I have nothing against Green Day. In fact, I have spent good money buying a few of their previous albums (Dookie, Kerplunk, etc.). I certainly wouldn't call myself a fanatic, but I wouldn't turn the station if I heard Green Day on the radio. However, even with those qualifications, it's hard not to be a little disappointed with Harmonix's newest Rock Band game. It's not that Green Day isn't worthy of their own game, but rather the fact that we're coming off the release of The Beatles: Rock Band. As good as Billy Joe and gang are, Green Day is a gigantic step down from The Beatles, the single most influential rock band in modern history.
Thankfully, my disappointment with Green Day: Rock Band only lasted a few minutes. After you take a deep breath and realize that Green Day will never be as good as The Beatles, you realize that this California-based trio actually has a strong line-up of diverse rock songs that are a lot of fun to play. There are more than enough great songs in Green Day: Rock Band to warrant a purchase, even if you only plan on bringing this out at parties and get-togethers.
Let's face it; The Beatles were a lot more prolific than Green Day. In the last fifteen years, Green Days has managed to release only six albums (the most recent one hitting store shelves last year). In sharp contrast, The Beatles managed to form, become the biggest band in the world, release a dozen albums and break up all within a seven year period.
This Rock Band release seems to understand the differences between the bands. Instead of giving equal time to each album, Harmonix has decided to focus most of their attention towards three of Green Day's most popular records. We get the complete versions of both Dookie and American Idiot, the band's two most important albums. These two albums account for most of Green Day's biggest hits, including "Longview," "Holiday," "Welcome to Paradise," "Basket Case," and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." They are, without a doubt, the biggest draw to this brand new game.
In an interesting (and wholly disappointing) move, Harmonix has decided to not include all 18 tracks found in 21st Century Breakdown. Because six of the songs are already available for download via the Rock Band music store, you'll have to spend an extra ten bucks in order to complete the record. This is disappointing for so many reasons, chief among them being the fact that this could have easily been avoided. These tracks were uploaded to the store during the development of this game, so it feels more like a money grab on the part of Harmonix. Adding these six songs would have made this collection feel more complete,
Aside from including all the songs from those three albums, Green Day: Rock Band also features a smattering of singles released between 1995 and 2000. These include hits from Insomniac ("Geek Stink Breath" and "Brain Stew/Jaded"), Nimrod ("Hitchin' a Ride" and "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)") and Warning ("Minority" and "Warning"). It's sad that Harmonix opted against spending more time with these albums, but at least we get some of the big hits. Also missing is any hint of early Green Day, including 1990's 39/Smooth and 1992's Kerplunk. Both of these early albums were released on Lookout! Records, a small indie outfit that didn't bother to keep the original master recordings. While I certainly respect the developer's decision to only offer cuts from the studio albums, I can't help but feel like a large chunk of Green Day's history has been completely ignored. Adding one or two live songs into the mix would have gone a long way to pad the track list and add context to Green Day's career.
The sad truth is, Green Day: Rock Band doesn't seem especially interested in telling the story of this influential trio. What we get are three venues open from the get-go, including The Warehouse (a 1994 club where the band sports colored hair and "Stupid" clothing), the Milton Keynes (an outdoor arena set in 2005) and The Fox Theater (the Oakland-based theater that is adorned with 21st Century Breakdown imagery). That's it. Those are the only three venues you will find in this Green Day game, which is a big letdown after the gorgeous dreamscapes found in The Beatles game.
Thankfully the band looks great performing and Harmonix has been able to capture the essence of a Green Day concert. It's clear that a lot of time and attention has gone into getting each musician's mannerisms down. From Tre Cool standing over his drum kit to Billie Joe Armstrong practically eating that microphone, the game's animation is spot-on no matter which venue you choose. Plus, the developers have been able to make each of the songs stand out with unique pyrotechnics and visual effects. For example, for "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" you'll find Billie Joe standing on an island away from the main stage, completely surrounded by the sea of adoring fans. In "Song of the Century" (the band's only a cappella song) the remaining band stands back and lets Billie Joe do his thing. These videos may not be as visually arresting as The Beatles' dreamscapes, but they are interesting and fun to look at.
Of course, most of the time you'll be more worried about hitting the right notes than watching what the band does on stage. If you've played a Rock Band game before, then you'll feel right at home with this Green Day version. As is the case with all Rock Band games, Green Day allows you to take control of a fake plastic guitar, bass, drum kit or microphone. For the most part there are no major changes to any of these instruments, though it's worth mentioning that you can bring up to three singers in on select tracks. Even after playing close to a thousand songs over all of the Rock Band games, I still have a great time strumming the guitar and beating on the drum kit. Plus, Billie Joe sings in an octave I have no problem hitting, so I even had a good time belting out Green Day's greatest hits.
Much like The Beatles: Rock Band, this Green Day version doesn't feature a World Tour mode or much in the way of single-player content. To add to the replay Harmonix has added a bunch of collectible pictures and videos for you to earn. You do this in a couple of different ways, such as completing challenges and earning a certain amount of stars per song. If you manage to earn three stars you get one picture, earning all five stars will net you the second photograph. You can also play set challenges for videos. These challenges involve you playing a certain amount of songs and earning a set number of stars. It's not a bad idea, but I would have preferred instrument-specific challenges (much like what we saw in Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero).Going into this version of Rock Band I was a little worried that Green Day's catalog wasn't diverse enough to warrant a full game. It turns out that I was wrong. While it's true that Green Day doesn't have the range of The Beatles, I was impressed by how many different sounds these three guys came up with. The early albums have a lot of fast-paced punk, while later in their career they ended up adding orchestral instruments and keyboards to the mix. There are slow songs and fast songs, plus everything in between. Even if you only know a few Green Day songs, chances are you'll end up having a good time with most of the songs. There were only a couple songs I didn't care for, but even they were a lot of fun with friends over.
Speaking of multiplayer, you won't need to have everybody in the same room to have a great time. Much like past Rock Band games, Green Day supports a number of fun online multiplayer options. On top of battling over score online, you can also see how you rank with your friends (and the entire world) on each song. The leaderboard support is something Rock Band 1 and 2 had, but Green Day implements it in a much more intuitive fashion. They could still go a little further with the leaderboards, but Harmonix is definitely on the right track when it comes to competing for top score.
Of course, the real draw to Green Day is that you will be able to export all 47 songs into Rock Band 1, 2 and 3. You'll need to buy the license that lets you do that (which goes for the low, low price of $10), but once you've registered the code and paid the price it's easy to download the full game onto your hard drive. It's a shame we didn't have that option in The Beatles: Rock Band, but I'm sure licensing ended up getting in the way. As much as I love watching Billie Joe and gang strut around the stage, I also enjoy having these songs mixed in amongst my 600 other tracks.
With dozens of fun tracks and a great presentation, Green Day: Rock Band is a must-own for any fan of the band. Thankfully you don't have to be a die-hard fan to get your money's worth. Going in I only had a passing interest in this California-based threesome, yet now I feel like I have a much greater appreciation for this band. The songs are exciting enough to keep my attention and I never got bored with Green Day's sound. Sadly this game feels like a step down after The Beatles, but I have a hunch that this would have been the case no matter what band they chose. If you give it a chance, you won't be disappointed by Green Day: Rock Band.