Game Review: Rock Band

Originally posted on December 4 2008

In the tradition of single instrument console games (Singstar, Guitar Hero), Rock Band has similar mechanics but expands the genre.  Although it has been available world wide for several years, it has only been available in Australia for the past few weeks

As well as the single player mode, where one strives to complete solo playing at different difficulties, and the dual player vs player mode, Rock Band adds a new layer of gameplay by allowing players to create a band together and go ‘on tour’.

We had a get together last weekend with six of us in attendance.  In the band there was a singer, a drummer, and two guitars (lead and bass), and so we had players swap in and out throughout the evening.  N decided to name our band The Unknowable Self, and then we created our characters – one per instrument.  Nemo was the lead guitarist, moniikeh was the bassist, Gina G the singer and something unpronouncable (but allegedly from a japanese anime) as the drummer.  The characters where costumed as appropriately as we could afford on the allocated budget, and then we set off ‘on tour’.

This collaborative mode awards the usual rating out of 5 stars for a performance, but also awards the band fans for each performance (calculated by some arcane formula that no doubt take into account the difficulty level of each player and possibly the current celestial alignment of the heavens).  A minimum number of fans is required to open up new venues, as well as the right to compete for a van or tour bus.  Once transport is available it is possible to travel to other states (in the US) and other countries (in Europe).  Roadies also become available, and the characters get money for each gig to get additional costumes, better instruments etc.

We had a fabulous time, starting at 4pm and the last stayers leaving at 2am.  Players switched between instruments, we downloaded more songs from the xbox site, we had huge amounts of fun creating vile costume combinations for the characters, and a lot of laughs all round as we tried difficulty levels beyond our capability (the record for the drum part for ‘Blackened’ on expert was 12 seconds).

One of the players preferred to be in free play mode, rather than on tour, because she felt there was less pressure and we could also choose to play whatever we wanted.  But most of us liked the additional challenges of the tour mode, including being forced to play songs we wouldn’t have chosen – often in langagues we didn’t know (french & german).

Drums is definitely the hardest instrument to play – both hands plus the foot pedal.  The guitars are easiest to play if you don’t know the music in question.  Singing is most difficult if the song is unknown, because you can’t focus on words and the melody at the same time.

all in all, it is a double thumbs up.  A great game (although Guitar Hero 2 has a better basic song list), and lots of replayability.

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