Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Release Date: 11/20/07 | Genre: Music
As one of the most eagerly anticipated titles of the year, Rock Band is a title that doesn't leave much room for disappointment. From the creators of the incredibly successful and popular Guitar Hero series, Rock Band is meant as an evolution of the Rhythm genre. On the surface, Rock Band appears to achieve this goal but only by overwhelming the individual with its hefty price tag and a retail box much larger than what their console arrived in. It isn't until a player joins up with three others until they can truly understand what an achievement this game is for the industry and the genre.
Available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Rock Band is a sizeable investment. Retailing for $169.99, the player gets a massive box (as mentioned above) that includes a completely new designed wired guitar, a microphone, a drum set, and a USB hub so all devices can be used. While there also is a standalone version of the game, you cannot yet buy any accessories outside of the $169.99 package for the foreseeable future. EA assures us that this will be remedied in the future. In fact, you will also be able to, one day, purchase a wireless standalone guitar for Rock Band that feels exactly like the bundled wired one. Another option is that the Xbox 360 version of Rock Band is compatible with both Guitar Hero II and Guitar Hero III Guitars. However, the PlayStation 3 version, as of this review, does not offer the same functionality. A rumored patch is in the works to remedy this though.
As hinted in my opening thoughts, Rock Band is a title that is best experienced with other players. In my opinion the preferred way to play the game is by gathering four players at your single console and rocking out for the rest of the night. You can also play via Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. This can ensure your band can stay together no matter how many miles apart you might be. But there are several drawbacks to the online mode. The most obvious is the presence of your other band members not being there. Another issue is the lack of the lead singers voice carrying over to the other consoles. While you can use Voice Over IP via a headset, you will not hear the singer perform. Instead you will just hear the vocals of the pre-recorded artist.
With the largest emphasis of Rock Band's gameplay being centered on the multiplayer mode, you would think that all details would be made virtually perfect. However, this is not the case. When creating a band for play, whoever originally creates the band must always be present for the band to continue performing. This not only limits you if that person isn't available, but it also ensures that the creator of the band is stuck performing the single instrument they originally assigned themselves. The rest of the band is free to come and go and can change instruments by creating new artists.
Playing each of the instruments is a lot of fun. In fact, it is highly recommended that you play through the single player portion of the game with all of the instruments to get a feel for each part of the game. Unfortunately, the bass is not an option for the single player portion of Rock Band. As you continue to improve your play and move on through the songs, more venues and song choices will open up for you. This will also lead to more songs being available for you in the multiplayer hosted sessions of the game.
Players familiar with Guitar Hero will be right at home with the guitar and bass portions of Rock Band. The only drawback is that due to this game featuring an entire band, the guitar and bass segments of gameplay may vary. In fact, each instrument has good and bad songs and you will probably get more enjoyment out of Guitar Hero if all you are looking for is a single player Guitar game.
The biggest surprise for me was the sheer difficulty of the drums. Although Harmonix had been quoted prior to release that players who master drums on Expert could play them in real life, I never expected the instrument to be so difficult. In fact, master the middle difficulties will challenge most players. Not only that but since the drums have a kick petal that you have to press down on, your legs will hurt for a multitude of play sessions until you grow accustomed to it.
EA and Harmonix will continue to expand Rock Band with song packs. These can be purchased, in most cases, separately and in a cheaper package. Unfortunately not all of the songs are original and some users may not be willing to shell out money for cover band versions of songs at the .99 to 2.99 price point they may run. For me, I am willing to pay for songs I like--even if it is a cover band.
Overall, Rock Band is a stunning achievement for the genre and a title that most players should get countless hours of enjoyment out of. While it is difficult to compare Rock Band and Guitar Hero directly, if you love one, you will love the other. There is enough to distinguish the two from one another to warrant purchase of each. However, I highly stress that Rock Band is best enjoyed when playing with 4 players. Once you do gather four together, you will find few who argue that Rock Band is one of the best titles the genre has ever seen.