Okay, if you read my last article comparing Rock Band to Guitar Hero 3, you might have gotten the impression that I don’t like Rock Band, which is just not true. With excellent effects, a pretty decent, albeit short, song list, and an intriguing multiplayer aspect (One of the best I’ve ever played), Rock Band offers a totally different experience than anything you’ve ever played before. And now that I’ve played them both extensively, I’ve come to the conclusion that both can share equal space of the playing field now that I’ve noticed their massive differences and sifted out their glaring similarities.
The main difference between the two is that though Guitar Hero can be played alone – and often times, should be played alone to nail those expert solos – Rock Band cannot. And by that, I mean that it can, but really shouldn’t, as playing it that way will only depress you with your $170 dollar purchase. Especially if you like to slap the bass, as there’s no single career mode for that instrument for some reason.
Also, another opinion that doesn’t change from my last preview is how much I hate the guitar for it. Anyone who has ever touched the Guitar Hero plastic ax will not want to go back, as Rock Band’s controller feels way inferior in comparison. Most of the time, the buttons feel loose and light and don’t offer the kickback you expect from your frets. Also, the extra five buttons don’t add much to the experience and feel like a waste to remove your fingers from the top five by the head when you really don’t have to.
Okay, phew, now that that’s out the way, I can finally get to praising the game for what it is: an awesome experience that might change the way you look at playing a video game in the same room with your friends forever. What Rock Band offers is a visceral experience that screams pizza, beer, and hours of good times, as no other game offers the kind of camaraderie you’d get from playing fake plastic instruments as Rock Band does.
First, I’ll talk about the microphone, as that’s my personal favorite aspect of the game. More than just a ripoff of Karaoke Revolution or Get On Da Mic, Rock Band actually offers you songs you probably like and let’s you be as horrible as you want as long as you nail that always swerving pitch meter. The aspect of singing in Rock Band is simple—find somebody in your faux band (Mine’s called The Foot Clan) who doesn’t mind sounding like a fool in front of everybody else and have them nail the words on screen, and that’s it. It could have been a lot more complicated if I didn’t know just about all of the 45 songs (More on that later), but since I had a pretty good idea of the melody of the tunes, I didn’t have much of a hard time nailing those Geddy Lee, “Tom Sawyer” notes.
But I’m sure most people could care less about the microphone (I was the only one who had the brass balls to pick it up in my band), and you’re probably more concerned about the other new rock rhythm game feature—the drums. For those of you out there who only want to play this game for that feature, I have some good news for you if you’ve got tempo, and bad news if you don’t. The drums are just plain hard for a beat retarded galoot like me who couldn’t keep rhythm if my life depended on it (Which is strange since I play the bass in real life). That being said, it’s absolutely awesome if you have the awe-inspiring ability to hit the pedal and snare at the same time, which I don’t.
Unlike the guitar or the microphone, the drums take real skill, and are best saved for people who can actually hold the drum sticks properly and still play at the same time, which I found I can’t as I constantly kept hitting the plastic surrounding the drum on more than one occasion. I also had a hard time playing it on medium, which just proves I’m not the kind of person you’d hire as drummer if you were forming an actual band.
Still, my friend absolutely loved it and had a great time pounding the skins and hitting into overdrive, which is similar to star power in Guitar Hero but much more integral to this game. As stated earlier, this is a true party game meant to be played with other people, and if one of your band mates happens to fail at a certain point in the song, overdrive, (which can be triggered when guitar players tilt their instruments upwards, or when drummers get into the free drum section), can save them.
In fact, if a member of your band isn’t saved, the crowd starts booing you, which introduces yet another element of Rock Band I absolutely adore: the presentation. And while Guitar Hero has about as much presentation as a 70 year old man wearing a diaper introducing The Starland Vocal Band, Rock Band has it by the butt loads. With its Band World Tour mode, you actually acquire more fans the bigger the venue you play at. And with more fans, that means your status increases immensely if you play well enough – fans will even sing along to your songs if you’re a hard enough rocker! Also unlike Guitar Hero’s meta-gameplay, which never really detaches you from your Les Paul, more than once I forgot I was standing in my friend’s stinky room with Rock Band and actually thought I was on a huge stage headlining for some bigger, better band than The Foot Clan. The presentation is really that astonishing.
Too bad the song list isn’t. At a meager 45 songs (plus a few bonus tracks), I must have played “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” by the Clash five times in one hour. And I hate that song! Word on the street is that you’ll be able to download whole albums in the future (And Yes’s Going for the One better be one of them!), but as of right now, the replay value of this game is startlingly low with the lame set lists available. So besides the crummy guitar, lack of a career mode for bass, and the fact that few are going to opt to take on the vocals, this is my major complaint with the game. And for a game in the music genre, that’s a biggie.
Complaints aside though, Rock Band is a great game that will undoubtedly get lauded and possibly be up for game of the year by the time those votes start rolling in. I’m going to give this a clear and easy four stars just to be safe. Add a half a star if you actually have friends to play with – you can play online with others, too, just not in career mode – and subtract a star if you don’t. Solo career mode blows. This is the kind of game that brings friends back together again.