Rock Band for Xbox 360
Reviewed by XBox Games at TestFreaks
Score: 10 out of 10
Don't let anyone fool you - being in a band is a rough gig. Well, maybe not if you're a huge, mammoth, sun-eclipsing rock star, but really - how many new bands actually achieve that status every year? Not to mention how many drop from the spotlight, burn out, fade away or knell over. The majority of bands aren't enjoying a lavish life of luxury and debauchery' they are spending whatever free time they can find writing songs, practicing songs, finding gigs, recording demos and kissing assess while attempting to keep sanity and peace within the band. But those moments when the heavens shed light in your favor render all the pain, sweat and tears meaningless, as an amazing, life-altering moment sweeps over you.
Now, what if it was possible to trim off all the negatives and work that goes into being a band and only taste the achievement and success of the positives? That is what EA and Harmonix have set out to do with their new game, Rock Band. Utilizing four instrument controllers - two guitars, a drum set and a microphone - and the five note hitting gameplay frenzy of Guitar Hero, Rock Band asks up to four players to take on the persona of a digital rock star in the making and bring the proverbial house down through a hefty injection of good old-fashioned rocking. The supreme focus on the multiplayer band experience makes this less of a game and more like karaoke taken to a new extreme, rather than an upgrade over the groundwork laid by Activision's insane solo-hitting, high-score-emphasizing, guitar-shredding game series - and it's all the more captivating because of it. Rock Band isn't going to change the rhythm gaming world with its gameplay, but there is currently no other product on the market that can rival the euphoric highs and flat out enjoyment it provides to gamers looking to exorcise their musical demons.
In a nutshell, Rock Band can be looked at as the logical next step for the Guitar Hero series that Harmonix pioneered. The gameplay still revolves around matching the simultaneous pressing of colored fret buttons and the strumming of a strum bar in time with the colored notes flowing down the screen to existing rock songs of varying stages of notability. The game still judges you based on the same qualifiers of score, stars, missed notes and combos, as well as a special player-activated power to aid in improving your rankings. There is still a store for purchasing alternate outfits, instruments and songs - any player with Guitar Hero experience will immediately feel at home.
Consequently, the only major difference to the uninitiated between the two is Rock Band's multi-instrument feature, which introduces two new roles to the rock rhythm game fold - drummer and singer. Each of these takes advantage of newly developed accessories, both of which have been superbly designed and crafted. The drum set is sturdy piece of equipment, consisting of four color-coded 'drums' in a row with a foot pedal beneath, which is a cinch to build up and take down in a minute or so. Though it uses the same on-screen note matching, there is little similarity between what is played on the drums and that of the other instruments. When Harmonix said they were developing a drum game that was as close to playing drums as it could be, they weren't kidding! As the difficulty is raised, the more notes are included and the closer you get to playing the real and complete beats - including the bass drum, which is a hell of a thing to learn if you aren't versed in foot-to-hand multitasking. This is without doubt the hardest of the instruments to pick up and play with little real world experience, but with a well-adjusted learning curve, even mastering the easy mode is rewarding.
Unlike the drums, the microphone isn't any fancier than what has been included in other singing-related games, but it handles the task handed to it without a hitch - not to mention its long cord for the roaming singer! The gameplay for singing is based around your ability to hit the same note that the original singer hits, as the words and pitch lines scroll across the top of the screen. It doesn't award you points based on using the correct lyrics, which means that improvisation is possible and wholly recommended by this reviewer! Though making up your own words may not sit well with your band mates, who might find annoyance in your version or start laughing and mess up their parts, if you have no fear of making an ass out of yourself (in the case of those lacking rock pipes) or actually possess vocal talent then there is a plethora of potential to be had with Rock Band, even if you aren't familiar with all the songs.
These two elements compliment the Rock Band guitar, which is a more realistic take on the guitar controller, with a quiet strum bar, effect switch, fake tuning keys and two sets of fret buttons that are actually frets instead of buttons set on top of frets. Though I may be in the minority here, I prefer these new guitars to RedOctane's, simply because the fret buttons are more comfortable to my fingers and playing style - but honestly, the differences are minor, and if Harmonix and Activision can come to some sort of agreement then the choice could be yours to make.
After the initial shock of new positions wears off, the more subtle differences begin to arise. Depending on the song, there are solo portions for the guitars that change the design of the on-screen fret board and a solo counter pops up; complete the solo with a 100% rating to rack up extra points (don't worry, you'll still get some extra points if you miss some notes). During these parts, the guitar can use the second set of fret buttons higher up on the fretboard and play any solo part without strumming. Yes, I didn't write that wrong - without strumming. This might be sacrilegious to the most devote and talented digital guitarist, but I for one absolutely love it; I really felt like I was a badass guitarist, bursting with solo skills as I finger-tapped my way to rock stardom. Love it! Read more..