Puts the Fun Back in Funeral
Imagine a band with Hendrix on guitar, Keith Moon on drums, that guy from Slipknot who died on bass, and Michael Jackson as the frontman. Okay forget Michael Jackson; that’s just too scary. Let’s replace him with Bon Scott. That band would rock – if they weren’t all dead. And if you’re thinking Rock of the Dead is about bringing deceased rockstars back to life for a postmortem concert, you are dead wrong.
You may already know Rock of the Dead requires the use of your guitar peripheral, and/or drum set. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s best not to have any preconceived ideas about this game or once again, you’ll be dead wrong. This is not Guitar Hero of the Dead. It’s not Rockstar of the Dead. It’s not even Typing of the Dead. Hell, it’s not even a rhythm-based game like you’re thinking. How do I know what you’re thinking? I knew you were going to ask that.
Rock of the Dead utilizes your dust-collecting, plastic guitar to defeat zombies and other creatures including mutated insects, robots, and flying saucers. The guitar is essentially a glorified controller. You don’t actually hit the buttons in time to the music. There are only a few moments where you attempt to play solos to the music, but this only takes place during a few boss battles. Most of the time you are doing nothing more than hitting the buttons in sequence to the patterns that appear onscreen. It’s all about speed, not rhythm or finesse. In this way it has more in common with Typing of the Dead, but it even falls short when compared to that game.
During a concert performed by living musicians, a meteorite shower disperses intergalactic radiation into the earth, causing the dead and other nasties to rise to the surface and kill everything in sight. Hey, stuff happens. Your main defense against the undead, hordes of insectoids, and more falling meteors, is your guitar. The developers have decided there are more unused guitar controllers than lightguns, and a lightgun would definitely be my preferred choice of weaponry. I am a huge House of the Dead fan. As enemies approach, a colored button sequence will be displayed in front of them. You must play this sequence on your guitar controller. Doing so successfully, and quickly, will eliminate the threat. But even at that, things don’t always go according to plan.
Often there are numerous enemies onscreen at the same time, but at different distances. Logic would dictate you tackle the monster closest to you, but it’s not always possible to discern which pattern is assigned to whom or what. Some start with the same colored button, and before you know it you’ve destroyed the enemy at the back and failed to stop the most immediate threat, resulting in your demise. Fortunately, there are some screen-clearing attacks you can use when in such a pinch. You have to earn these attacks by making combo kills or collecting power orbs.
The onscreen patters are displayed sideways, not top to bottom as you may be used to. It will take a little getting used to, especially when the action increases. Smaller enemies will require only two or three button patterns while zombies will require three or four. During boss battles you’ll have to perform a solo. Once again, the highway scrolls left to right. The music stops during your solo only to pick up again when you’re done. I have no idea what purpose this serves.
Rob Zombie supplies some of the soundtrack, and I use the word “some” in place of “not a whole lot.” Only a handful of his songs are included. Most of the time you’ll be battling it out to classical guitar music. Both the guitar and the drum set are void of any in-game sound effects, so it won’t interfere with the soundtrack, but it takes away the instant gratification of knowing you’re pushing the right buttons. Doogie Howser (Patrick Neil Harris) provides the narrative. He does a decent job of portraying a permanently chilled, zoned-out rocker, though it does border on annoying and boring.
Rock of the Dead doesn’t look much better than the Dreamcast version of House of the Dead. Architecture and characters are unnaturally geometrical. Environments such as the trailer park, radio station, cathedral, and spaceship appear washed-out with one predominant blue or green hue casting a global glow. The animation isn’t bad, but when it comes to zombies and robots, you aren’t expecting the lithe and limber movements of a ballerina.
A multi-player co-op mode lets you play with the guitar and drum set together. It’s the Red Stripes verses Rob Zombie. If you don’t have a drum set, another guitar can be used. Players can tackle levels individually, competing for high score, or take out enemies as a team. This mode will give you some extra time after you become bored with the single-player mode, but the novelty will wear off faster than a Halloween candy sugar rush.
Expect Rock of the Dead to put some more fret mileage on your guitar, but not enough to warrant a purchase. Even as a budget-priced game it’s still best to rent this one.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.7 Graphics
Looks like a past-generation game. Blocky graphics cheapen the appearance. 2.8 Control
It’s an interesting choice for the controller, but it’s not fully realized. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voiceacting is professional, but there just isn’t enough rock music. 2.6 Play Value
The novelty factor wears off quickly, even with a two-player mode. 2.7 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.