The reason all this is important is because of the World Tour mode. Those that played the original game will certainly remember World Tour, it's the mode that allows you and your band to go from city to city playing different challenges, earning money and winning over new fans. When I reviewed the first Rock Band I called it the "most compelling additions to the music game genre." Although the tour remains largely unchanged, I still stand by my statement that this is the best part of the Rock Band series. It's one thing to play through a few songs in a boring list, but it's something completely different when you are trying to earn money and win fans. Throw in the cool challenges and you have a story mode that is almost as compelling as most action/adventure games.
When you're on the world tour you'll be playing (and earning) the game's new songs, playing set gigs, traveling around the world, hiring (and firing) staff members, earning planes and busses and so much more. Best of all, you can use your entire track list when touring around the world. That means that when you have to play three random songs at some dive bar in Seattle, Washington, you'll have a good chance of getting your downloaded content, Rock Band 1 songs or something new from Rock Band 2. Last year I complained that the world tour mode felt confined because there were only 58 tracks, but with 223 songs in my library this mode felt alive and exciting. Depending on how many songs you have you can go for quite awhile without having to repeat songs.
And did I mention that this mode is finally open to single-players who don't have any friends to rock with? While Rock Band is best played with other people, Harmonix has done a lot to make the game more accessible for those who can't get the whole band together. As somebody who finds himself rocking all by his lonesome, this single-player content is enough to win me over.
Gone is the standard single-player mode, so don't go into this game expecting to just go through each song on some boring list. Instead you get an unusual, but ultimately worthwhile, challenge mode. Oddly enough, these challenges actually feel a lot like the standard single-player mode, only they seem a bit more specific this time around. At first you'll simply be playing instrument-based challenges. You'll start out with easy guitar songs, which will have you playing three or four of the easiest songs in the game. Once you've beaten those they'll upgrade you until you finally get to the five or six hardest songs in the game. You can do this with all the instruments, including the bass (another first).
However, there is more to it than just giving you progressively harder songs to play; they also have specific challenges that are based on the songs you own. For example, if you own all of the Pixies Doolittle album (which is currently available via the in-game music store) you will be given a challenge to play through all 15 of the album's songs. Another challenge may have you playing all of the Beastie Boys songs, or every song you own from the Smashing Pumpkins. Some challenges are giving you the best known karaoke hits. There are more than a hundred challenges in all. The fact that the game is able to work in your downloaded content so seamlessly is impressive, it's rare to see extra content added into the sequel so effortlessly.
Speaking of challenges, Rock Band 2 also gives you the Battle of the Bands mode. This mode is not too dissimilar from the standard challenges; however they are generated by Rock Band HQ and constantly changing. The other big difference is that these challenges have you going up against other bands, both people on your friends list and those who you've never met. The concept is simple, the game will give you a challenge you have to complete. Once you've done that it will show you how you stacked up against your friends. If you aren't in first place this gives you the incentive to go back through the requested songs and get a higher score (or star count). If you know a lot of people who have Rock Band 2 this mode can become extremely competitive, especially when you realize that the game stores your past wins and losses.
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