Rock Band

Review

posted 12/11/2007 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: 360
They say that good things come in small packages. They lie. Rock Band proves without a shadow of a doubt that size really matters. From the moment you take a look at Rock Band's massive box (measuring at one foot tall and around two and a half feet long) you know that you're getting something important. You know that you're getting something substantial; something that is going to change your life. And it better, at $170 this Xbox 360 game doesn't come cheap. But if you can get over the larger than normal price tag you'll find that Rock Band is easily one of the best games of the year and a phenomenal multiplayer experience.

In essence Rock Band is the combination of everything Harmonix Music Systems has worked up to this point. Like Guitar Hero, Rock Band offers you control over the lead guitar or a bass guitar. Like Karaoke Revolution, Rock Band gives you a microphone and wants you to sing us a song. And even the drumming mechanic (which is the game's biggest innovation) often feels like a slightly altered version of Amplitude. As individual games these titles were amazing, so you can only imagine how much better they are when you put them all together and tie them into the most compelling storyline since PaRappa the Rapper. It's official, Rock Band rocks!

After you've ogled the large box (and its pretty pictures), I think it's about time we open up this package and see what we're in store for. Right off the bat the game comes with a fake plastic guitar, this time modeled off of the popular Fender Stratocaster. The guitar is a little larger than what RedOctane and Activision are giving out in Guitar Hero III, and there are a few more knobs and buttons on this Rock Band guitar. There are also five more buttons you can push down. These buttons are located right next to the body of the guitar (where you strum) and are specifically made for solos. You don't have to move your entire hand down to these smaller frets, but if you do you will be able to hit the notes without strumming. Unfortunately the guitar is wired, so expect to always be tethered to the console.

The actual guitar portion of Rock Band looks and feels much like Guitar Hero, and for good reason, since Harmonix was the company that turned that game into the mega-selling franchise it is today. The controls work the same as before, a series of notes and chords will come your way and it's your job to hold down the right button and strum the guitar at exactly the right time. This concept is made even easier when you realize that there's not a person in the United States who has never seen a guitar in their life. Getting the timing just right may take some practice, but acting like a rock star should come naturally.

If playing the lead guitar is just too much for you to stand, you can also use your trusty fake plastic guitar to play the bass parts. As you would imagine the bass parts are insanely simple (even on the hardest difficulty setting) and there's not a lot for you to do. The bass is a perfect place for novice Rock Band fans to sharpen their chops before jumping into the wild world of lead guitar. For whatever reason the Rock Band box does not come with a second guitar, so you won't be able to play both the lead and bass guitars until the publisher decides to release some stand-alone accessories.

Putting the guitar down for a minute, let's see what else we can dig out of this huge box. Next up we have the drum set, which is definitely the most exciting addition to the collection. Obviously there's no way for Harmonix to create a drum kit that is as large and involved as a real drum kit. Not only would that be entirely too expensive, but where would you even keep it? So the company has done the next best thing, they've created a drum kit that looks a lot like an electric drum, but feels like a real drum set. You even get drumsticks and a foot-peddle to complete the experience.

In game the drum mode is set up a lot like the guitar was, only instead of strumming notes you are hitting the drums at just the right times. Basically you have four colored notes that scroll towards you; it's your job to hit those different notes with four corresponding colored drums. Occasionally a long horizontal line pops up, that's your cue to hit the foot peddle. Of course, all this sounds easier than it actually is. Like any real drummer, you're going to have to get used to using both arms and one leg at the exact same time. Thankfully the game starts you off easy, but by the time you've hit the harder difficulties you will basically be drumming. The drums are difficult, but they can be the most rewarding fake plastic instrument packaged in the box. In fact, learning to play these fake drums may give you the fundamental information for learning to play real drums.

The last instrument found in this box is the official Rock Band microphone. I've had some experience with video game microphones in the past, both with Sing Star and Karaoke Revolution, so I say with some authority in the subject that this Rock Band mic is far and away the best gaming microphone yet. The little unit is good sized and has a solid feeling to it. It also comes with a long cord, so feel free to run around your virtual stage dancing with your guitarist and cheering on your drummer.
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