cymbal add-on, which should add an extra layer of complexity for experienced drumsters.
Just like the guitar, the minor changes found in the drums aren't worth upgrading for if you already own a set. Instead, you can think of these as a bonus for people who were patient enough to wait for Rock Band 2 before joining the rhythm music craze. [Amazon Drums and Amazon Guitar]
Be sure to check out Kotaku for their review on Rock Band 2 itself.