Become a rock star, without the practice!
Since Harmonix released their first music game ‘Frequency’ for the PS2 back in 2001, they have remained the king of rhythm games. Introducing the ‘Guitar Hero’ franchise and giving us a lot more entertainment with a guitar controller than a dance mat ever could. They then decided it was time to do the next big thing, stop focusing on just the guitar, and focus on the whole band experience. Smart move…
‘Rock Band’ presents us with one of the heftiest price tags a game has so far, and an amount of accessories which would make your living room look like a makeshift arcade, but my God is it worth it. You most likely know what Rock Band is by now though, giving you the chance to play guitar, drums and sing in one neat (but big) package. So, what’s it like to play?
Heading into familiar territory first with the Guitar; the replica Fender Stratocaster is a fantastic controller to play this game with. The strum bar is firm and quiet so it isn’t loud enough to interrupt gameplay. There are also two sections of coloured buttons, the standard sized ones on the neck and 5 of the same colour, yet smaller and closer to the base. These are ideal for younger players with smaller hands, but are also useful during gameplay. Some songs have a dedicated ‘Solo section’, in which the guitar player is allowed to show off his skills in an impressive yet tricky guitar solo. In these sections, the player can simply tap these smaller buttons without having to strum. This makes some sections of the game easier and more fun to play, and makes you look like some sort of Guitar wizard in front of people not familiar with the feature.
Next up: singing. This system is very simple, it acknowledges that you’re singing the right lyric as to be expected, and judges pitch well. Easier difficulties allow for you to add a bit of improvisation to your notes; however with harder difficulties you must be pitch perfect or face failure.
Well, not really my complaint, but it has pissed off a few neighbours
This sounds incredibly hard, especially for those who enter a fit of shyness when the word ‘Sing’ is so much as muttered. However, with a small amount of practice with your pitches and your octaves and what-nots, you soon find that this is a very accessible and enjoyable part of the game… so long as no one else in the house can hear you.
Although you can control the volume of your voice, the epic loudness of the drumkit when hit cannot be disguised so easily and this is my first and my only real complaint with the hardware (Well, not really my complaint, but it has pissed off a few neighbours). Apart from that, there isn’t a lot you can say about the drums apart from the fact it’s like playing the guitar except you smack things, providing more of a challenge on your muscles, but is brilliant fun.
Now onto possibly the most important aspect of the game, especially in the middle of this ‘Guitar Hero: World Tour Vs. Rock Band’ war. Although all of the tracks are firmly in the rock genre, there is a wide variety of styles, ranging through Glam, Punk, Alternative, Metal, and Classic rock. The single player career mode starts off with a lot more radio friendly songs (i.e. ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ – The Clash, ‘Here It Goes Again’ – OK Go) and as you progress it leads into the much heavier, and the more classic songs (‘Run to the Hills’ – Iron Maiden, ‘Foreplay/Long Time’ – Boston). If there are not enough songs in the game for you however, don’t worry – It’s easy to download new songs and albums from the ‘Rock Band Store’ online.
Whilst single player has a strong, yet linear career mode, multi-player allows you to form a band with your friends and tour the world. This is a much more satisfying and rewarding mode to players, allowing them to gain fans, get roadies, get new vehicles, unlock new venues, create set lists and work co-operatively to become the biggest band in the world. This is a much more fun mode to play, and really showcases how fantastic this game is when played with friends.
Despite the fact it will leave your wallet feeling fairly empty afterwards, this is one of the most enjoyable experience you can have with your console this year. If you’re not in colossal debt, it’s hard to find a reason not to buy this.
The Bad: Drums are bloody loud, No single player tour mode,
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