Rock Band

Review

posted 12/11/2007 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: 360

What sets this world tour mode apart from all of the other music games is that there are actual consequences for your actions. In most games you can fail a song and just try it again, but in Rock Band if you do that you will lose fans. Since the object is to amass as many fans as you can get you will definitely want to avoid failing out of a song. To make things even trickier you will have to deal with gigs that want you to play two or three songs in a row. Occasionally you get to select the songs you want to play, but there are also a lot of these gigs where the song selection will have already been made and you never know what you're going to get. It could be that you play a couple songs you love and then have to deal with one extra hard song, or it could be that you get three hard songs in a row. No matter what happens, you have to determine for the band whether the reward outweighs the possible risk.

A real rock band is all about helping each other out for the good of the group, and this Rock Band is no different. When playing the game four-players it's important that you all work as a team in order to earn as many points as possible. There's also the possibility that one of your band mates will fail out, which means that you are either going to have to revive him or fail the song all together. This working together dynamic is new for the music genre, and it's definitely one of the most interesting parts of the game.

Contrary to what science tells us, it's actually pretty easy to bring somebody back to life. When somebody fails one of the remaining band members will need to activate something called the overdrive mode. If you've played Guitar Hero before then you'll feel right at home with the overdrive. As you play through the game there will be specific notes that you can hit in order to charge up the overdrive meter. Once it's at the half way mark you can activate this mode to multiply your score and quickly get the fans back on your side. Oh, and the overdrive power brings a failed band member back to life. But don't die too many times, Rock Band plays by the three strikes and you're out rule.

Of course it all comes down to the game's track list, if the 58 songs are no good then nobody will want to play the game (no matter how fun it is). The good news is that Rock Band's track list is indeed impressive, featuring a lot of classic songs from the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and present day. It's also a diverse collection of bands; you'll get bands like Nine Inch Nails, The Smashing Pumpkins, Bon Jovi, Nirvana, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Ramones, Metallica, The Pixies, REM, Garbage, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Weezer, KISS, Hole, Radiohead and many, many more. In my opinion the track list in Guitar Hero III is a bit stronger, but I can't argue too much with the songs found in Rock Band. It's also worth again pointing out that if you don't like any of these songs you will be able to download new songs that are more to your liking.

While I am fully prepared to call this one of the best multiplayer games of the year, Rock Band does suffer from a few noteworthy problems. For example, if you plan on mostly playing this by yourself then you might find Rock Band to be a bit lacking. No matter what instrument you play there will be long stretches where you anticipate making music. This isn't as bad for the drums (since most songs have drums all the way through), but there are a number of songs for the guitar and vocals that will have you just waiting around for something to happen. This is fine in a multiplayer setting (since it's a lot of fun to watch your buddies play these fake instruments), but it can be a bit boring when playing by yourself.

It's also worth mentioning that the Rock Band guitar is not as good as the one that comes with Guitar Hero III. It's not just the fact that this guitar is wired (though that does play a part), but the actual buttons don't feel right to me. To add a sense of realism Harmonix has decided to make the buttons flush with the next. While this makes the guitar "look" better, these new buttons can be a little unruly at times. This is especially true when you're trying to play the two hardest modes and you keep losing track of where the buttons are. Thankfully there is a solution; Xbox 360 owners can use their Guitar Hero III guitar to play Rock Band. As far as I'm concerned this is the only way to play the game, not only does it feel better, but it's wireless, too.

And while this may come off as nothing but nitpicking, I'm not a fan of all of the repeats found in both Rock Band and Guitar Hero III. If you own both games (and you really should) then you will no doubt hear "Cherub Rock" by The Smashing Pumpkins a few too many times, along with "Mississippi Queen" by Mountain, "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys, and "Reptilia" by The Strokes. This isn't that big of a deal, but as a person who came from non-stop play sessions of Guitar Hero III to non-stop play sessions of Rock Band, these duplicates are frustrating and disorienting.

My only other complaint with Rock Band stems from the online mode. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of the online mode, being able to play against (and with) people online is a must in any music game. But the online multiplayer feels more like an afterthought in Rock Band. The biggest travesty is that you can't play the world tour with friends online. The problem I have is that most of my musically-inclined friends live an hour or more away from me, so I won't have as much access to the world tour as I would like to. There's really no reason for them not to allow us to play this campaign online. I suspect this will be something Harmonix fixes in the near future, but as of this writing I still could not enjoy the world tour online.

Although there are a few different modes to choose from, most of the choices will be pretty familiar to anybody who played Guitar Hero. Score Duel is probably the most balanced way to play online; basically it just has two players playing the exact same song with the exact same notes, the person that has the highest score at the end wins. The Tug of War is slightly different, but is generally the same principle. In this mode you won't be playing the same notes, the two players will take turns back and forth playing different strings of notes. Whoever has their meter most filled by the end of the song is the winner.
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