From the makers of Karaoke Revolution and Guitar Hero comes the highly anticipated Rock Band. At its core, this rhythm game is deceiptively simple: you have a controller with a couple of buttons of different colors, and notes scroll on the screen along with the music. You have to hit the buttons in time. That’s pretty much it. What Rock Band does though, is putting guitar, voice and drums together in a unique blend that means endless fun for you and your friends. Picture you, a couple of friends, a reasonable quantity of alcohol, and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”. Yeah.
Picture you, a couple of friends, a reasonable quantity of alcohol, and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”. Yeah.
The first thing to watch out about Rock Band is the price: it is steep. All in all you can’t possibly think of owning a complete set and putting down less than $200 on it. It comes with a mic, a drumset and one guitar. A second guitar costs about $50, and you also have to buy an adapter to be able to plug more than two controllers in your machine if you play on a PlayStation 2. Because of its social nature, it is then preferable to buy this game if you actually live with some people sharing some kind of interest in the game – with the added bonus that you won’t get strangulated over the quite noisy drum set.
What makes or breaks any rhythm game is the song list, and this one is great, including various successes from Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun to Deep Purple’s Highway Star (the latter is also featured in the definitely awesome intro scene). The Rolling Stones, Nine Inch Nails, Garbage and Nirvana are also some of the featured artists on the games’ 58 tracks, most of which are master tracks (read: original recordings instead of covers). The bonus tracks however, are mostly made up of songs from members of Harmonix’s team or local bands, and to be fair it shows a little in the musical quality. It’s a little bit like the songs you need to go through mindlessly in order to really complete the game, but most do not fit the description of an enjoyable experience.
The level of difficulty is variable depending on the instrument, going from fairly easy for the voice to insanely difficult for the drums – the most realistic instrument of the lot. Most songs are in fact dull for the singer, in spite of the effort made to include them in the action by allowing them to tap on the microphone for added points – emulating, sort of, a tambourine. That was a nice touch, but most songs are simply not on pair with some Karaoke Revolution titles regarding the vocal interpretation. It’s obvious that the song selection was made specifically with interesting drums parts in mind. Even the guitar is not that hard: most Guitar Hero afficionados, without even previously hearing the songs, will be able to get through the game at expert mode in one seating.
As far as graphics go, they are a big improvement on previous versions of Guitar Hero, even though they’re there more for your audience’s enjoyment than your own. Most of the time the similitudes between the singers’ lips or the musicians’ movements and the music is downright impressive.
In the past few instalments of Guitar Hero, we’ve seen a few interesting multi-player modes that we can retrieve in Rock Band, such as the “Tug of War” that lets you face off for points (on PS3 and X-Box you can even do this online), and there is also the infinitely useful Practice mode.
All of this rounds up to be a really fun game especially if you throw parties fairly often and have a few enthusiastic friends. Is the price worth it? Not sure, especially since you’re almost better off buying real instruments at that point.
The Bad: Songs are generally especially dull for the singer; Steep price; Amateurs of the Guitar Hero series will find the guitar easy; Consistently bad bonus songs