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Rock Band 2 Review

October 13, 2008

Introduction

Unless you have been living under a rock, secluding yourself from the world, you may have noticed that a series of rhythm based games have been taking over the globe. The craze all started with Dance Dance Revolution and the arcade has had many guitar, drum, and finger tapping goodness. But in our modern times our good ol home entertainment systems provided us with the guitar hero series. Harmonix who had their mark on the series dropped it after the second game and handed over Guitar Hero 3 over to Neversoft, the guys who gave you the Tony Hawk video game series. But they didn’t do this for no reason, they figured players wanted more than just the guitar to play with and they made Rock Band which included drums, microphone, guitar, and bass. In less than one year Rock Band 2 came out with slightly improved instruments and a whole array of songs. Now it is unfortunate that I had not gotten to play Rock Band one so I will mostly be comparing this to Guitar Hero 3.

Songs

Now one of the most important parts of Rock Band 2 is having a good list of songs. Who would want to buy it if the game had horrible songs? The game comes with 84 songs, which are all master recordings. This is important as guitar hero 2 had only about half of its songs master recorded. What makes this important is that you get to listen to quality stuff, the original recordings and nothing that’s bootleg. Now the types of music this game has compared to guitar hero 3 is noticeably different. Rock Band 2 has more indie and alternative rock, where you can hear songs such as Cool for Cats, Nine in the Afternoon, and a Jagged Gorgeous Winter. But you’ll find a very nice array of metal and classic rock. You also have an immense download list for Rock Band 2, unlike Guitar hero 3. Right now Rock Band 1 songs are compatible with the second game so there are over 280 songs for download. In the fall there will also be 20 free songs up for download, whereas right now you have 3, Still Alive from Portal, a Steven Colbert song, and a song from the movie The Rocker. Every week more new songs are up for download so you know the company is working hard to keep you entertained. Perhaps the reason why this is possible is because they are sponsored by MTV Studios where as previously they had Red Octane. You also get to see how hard a song is, on top of how hard it is to play which instrument from a 1-6 rating.

Gameplay

The gameplay is not meant to be as painful as it was in guitar hero 3. In guitar hero, a majority of songs try to give you as many notes as they possibly can, most of which isn’t even in the song but is there just to mess with you. This is what people call over charting, but the Rock Band series does not do this. Not only do they try to keep it a bit more realistic so sometimes you’re stuck strumming the same couple of notes over and over again. But there isn’t much over charting so you play what you hear from the song. It also helps that if you play with three other people the difficulty is still what I described so that you can play and have fun and not constantly lose. Over charting is describing the difficulty expert mode. But if you’re not advanced in the rhythm based game genre, then you will feel at ease with easy mode. Most people actually find that to be too easy once they get a hang of it, but it’s a great place to start. You eventually make your way to medium mode, and if you ever dare hard and expert mode are there for experienced players. I will explain what the difference is with each instrument later.

But let’s say you’re afraid you’re going to mess up when playing with others. Have no fear there is a lot of cooperative work in this game. If you fail by playing poorly, which is done according to a meter, where green is (good), to orange (ok), to red (bad), then your friend can save with over drive. Over drive is obtained by playing glowing white notes. If you fill your over drive meter half way you can use it. This can be used to save people or most importantly to increase your score. Not only should you try to pass a song without dyeing but the ultimate goal is to first complete the song with 5 out of 5 stars. Secondly if you really have no life you can 100% complete the song to make the 5 stars gold. The over drive helps you get stars because it multiplies your score by 2. The higher the score the more stars you get, and the more notes you hit without missing any, the higher your multiplier gets to a maximum of 4, which means with over drive you get a maximum of 8. (Different for bass which gives you 6 for not missing any notes.) This is done differently when you’re playing with others because you share you score. So instead of increasing your multiplier the first player who activates over drives gives times 2 to everyone, the second player with times 4, till everyone uses over drive then everyone is getting times 8.

Story

There really is no story compared to the mini cut scenes you get from guitar hero 3. But you can either play using quick play, which is just any song/songs you want or Tour mode. In tour mode one person makes a band and everyone else playing with you is a member of it. You go around playing gigs in places earning money and fans. With money you can buy clothes, accessories, and instruments. The fans get you more money and help you unlock more places and publicists. The publicists help you in various ways whether it is getting more money, fans, or other useless things. A majority of tour mode is either playing single songs or mostly playing set lists, which is usually a pre determined number of songs you must complete. Other times you get mystery set lists, which is just randomized. Then when you play a gig you randomly get sponsor offer, which you can accept or decline. Accepting either gets you money or fans, or makes you lose money or fans. You do this by completing what is asked such as getting 3 or 4 stars or not using any over drive. But there is one arch you follow that basically brings your band to ultimate fandom little by little. If you follow this arch that is how you beat the game and once you do you get The Endless Set list 2, where you play all 84 songs in a row. Once you’re done you probably haven’t beat every challenge so you can go beat and unlock every other list given to you. The more stars you get the more places you unlock.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics in this game are pretty well done, especially since a majority of the time you’re just looking at notes scrolling down a screen. Even then you get a really cool effect when you hit the note, where it shatters into a bunch of pieces. But in the background it still gives the others something to look at and a lot of special effects and camera movements are done to give a cool concert feel. Also in ever loading screen there are these neat little still pictures of your band and/or band name displayed in different art forms. One picture is one of your band members in the back seat of a police car while another is the whole band on a CD labeled “The best of the (insert your band name here). Speaking of these characters there is some nice customization you can do with your character. The standard choice between faces, hair, height, and weight are there. But there is countless number of clothing for both female and male that really distinguishes the way you look. I already mentioned all of songs in the game and also that they are all master worked. This makes them sound very good over the television screen and when you play really loudly it makes the experience all the more better. When you miss a note, the instrument your playing decreases almost completely in audio until you start hitting the notes again, unlike in guitar hero 3 where it would make a high pitched distortion sound.

Guitar/Bass

The Rock Band 2 guitar, which acts just like bass is very nice. It takes a while to get used to if your used to playing the older models but overall it works great. The buttons are completely rectangular with no extra space around them. There is a head that you attach to the neck, which can be changed. The shoulder strap can be moved to either side of the guitar. The whammy bar is extra long and there is a little switch added to change the way your solos or overdrive sound from wha-wha, to distortion, echo, and flanger. There is also an extra set of buttons ranging from green to orange located towards the bottom of the neck. These are packed in a lot more tightly and can be used during solos, where as you tap the buttons and do not need to strum. The difficulty was toned down for the guitar but a lot of the hard songs can still throw in some sick solos. The bass isn’t as boring as it is to play in Guitar Hero 3, some songs even make bass harder to play then the guitar. But all in all it’s still easy so people tend to play this, one difficulty notch higher then what they play on guitar. Oh and on a sidenote this can be bought wireless and now uses 3 AAA batteries. (Cost: around $70)

Drums

Now if you want a real challenge you most definitely should be playing the drums. Many of the guitar players who can play on expert have moved onto this instrument. You get 4 colored pads from red to green and foot petal, used for a long orange notes. The pads are touch-sensitive so if you hit it harder, then the sound is louder. The petal is made of metal and a lot stronger than the one from Rock Band 1 set. It comes with two drum sticks a place on the drum set to hold them. It is also wireless, using 3 AAA batteries. If you can’t keep a rhythm going then the drums are not for you. A lot of the time you spend a certain pattern of notes going which can be done with your eyes closed. The drums are a lot more realistic, if you can play them in real life then you can pick this up very easily unlike the guitar. One flaw that this seems to have, that my friend who can play’s on expert mode told me the drums had, was that if you hit the pads too hard then it might accidentally count as two hits. This doesn’t really affect you negatively but if you’re going for 100% then that will surly bring you to your demise. (Cost: around $80-$90)

Microphone

There doesn’t seem to be anything special about the microphone. Even the company doesn’t seem to think so because when I went out looking for one, they didn’t exist. I looked in many stores and nothing was there, I couldn’t even find a Rock Band 1 mic. So I asked around and I soon realized the microphone only comes in the bundle, which includes the guitar, drums, and game. That would have been fine and dandy except when this game came out the bundle did not exist. So I went online and ordered a mic from Logitech. It works flawlessly, it gets hooked up with USB and in fact any mic can probably work, even one for the computer. On top of that you can use your xbox live headset but that is not as accurate and much louder and not as smooth. With the mic you play the game like you sing karaoke; the words scroll along the bottom but there’s also a green line that you have to stick on with an arrow. The higher pitch moves the arrow up and the lower pitch moves it down. Have the arrow go through every green line, which are words of the song and you get a rating after every segment of how well you did. The mic is really used just for the fun of karaoke because you can hum the entire song without a word and still 100% it, as long as you have the right pitch. Some segments, such as rap don’t require a pitch at all. You can tap on the mic and 100% the song. Also you get either tambourine or cow bell during some parts of the song with no lyrics. This is boring but it keeps you occupied where you tap the mic when black dots scroll past. You will have a lot of fun singing but if you don’t know how a song goes, then your best off staying on a lower difficulty setting. (Cost: around 30)

Total Cost

Including the game, mic, guitar, and drums I spent over $300. The bundle would have been a lot more affordable but that was not out at the time of the games release. This is a big setback but the good news is older guitars that you might have from Guitar hero works fine as do every instrument from Rock Band 1.

Xbox Live

This game also has an xbox live section where aside from buying songs online you can play with other people in tour mode. You can either wait and find other players in your tour that you created or join someone else’s game. So far I have not had much problem with this except for players that quit during the middle of the song. This can be very annoying and there should be a penalty for doing this. Although I must be honest and say I haven’t had much time on xbox live, since I mostly play with my friends here, the time I did have on it was smooth. There were a couple of lagging points but nothing to horrible. You also might not have as much fun when there is no one in the band with a mic talking. It seems a lot more dull then it should be and I’m also disappointed I don’t hear the singer loudly through the television, because hearing people sing across the globe would be hilarious.

Conclusion

If you have a bunch of friends that you regularly can hang out with I recommend this game to everyone. Try to get everyone to chip in and buy it, use your old instruments if you have them, and if not buy the bundle and not everything separately. This will cost you but if you have the money and the friends then you will have some really good times. You can also play everything by yourself but it’s just not the same.

Great

Great

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