Bring the Rock!
August 29, 2008 – Konami certainly is no stranger to the rhythm game market. Few may realize the company was cranking games like GuitarFreaks and DrumMania well before RedOctane launched Harmonix’s first Guitar Hero title. However, it’s a mystery why the publisher waited this long to enter the fray of the plastic instrument arms race between the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises.
With each new installment released, the two well-established contenders continue to raise the bar. It’s entirely possible Konami’s latest foray in the peripheral-laden rhythm game genre may be too little, too late, but their upcoming Rock Revolution does have potential. In many ways, the console versions of Konami’s bid for rhythm game glory are similar to what the competition has to offer. You’ll wield one form of instrument controller or another to rock through a selection of tunes, by hitting keys and pounding pads in time to a string of colored notes heading down a runway, while music video-like rock-and-roll visuals flood your optical senses. Unlike its competitors, the note runway in Rock Revolution runs completely vertical and the notes move down the screen, instead of moving towards players at a steep angle. It’s the same concept, but the implementation is a little different.
While there will be guitar and bass playing components to the game (no vocals, thankfully), Rock Revolution is all about the drumming. The console versions will ship with a massive six-pad drum monster (plus a kick pedal) that promises to offer a distinctly different drumming experience. “Different” and “bigger” does not necessarily equate to “better.” Hands-on reports with the peripheral have been hit-or-miss. The overall drum kit itself is pretty hefty, but the pads are slightly smaller, and having so many of them spread out in front of you has the potential to breed chaos – for better or worse. To balance this, players will not be docked points for improvising, and the difficulty curve is said to be more gradual than the Rock Band drum campaign.
For gamers (or their significant others) who are not so keen about the prospect of yet another set of fake guitars and a large plastic drum set further clogging up their already limited living room space, there is still hope. Reportedly, Rock Revolution will also be playable with the four-input Rock Band 2 drum kit as well as the upcoming five-input Guitar Hero: World Tour drum kit. In each case, the game will adapt to the number of inputs available for whatever drum set you’re using. Sony and Microsoft have confirmed guitars from the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of RB2 and GH:WT will be compatible with Rock Revolution. No word yet on the Wii version, and no official announcements have been made by Konami regarding the guitar controllers.
True to its name, Rock Revolution is packed to the gills with…well…rock. The console versions will contain around 40 tracks (20 on the DS version) populated by the likes of oldie shredders such as Motley Crüe, Judas Priest, Megadeth, Lita Ford, Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, and Pantera, along with somewhat less old school acts like Wolfmother, Linkin Park, Korn, The Killers, Jet, System of a Down, Blink 182, and many more. There are a few repeats from other recent rhythm game titles, but it’s a pretty sexy line-up overall. All the songs in the game will be covers. This isn’t necessarily a negative, since some bands are likely to nail tunes even better than the original artists. However, it’s not likely to sit so well with Rock Band and Guitar Hero fans who’ve become accustomed to heaping spoonfuls of master recordings.
Music creation is an important new component of the upcoming generation of console rhythm games, and Rock Revolution will also feature a mode that allows players to create their own tracks to play in the game, in addition to a free play option that encourages noodling. Other kinds of special gameplay challenges will also be added like memorizing a selection and having a limited number of times to play it through. Additionally, downloadable content and co-op and multiplayer matches are expected to extend the set list.
Will Rock Revolution bring enough ruckus to give Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour a run for their money? It’s hard to say. The proof will be in the pudding when the game launches alongside the next wave of rock-centric rhythm titles this fall.