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XBox: Rock Band

Reviewed by: Clarence Lum

Nov 20 2007
Publisher: MTV Games
Developer: Harmoix

From the developers of Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution comes their next generation of music games: Rock Band. This is the ultimate in rhythm games. Out of the box you have a microphone, a drum kit and a pretty little Fender guitar to start a band with. Now find 2 friends and you’ve got a great start towards stardom. Rock Band is compatible with the older Guitar Hero guitars so if you find an additional friend you can be out rocking with a full four piece band. Those of you with PS3’s are unfortunately out of luck as the GH3 guitars don’t work and EA has no plans of selling individual peripherals until early next year.

Rock Band is pretty much a combination of all the Harmonix technologies with the addition of a new instrument; vocals from Karaoke Revolution, guitar and bass from Guitar Hero. As great as that sounds by itself the drums are key to the new combination. A new track scrolls down the center with four columns of dots represent the drum pads and a yellow line spanning the four columns represents the kick drum. Of all the instruments, the drums and vocals do the most to replicate the real motions of drumming and singing. Like the real drums, they are loud and require lots of practice to get down. If you have ever drummed in real life, the drums are easy to pick up and play. Most of the time, the quality of the song list determines the reviews and acceptance of a rhythm game. People have to have songs they like to hear over and over to enjoy playing a game such as Rock Band. In this vein Harmonix began to move away from the set lists of the more guitar-centric Guitar Hero and chose songs which were more playable in a group. Songs like “Jordan” or “Through the Fire and Flames” with mainly insane guitar are set aside for songs like Metallica’s “Blackened” and The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. Like Guitar Hero 3, a majority of Rock Band’s songs are original master recordings from the artist. Fans of Guitar Hero will be a slight bit disappointed as the note charts on guitar and bass tend to be much less difficult and feel like the games simplified. However, this is only the case for the easy and middle tier songs. Downloadables and songs like “Green Grass in the High Tides” will provide a decent challenge for all but the most veteran Guitar Hero players.

Visually, even though the game itself has no need to use the large amounts of horsepower provided by the current generation of consoles Rock Band’s graphics are quite pretty. The game allows users to customize their own band members and dress them with a large assortment of clothes and band gear. The procedural playing animations are better than ever with guitarists, drummers and vocalists playing the real song on their polygonal instruments as you play along on your plastic ones. You can actually watch your customized guitarist play the actual solo from “Tom Sawyer” as you press your colored buttons.

Rock Band adds depth by providing individual career modes for each of the three instruments (there is no bass career) where you play through all the songs that come in the game for a career score, a combination of your best scores regardless of difficulty. The real depth though comes in their band world tour. If you have more than one player, you can start a band and play through a band career mode where you have cities with venues and you can play sets of songs provided in the venue to earn a band career score. All of which is posted over the Rock Band community so you can see how you are doing with every other band in the world. In the case you don’t happen to have a full band in your home to play but still want to play with other real living people, Rock Band even provides an online mode where you can play single songs over Xbox Live or the Playstation Network.

All in all, Rock Band is a very entertaining single player game and with four players a great party game. Nothing beats making fun of friends for being terrible singers or drummers and is highly addictive regardless of skill level. Paired with a very pop rock song list with major artists all over the rock spectrum, Rock Band is a deep lengthy game with ton of casual and competitive replayablity.

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