Fantastic Music Game, Fantastic Party Game
Rock Band is a very fun game, and brilliant in some ways, but it takes a while to realize this brilliance. Obviously the game owes much to Guitar Hero (published by Red Octane and designed by Harmonix) and its sequels, which are developed by Neversoft. It’s no surprise then that Harmonix, the developers of Rock Band, are in direct competition with Neversoft's Guitar Hero 3. You shouldn’t tar Rock Band with the Guitar Hero brush though; this game has a completely different feel.
Instead of one or two guitars, Rock band consists of a guitar, a microphone, and an electric drum set. There is a second guitar that will be released independently of the main bundle, so that a bassist can join in with the lead guitar, but it isn’t out in stores yet. So, the idea is, you and two friends take your pick from old and new rock songs, and blast away.
At first, you’ll just be trying out new songs, having fun and laughing at the bad singing or playing of your friends. The meat and potatoes of the game is the Band World Tour mode, where you and your friends form a band, create rockers, and take your show on the road. This is the best part of the game, playing different venues, earning fans and stars (which unlock new venues), city clothing (Chicago shirts all the way), and money to buy new clothes, instruments, tattoos, glasses, hairdos, rings and a lot of other stuff. You can even make and customize your own banner, motto and hometown. When you’re all done, the band will really feel like yours.
Now you have a seasoned band, you’re working your way toward buying a private jet, and things are going good. Maybe you’re playing Bon Jovi’s hilarious and awesome “Dead or Alive,” and your band is doing really well. The crowd starts singing along, everyone is busting solos, and then your singer does a stage dive. This spectacle, performed in real-time behind the faint outlines of your frets onscreen, is what Rock band is all about. The feeling of the crowd actually singing with you, the intense music video camera angles on the instruments, the occasional in unison jump or swoon, it’s all good. Once you ace your first big number and get this kind of reaction, you’ll forget all about Guitar Hero.
While the multiplayer experience of Rock band is unparalleled, its single player experience is sadly lacking. You can’t even have a single person band and go on tour. All you can do is play individual venues for cash. There’s no world map, no tour buses, no real fun. The same goes for just playing the game by yourself. It is kind of fun to master songs and instruments, but that experience pales when compared to the feeling of rocking out and having a great time with your friends.
Admittedly, the difficulty of Rock band is not as high as Guitar Hero. Guitar Hero provides much more of a challenge for one or two people not looking for that party experience. But honestly, difficulty only matters when you are trying to prove your awesome skills against an insanely fast-moving set of notes. Also, right now, to get the initial bundle you have to drop around 170$. That isn’t counting the standalone guitar that you had better be buying when it comes out.
The Bottom Line
Rock Band is the great rhythm game of 2007, and if I had to place my bets, of the next year or two as well. It is absolutely one of the best party games I have played in a long time, and I could see it unseating Double Dash, Smash Bros or other party classics in that area. It may not be a fantastic single player game, but it doesn’t need to be. Also, the fact that tens of downloadable songs are now available on Xbox Live and PSN increases the fun factor of this game by a lot. The fact that rocking songs like Wonderwall, The Joker and the Thief, and Buddy Holly are part of this DLC just sweetens the deal. If you have the means, I highly recommend Rock band.