Rock Band

Moby ID: 32021
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Rock Band, by the original developers behind the Guitar Hero games, takes the concept a step further. Instead of solely playing the guitar along with songs, this game allows players to start a full virtual band with up to four players, with different sequences for each of the three supported peripherals: guitar (electric and bass), drum and microphone. Gameplay is based on hitting scrolling notes on the screen in time (scrolling vertically for drum and guitar), and getting the right pitch for the vocals (scrolling horizontally at the top of the screen, along with the lyrics).

The game offers a Solo Tour Mode for a single player or a Band World Tour (as well as Quick Play) for two to four players. By doing well players earn cash to customize the characters in the Rock Shop, with tattoos, face paint, clothing and logos. Customized characters are automatically locked to an instrument. Other customizations include movements on stage, instruments, and the general physique and appearance in the game. To succeed, players need to reach a set score through their combined performances. Multipliers for playing perfectly are tracked for the individual instruments and there can also be separate difficulty levels. The Star Power from the Guitar Hero series has been replaced by Overdrive, a meter filled by not making any mistakes in certain sections of a song. In band play using Overdrive also increases the band's score multiplier.

Players who fail during the song are locked out and the audio mix takes over. Other band members can revive the player by using their Overdrive. Failed players will however drag down the band's overall performance, so it becomes important to bring back band members. Next to the Overdrive sections, there are also Union Phrases (score bonus and extra Overdrive) and sometimes Big Rock Endings at the end of a song where another bonus can be gained.

In the Tour Mode players visit 41 venues in seventeen different cities. After the initial venues, others need a certain numbers of fans to be unlocked and certain continents only become available when tour buses or private jets are acquired. Not every venue comes with a set list of tracks. They consists of single tracks, multiple tracks, custom setlists or mystery setlists. Performing poorly can also have the band lose fans. Extra competition is included to attract managers, roadies and deals with record labels.

Next to the main modes there is also a versus mode for the individual instruments (Tug of War), Score Duel (get the most points) and a Tutorial mode. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions feature multiplayer games with new songs through downloadable content.

The European version is not sold as a single package. Instead, there is an instruments package and the game is sold separately, for a much higher price than the original US release.

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Critics

Average score: 91% (based on 102 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 46 ratings with 2 reviews)

Fantastic Music Game, Fantastic Party Game

The Good
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.

The Bad
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.

PlayStation 3 · by Tom Cross (28) · 2008

The Best Party Game on the Market

The Good
“Wait a minute, we’ve been doing this for six hours? This game is rad.” That was to be the cry of rockers across the country last week as they gathered around their Xbox 360’s and proceeded to melt face. The newly released Harmonix project seemingly throws the gauntlet down in the direction of every other music title, ever. The gap between Rock Band and other music titles is easy to define: solo vs. group. All gameplay is directed towards teamwork, and while individual rockers must ensure to nail their own performance, it’s the collaboration that tallies the big points.

In the thread of teamwork you have Overdrive. Overdrive is similar to the Star Power of the past, with one huge added benefit: resurrection. Did your drummer just die in a bizarre gardening accident? (Bonus points if you know that reference, rockers.) No problem, have your guitarist pop an Overdrive and your drummer is brought back into the mix to bang it up again, up to three times. The group aspect of Rock Band truly is a driving force. I, for one, had huge high-five sessions after executing a 4-way 98-100% performance of Sabotage, in front of a pumped up crowd.

Reports of a sub-par solo campaign are unfounded. True, it will never be as fun as rocking teams of adoring fans and groupies with your buds, but it is still incredible fun. More importantly, it’s the perfect way to brush up on your skills for your next group gig in the Band World Tour – the most jaw dropping aspect of the game. With a minimum of two players locally (to be amended, hopefully, via a downloadable patch for online co-op in the future), rockers can create and customize their own avatars. The custom tattoo and face paint options allow for a truly original character. Once players have a cast for the band, they are able to travel the world and play at an amazing amount (over 40) of venues.

The Band World Tour campaign plays out amazingly, throwing you challenges such as charity or corporate events that impact the amount of fans and money you receive from gigs. While rocking in Amsterdam, London, or New York (and every other location), rockers are privileged to bask in the glory of the best visual representation Harmonix has presented to date. Each member of the band plays their instruments surprisingly precisely and the lip-syncing has been improved vastly from GHIII, as has the cartoonish look of the characters. Is your band melting plastic and rockin’ out as hard as possible? The crowd will scream and sing along with the song. Are you fumbling through your lines and solos? The audience will definitely let your band know that, quite obviously, they suck.

There are a few ways to enjoy Rock Band online, as well. Bands can be formed via online services for a standard quickplay mode that allows the band to play any song in their repertoire. A second option is Score Duel, a head-to-head instrument battle, requiring two players to battle for the highest score possible on the same song. The third online choice is Tug of War, which will probably sit as the most played alternative until Band World Tour hits online. Tug of War pits two players against each other with the same instrument, playing separate parts of a song. The better a rocker plays, the more the crowd favors him or her. Having a drum battle on “Wave of Mutilation” with your best bud will surely inspire competition.

Online play is smooth, and like Guitar Hero III, latency is usually not an issue. There have been reports, however, of parties inexplicably removing members after rounds of quickplay, though instances seem to be rare.

Now to discuss the instruments:

What’s that? Oh, not much, just slappin’ some bass. If you were tasked to list ten world-renowned bassists, could you do it? How far would you get into the list? Flea, Lemmy, Gene Simmons, Geddy Lee, the bald guy with the wicked goatee from System of a Down, Nikki Sixx, and Les Claypool… that’s as many as I can pull without research. Much like in the real rock world, bassists in Rock Band do not have the most glamorous job. It’s also probably the easiest of all Rock Band instruments. There just isn’t much room for the bass to shine, honestly. Tracks by the Beastie Boys and The Who pop a spotlight on the bassist for a while, but otherwise your bassist will be playing smaller versions of guitar parts, keeping the rhythm of the song for you and reviving members. Bassists are the band’s glue, though, so treat them right.

If you’ve got a new rocker or two vying for a roster spot in your band, the bass guitar is the perfect way to acclimate them into the fold of the game.

Tone Deaf? Psh, your face is tone deaf. In Rock Band, the role of lead singer is usually filled by whoever amongst your friends has the most amount of self-esteem. Most of us in the world do not have angelic voices, and the microphone system of Rock Band recognizes this. Singers do not have to have fantastic voices, reach high octaves, or even wear insanely tight spandex pants. As long as the singer is able to match the displayed pitch scale, they’ll be doing fine.

Lead singers in Rock Band are slightly removed from the group aspect, as their scores and multipliers do not affect the team and they are never part of the big endings of songs. This doesn’t detract from their efforts, however. I can say, from experience, that if you’ve got a singer that’s rocking his heart out, hitting the talking parts (“Shama-lama-ding dong!”), and making a show of themselves, all involved have much more fun. If you’ve elected a lead singer that mumbles, blushes, and gets flustered at the thought of embarrassment, kick them to the curb and fashion yourself some sort of microphone helmet out of a construction hat and duct tape. Suddenly you’re multi-talented.

Shreddin’ some face via Fender Stratocaster. Modified only slightly from the Harmonix original gameplay style, most rockers will be familiar with the workings of the Rock Band guitar. The note charts are great and allow for an exciting song – for the most part. For gamers that were playing Guitar Hero III (GHIII) on expert last week, you’ll notice Rock Band is a step below your skill level, as mentioned previously. This isn’t entirely a bad thing, though, as it allows newcomers and those less Eddie Van Halen-like to step up and feel good about their shredding skills.

There are between one and four solos in each song, allowing your guitarist a chance to prove he or she has the “stuff” and it brings an added amount of fun to the game. The new guitar, a Fender Stratocaster model, has five frets at the top of the beck, and five at the base for solos. The feel of the guitar is decent, albeit slightly fragile and hair-trigger. The Fender will take a few runs of Wanted Dead or Alive to get the hang of, but only because most rockers are accustomed to the perfected Les Paul from GHIII. Also, the Fender is equipped with a fun effects switch for eardrum-blasting solos.

Not all drummers are party-animals – just most. Wonderful to see, the drum kit for Rock Band is sturdy and well built, with a base of metal tubes and stable plastic. Without question, the drums are the most fun instrument of the game, possibly because it’s something new, and possibly because it’s the most realistic attribute of the game. There are songs specifically designed for drummers, like “Tom Sawyer” and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” that are flat-out fun. The drum section is also the most difficult of all the four parts, calling upon every ounce of rhythm the rocker possesses.

It’s tough to describe the amount of enjoyment the drum kit brings to the table – suffice to say, it’s a lot.

Rock Band is – simply put – fantastic. Forget Monopoly, Pictionary, and Hearts: Rock Band is the new party game and will continue to be for quite a long time. Despite the length of this review, it’s only a fraction of what could be said of Rock Band.

The Bad
No game can be without its flaws, however; and Rock Band is no exception to the rule. They are few and far between, though, and rather than put much emphasis on them, a quick list will suffice:

• Singers will feel slightly isolated from the band, due to the lack of interaction in combos and big finishes. • Experienced virtual guitarists will find the difficulty much too low, even on expert. • Lack of a cowbell built into the drum kit for “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” use.

Not bad, eh? There is one significant flaw that will cause angst among rockers the world over: repetition.

There are 45 tracks built into Rock Band, and that proves to be an issue during Band World Tour, as rockers will play three times that in set lists, at least. Sure, Weezer is fantastic and a great band to rock out to… for the first seven times. There is a remedy, though! Downloadable Content, as you can create your own set lists at each of your gigs. Rock Band DLC has been discussed enough over here at Loading Reality, so details can be found all over the blog.

The Bottom Line
Presentation: Gorgeous graphics and a fantastic animation system show themselves off as you watch your band rock the world, from city to city. The way characters interact while playing is top notch, and brings an element unseen in other party games.

Gameplay: Slight downfalls like the guitar difficulty and repetitive nature of the Band World Tour are outweighed by the sheer enjoyment of beating the hell out of the drums and screaming Foo Fighters’ songs at the top of your lungs.

Graphics/Sound: Tattoos and face painting add a close to infinite amount of character customization options to an already remarkable visual experience. The majority of the song tracks are top quality, with only a few faltering slightly. Nothing, however, is as good as the crowd singing along with your band.

Value Factor: Though expensive, it’s a party game with an inspired listing of downloadable content. Enough said.

Bottom Line: Buy the game right now. No, not after work. No, not next week. Buy it now.

Xbox 360 · by Brandon Tabbert (17) · 2008

Trivia

1001 Video Games

Rock Band appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Controversy

The game was much more expensive in Europe than in the US. The US bundle (game, drum kit, microphone and guitar) retailed at $169.99. In Europe, no single bundle was available. The game was sold separately from the instruments. The instrument pack identical to the US one (safe for the game) cost £129.99/€169.99 ($256/$267). The peripherals were also sold separately. The game itself cost £49.99/€69.99 ($98/$110). That way, a full European bundle could be priced up to $377 based on the suggested retail price, or more than twice (!) the US price.

There was a consumers backlash on the internet and European online retailers such as Play.com immediately knocked off $100.

In September 2008 an official price cut was announced for the instruments edition, bringing the suggested retail price to €140 in mainland and £110 in UK ($198/$192), still not as much as Play.com immediately deducted at the launch.

References to the game

Rock Band was mentioned in the 2008 movie Eagle Eye. -Spoiler Alert- It was given as a gift to the son of the main female character, Sam Holloman (Cameron Boyce), by the main character, Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf), for his birthday at the end of the movie.

Sales

On 18th January 2007 MTV Games announced to have sold 2.5 million downloable music tracks in eight weeks, in the US.

Awards

  • GameSpy
    • 2007 – #5 Game of the Year
    • 2007 – #5 Console Game of the Year
    • 2007 – #3 Multiplayer Game of the Year
    • 2007 – Game that Makes Us Want to Treat Our Guitar Like The Who Award

Information also contributed by beetle120

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Sciere.

Wii added by Ben K.

Additional contributors: Patrick Bregger, Starbuck the Third, FatherJack.

Game added January 9, 2008. Last modified December 3, 2023.