Rock Band 2

Review

posted 9/30/2008 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: 360
Rock Band was an unbelievable hit and ushered in a new era for music games. To play as a full band is an awesome experience and to be able to do it online enabled those without access to all the instruments to participate in a full band as well. It was inevitable that Harmonix would produce a sequel and it didn't seem that long ago that the first game came out. Now, Rock Band 2 is upon us and let me say if you enjoyed the first game the second one should keep you busy rocking the night away as well.

Let's get away with the basics as I'm pretty sure a great deal of you know about the first game and what it entails. Rock Band 2 lets you play one of four parts in a musical Simon says type game with the more successive notes you hit, the higher you score will be. Throughout the game, you'll be able to build up Overdrive whereby activating it via tilting the guitar, yelling into the mic at a certain time, or doing the drum fill, will multiply your score even greater. Overdrive can also be used to save people that have failed their part of the song so you can keep playing. The basic gameplay hasn't changed at all so expect the same with brand new songs as well as old songs.

The ability to create your rock personality is back and there are some new options but the depth and amount of creativity given to you is still limited by today's standards. Maybe I'm just used to the amount of customization that's been available in games like Oblivion and Saint's Row 2 but the face and body options are pretty limiting. On the opposite spectrum, the logo and tattoo creators give you a lot of freedom and you can create some pretty intricate designs just be fiddling around with the position and layering. All told, you'll have to depend on the different types of clothing to really set your character apart so I hope that the third game will see a much more improved character creation option. Now, let's get into what's new and added to this version of the game.

RB2

In the first game, there were parts where the guitar played a solo. Doing so would show a percentage of accuracy and scoring higher gives you bonus points. The drums this time gets into the act as some songs now contain drum solos. I like the addition allowing for others to shine besides the guitar and vocals. Unfortunately, the bass player seems to have been left without any additions or changes to their part. Of course there are some songs that are more fun to play as a bassist but perhaps we'll see something for the third game for the bass player.

While the 84 songs, all master tracks, available for the second game gives you plenty to play with, Rock Band 2 also lets you import 55 songs from the first game giving you 139 songs right off the bat if you own the first game.  For you Guns and Roses fan, a song from their forever upcoming album, Chinese Democracy, is featured in the game as well so this will be your first chance to hear some brand new GnR material in a long time. The rest of the new songs encompass a wide range taste so there's something for everyone. For Rock Band 1 songs, you do have to pay $5 to transfer the songs over and while it's a little disheartening to have to pay to transfer the songs, the option available is a great feature and really is a first for a game of this kind on the console. I remember when I was talking with Chuck about what they should do for the second game and having the ability to transfer some songs over akin to the old days of Links and transferring courses to the newer version was one of my suggested features. Add to the fact that any song you have purchased via DLC is also playable in Rock Band 2 and you have a potential of over 300 songs at your fingertips making Rock Band 2 easily the current rhythm game with the biggest playlist available. When you purchase the game, there's also a code to let you get 20 songs that will be in a future update. No word on what songs will be available but this is a nice gesture and a nice incentive on purchasing a new version rather than a used version of the game.

Playing through the new songs, you'll get the same difficulty curve as you do in the first game with the first few songs being really easy even on expert level. The game does ramp up faster than the first one so you'll find yourself being challenged a lot sooner than before which is a great for more experienced players. Naturally, there's going to be some songs that are going to be fun on a certain instrument over another and I did find a few songs that were pretty uninspiring to play on each instrument. Nevertheless, when you get a group playing even the most mundane song can be fun to play as the experience of being in a group makes up for a lackluster note line. Something really neat is on some of the 80s songs, the visual of the band changes with a 80s-ish overlay of wild colors. It was great for a laugh the first time I saw it.

Finally, World Tour is available for both off and online players. One of my gripes about the first game was you couldn't participate in the World Tour mode with friends online. I can't say how nice it is to keep progressing through this mode using friends or online players and not be limited to finishing it with people in your own household. There are some little changes to World Tour though to try and spice things up. First off, you aren't tied to a particular character and instrument anymore. You can float between the various roles and continue where you left off so that makes it nice. There's also an option to create your own set list so if you feel like mixing it up with your own music of choice to grab some fans and some money, you can do that as well. I did run into what seems to be a bug a few times. My band mates and I would do a three song set list and after the first two songs are played the third song was one we didn't choose at all. It threw us off a few times and we kept wondering if we chose the wrong song but it happened enough that we paid attention later on and saw the game did change out our last song. I'll be interested to see if anyone else experiences this problem. Speaking of songs, I did experience a few repeats of songs during World Tour mode more often than not. I would've liked to have seen the game cut down on playing the same songs later on down the road as there were a few times we let out a groan having to play Modest Mouse for the third time. You'll also have the option of hiring staff and certain staff members will offer some different benefits. You can only have one staff member at a time so you'll only be able to take advantage of one benefit. Overall though, World Tour remains pretty much the same and if you liked it in the first one you'll enjoy it in the second game. Those looking for more drastic improvements will be disappointed.
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