|System: X360, PS2, Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Harmonix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: MTV Games / EA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 14, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Last year's Rock Band was unquestionably one of the biggest titles to hit the music/rhythm genre in a long time. It took the basic idea behind blockbuster hits like SingStar and Guitar Hero, added a drum kit, and gave music fans the world over a way to interact with their favorite tunes like never before. Since the original Rock Band was such a best-seller, it was understandable that hopes were high for its successor, Rock Band 2. Many speculated that Rock Band 2 would be just like an expansion pack for the original and would not take strides to improve the franchise. However, Rock Band 2 has bucked this theory and has made some noticeable upgrades and modifications to the original gameplay, while keeping the same amount of Rock N' Roll.
One of the biggest improvements to Rock Band 2 has to be the tweaks made to the World Tour mode. This mode has not really changed in purpose, but it has definitely made a lot of changes in functionality. Last time around, the World Tour mode was very difficult to play if you didn't have your band-specific four-person team to play with all at once. And if you were playing solo, you could just forget about playing World Tour altogether. Luckily, this time around it is a lot easier to change your band line-up to adapt to those times when you only have two or three people on hand to play with you. The mode has also been restructured to allow for different players to drop in and out of the same World Tour as they please. Rock Band 2 also doesn't punish you for playing solo, which is great news for those who had to learn to sing and play guitar or drums at the same time to effectively play solo.
One of the coolest new features in Rock Band 2 World Tour is the Battle of the Bands feature that has been incorporated into the mode. Diverse battles will show up randomly in the different World Tour cities, and these will change every day. The different battles all have unique themes that can range from a battle where you play against GameStop employees to special nighttime and early-morning battles. Playing in these band battles not only nets you Rock Band fame and glory, but also gives you a great way to interact with Rock Band community members that you may not normally intermingle with. It is a cool concept, and you may find yourself booting up Rock Band just to see what the challenges are for the day.
The character creator in Rock Band 2 is very similar to the character creator in the original and allows you to change your character's hair, face, and body structure. You will also be able to dress them in a limited amount of stage garb, although much more will be unlocked as you progress in World Tour. After you create your character, you will be able to give your character a tattoo. The tattoo creator is actually the deepest character customization option, and you can paste different tats by famous tattoo artists on your arms or chest and change the size and color. You can also fuse different tattoos together to create something entirely original.
One thing you'll probably notice right away after creating your character is that the look of the World Tour menu has changed. Instead of just going through a long list of songs, individual menus will be tied to the different cities on your tour. There will be a few songs as well as specialty sets that will pop up on each localized screen and will display songs that are unlocked in the new city as well as local. You won't have to scroll through the long song list anymore to find the songs you need, and if you want to create your own set for each location, you will be able to search through your music library and browse by artist or difficulty. This is particularly useful for download junkies with a huge library, and it makes finding that certain song all the easier.
The online functionality in Rock Band 2 is incredibly streamlined and fits well into the overall structure of the game. Basically, any mode you can play offline, you can play online by giving the yellow button a quick tap. You can find band mates for World Tour or Quickplay, or you can battle people with the Tug of War and Score Battle modes. The Tug of War mode is an accuracy duel where characters will be able to "tug" on a virtual rope every time their opponent misses a note. The Score Battle mode is fairly simplistic and only consists of a duel where the player with the highest score wins. The online modes run notably faster in Rock Band 2, and I never had to wait more than thirty seconds to find a partner or opponent.
There is also a new game mode that has a strictly casual appeal: the all-new "no-fail" setting. This can be accessed from the options menu, and will make casual or party play a lot less nerve-racking for inexperienced players. Of course, this option cannot be used online, but it is great for those just trying the game out for the first time. It will definitely make for a much more pleasurable experience when playing Rock Band with non-gamer friends, and it is an essential option as the gaming audience expands further into the casual market.
Another new mode that will probably appeal to both the casual and hardcore sect is the Drum Trainer mode. This mode is aimed at those who want to translate their in-game skills into real life ability, as it shows you the basics as far as drum beats and fills are concerned. The game has several pre-loaded beats and fills that you can practice over and over. It doesn't necessarily feel like a trainer per se, but more like an extension of the game itself-just without the music.