Getting the Band Together
The excitement of rock can cross oceans and generations. Therefore, it is no wonder that games like Guitar Hero thrive in our industry. After all, every one of us has to admit to at least once playing the air guitar with one of our favorite songs. However, there is one other fabled instrument of rock everyone has probably played more than the air guitar – the air drums. Therefore, those people have been looking for a game title to let their inner stick wielder free. The same is said about those who need to stretch out their vocal cords in a merging of instruments. This is where Rock Band comes in.
In a similar manner to putting a rock solid band together, Rock Band relies on you having equally excited rock enthusiasts to fill up a band. This will also come in handy when you bring the game home. That way, everyone can be building the drum kit, setting up the guitar(s), and getting the game ready in your console. The most important part of setting up the game that is vital to group participation is, of course, the band’s name. Then you’ll have to create your band members. While having this customization available is great, I do wish there had been a little more focus on the overall package of graphics than the movements and lip-synching of the characters. It’s nothing abysmal to look at and does deliver a rather welcome dose of realistic lighting effects.
Most will notice the similarities between Guitar Hero and Rock Band right away. There are fret necks that run for the Guitar, Bass, which you will have to either buy a new one or use the one from Guitar Hero, and Drums. The vocals operate on a similar karaoke technique we have grown accustomed to (similar to Sing Star). Although it is a big comparison, it still is only minute when compared. After all, the score box is different, as is the “rock” meter and the press points on the fret necks. The pressure buttons are thinner and require a more precise action than the rounded buttons on Guitar Hero. While this is a great thing for perfectionists, I feel that in a way this precision action diminishes some of the major appeal of the Guitar Hero franchise. This is a small thing, but you will find yourself frustrated if you carry over some playing habits of Guitar Hero. It will definitely take you some time to get adjusted.
The drums are a different story all together. Honestly, if you have any rhythm at all, the easy setting on the drums will frustrate you more than the hard setting. Feeling the vibes of the music on the easy setting will cause you to fail repeatedly. Maybe it is the pacing of the board or the fewer notes that you are required to hit, but whatever it is, you will find yourself struggling to find the rhythm and will want to quickly switch the difficulty level. In fact, if you are the rhythm king amongst your friends, they might be dependent on you to save them if they fall off the stage.
This is one of the great features about the multiplayer mode. Instead of you failing and bringing your whole band down with you, if you trip up and trash a song, then it will be just you sitting on the sidelines. At least until your band mates use the overdrive (Star power) and they revive you for one more shot, or rather two more since you have the ‘three strikes you’re out’ system working for you. This is probably my favorite part of the game. Instead of one dynamo shining above all, Rock Band focuses on the band working together, and yes, there will even be times that the band will fight amongst one another. However, this is the truest representation of how a band might work together in order to make it through a grueling concert or just a casual gig at your local dive. This is even more apparent in the Band World Tour Mode.
The Band World Tour is probably the single best reason to run out and get this game. However, right now it doesn’t support online play, but they are planning on a possible future patch to fix this. For now, you will have to play through it locally, but it is best to get in the practice while you can. You’ll start out small and will have to work your way up in fans and recognition to play the big arenas, making your way to superstardom. However, there is a catch. Perform poorly in a couple of the big arenas and it doesn’t matter what kind of mega group you are, even your most loyal fans’ll kick you to the curb. The fans are the only thing that you can lose and they can be hard to get back as you progress back up the ladder to the big arenas. You won’t be able to play those big arenas that flash your band’s name in lights until your fan level is back to acceptable. Nevertheless, stick together and the band will thrive once more.
Your band will eventually acquire a manager who will guide you to earning a tour bus, jet, roadies, and a PR firm. All the while, you are racing to reach the Rock Band Hall of Fame. Racing might not be the best way to go about reaching this goal because it will take several hours to reach this level of rock god. In fact, none of the band will be able to play on easy or medium if this is your ultimate goal. One of the key factors into reaching the Hall of Fame is how many fans you have, and on the lower difficulty settings, you are cut off from receiving new ones after you reach a certain number. The hard difficulty will be your first step to achieving this plateau of rock. So you will need to do some practicing outside of your band’s tour in order to ensure you reaching this goal.
For those among us who don’t really have the friends around to play through the Band mode all the time, there is a solo mode. Here you are able to play through songs with any of the instruments at your disposal. This mode is solid enough, but I found myself wanting to band together more than I wanted to play in the single player mode, with the exception of when we were facing off against one another. The battle modes are honestly more enjoyable online than when you and your band are with one another, mainly because when the band is together you’ll want to play together as a band in the career mode or watch each member battle it out online against the other players that think they are top notch.
The online mode options are simplistic and smooth to move through with a total of three options for you to choose from. You can get a band together and play a few songs in quick play, but none will count towards progress in a career mode. Tug of War is probably the best online option in the game. In this mode, you will battle it out with another player in different parts of the same song. Your goal is to win over the crowd. This is fun with each instrument, especially the drums. Of course, there is also the two-player duel mode we have grown accustomed to. The online play is smooth and holds no extreme difference from the main game.
Rock Band has one thing going for it: the necessity to having friends to play and the willingness to work together. It may not be enough for everyone to drop 170 bucks on the game and equipment, but I can say if you even remotely have thought about this game, it is worth it. With the only major problem being the smaller track lists when compared to Guitar Hero, Rock Band has potential. You will have to look towards the future and see the albums and other songs soon to be available as downloadable content that are sure to increase the replay value of the game. Besides, maybe you can get your band together beforehand and collect instrument fees before you go buy the game.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.1 Graphics
Not as great as I would have liked to have seen. However, the realistic approach over the glam was welcomed. 4.0 Control
It’ll vary for each person playing, but the controls are solid enough. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great music, and even great covers. 4.8 Play Value
Nothing better. As long as you can get your friends together. Single player is ok, but you really want this for the full band experience. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.