|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|
However, if I had one complaint about Rock Band 2, it would have to be the system that's used to unlock the different songs. Instead of having a mostly linear set list like in the original Rock Band, you'll have to "discover" new songs by playing at different venues. After playing through the initial six hours of gameplay, I was dismayed to find that I had only unlocked about fifteen different songs. Some might argue that working so hard for the songs you unlock gives the game a lot of replay value because you'll have to work hard to earn your content. However, after playing "Eye of the Tiger" a million times just to get enough stars in San Francisco to unlock new tunes, I would have to disagree. Unlocking things is too cumbersome, and you'll never know what the next city with songs to unlock is. You'll just have to venture out to many different cities, go through a lot of pointless menu screens, and end up more than a little annoyed.
However, after you sink 20+ hours into unlocking the game's 84 songs, you'll probably be quite pleased with the track selection that you'll end up with. There is a very large variety of songs included in the game, and you'll be able to play everything from AFI's "Girls not Grey" to The Who's "Pinball Wizard." You also have music from Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Bon Jovi, and The Allman Brother's Band to round out the musical repertoire. And in an effort to prove that the decade-in-the-making album Chinese Democracy is real, Guns N Roses have even released a new single entitled "Shackler's Revenge." Of course, it's up to you to decide whether you believe ol' Axl or not, but the point here is that no matter what kind of rock you're into, whether it be punk, metal, or alternative, you'll find something to enjoy in Rock Band 2. It is also worth noting that in addition to the 84 songs on the actual disc, there will be some free DLC in the near future that will bring Rock Band 2's track list up to 100. Although there's no word about what this DLC will include or when it will hit, the fact that one game will have 100 songs included in its base price of $60 is very cool and definitely makes you feel like you've gotten your money's worth out of the title. For $5, players will also be able to "transfer" songs from the original Rock Band to Rock Band 2.
To go with the all-new game, there are also all-new Rock Band 2-specific peripherals that have been tweaked and modified to improve upon the pre-existing peripherals. The drum set definitely wins the award for "most improved" this time around, and it addresses three of the major complaints about last year's drum set: the sound, the foot pedal, and being tethered to the console. The most noticeable thing about last year's drum kit was that the noise it made when you hit the pads. It was very loud and could really interfere with your enjoyment of the music in the game. It was also annoying to band mates. However, this problem has been addressed, and this year's pads are much quieter, although they still do emit some noise. The second major improvement in the Rock Band 2 drums is the metal bass pedal. Last year's drum kit had a plastic pedal that had a tendency to break after you used it for awhile. But now that the foot pedal is reinforced with presumably indestructible metal, that shouldn't be a problem. Finally, the drum kit is now connected to your console wirelessly. This is actually true of all the new instruments in Rock Band 2. Players no longer have to fuss with the silly USB hub and tangled cords of the original.
There is also a more subtle upgrade in the Rock Band 2 drum kit. The drums are now pressure-sensitive, meaning that a soft pat will yield a softer drum noise, while an aggressive hit will produce a much louder sound. This is not necessarily important for gameplay per se, but it really helps you get into the mood of the song. The Rock Band 2 drum kit also has expansion ports for cymbals, although these are not available for use in the actual game yet. The Rock Band 2 drum kit is a whopping $90.00 on its own, but it's well worth it if you are a drum aficionado (or broke your pedal last year!).
The guitar has also been altered for Rock Band 2, although these changes are a little less striking than the drum modifications. The strum bar has been reengineered to be a little bit more firm than it was last year, and, of course, the look of the guitar has been completely changed, emulating a wooden finish. However, if you still have your guitar from last year (or a compatible Guitar Hero controller for that matter), I would just stick with that one. Unless, of course, the wireless functionality is too tempting for you and you've got money to burn.
Rock Band 2 is definitely an upgrade over its previous entry. Although its best aspect is probably the 80+ songs that come with it, you'll find a whole host of new and upgraded features that will keep you rocking for quite some time. Even if you have never rocked before, Rock Band's "no-fail" mode makes this one an easy choice for casual or new players. But if you are among the hardcore sect, get ready to bust out the devil horns, turn the volume up to 11, and rock out with Rock Band 2!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor