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Rock Band 2

Developer: Harmonix | Publisher: MTV Games
Players: 1 to 8 Player Game | Release Date: 09/14/08 | Genre: Music

rockband.jpgAfter playing last year's mega-hit Rock Band, the entire CVGames staff fell in love with the addictive gameplay. In fact, we loved it so much, Rock Band was honored as the Best Game of 2007 in our yearly Bernie Gaming Awards. We were able to look past any nagging issues the game had due to the incredibly rich and dynamic experience of playing together as a band. Sure, these are plastic instruments--but the experience made you feel like a real rock star!! Just when you thought the Rock Band experience couldn't get better, along comes Rock Band 2. Once again, Harmonix has reinvented Rock Band into one of the greatest multiplayer experiences to date.

To begin with, Harmonix teamed up with Mad Catz to help in making all of the instruments perform better. The biggest change is with the drums. The Rock Band 2 drums are now wireless-using 3 AA batteries for power- are quieter, provide better rebound, include a metal foot pedal, and do not fall apart when you pick them up. The drums not only look and feel more durable but they perform at a much higher level. Gone are the days of worrying when someone was hitting your drums too hard. Now you can use them without fear of breaking. I found an instant 5% increase to my score over the previous drums.

The other instruments have received some minor tweaks--but none as substantial as the drums. Harmonix continues to lead the way in creating guitars that appear much more like a real instrument than the Guitar Hero guitars. Harmonix often refers to their competitors' products as "Fisher Price plastic instruments" in meetings with the press. The Rock Band 2 guitars are all wireless, retain the same shape and feel of the previous guitar, and have a wood-grain look instead of the former white front. Besides that, the guitar looks and feels the exact same as the previous guitar. The downside to this is that the strum bar is still very loose and doesn't make the clicking sound that the Guitar Hero guitars make. Still, I found myself beginning to like this guitar better than the competition. Another big change to this Rock Band 2 guitar is the easy way to calibrate it with just a sensor pointed to the TV. Very handy if you play on multiple TV sets or at other houses.

The microphone is still wired and remains unchanged. However, this leads into a variety of different premium accessories that now exist. The first is a wired microphone with Xbox 360 controller buttons and a d-pad. Next, we have a wired Bass with a double strum bar. Lastly, there is a premium drum kit that retails for over $450 with all of the add-ons. These items were not available to us during the review and are definitely not necessary to enjoy Rock Band 2.

Moving from instruments to gameplay, Rock Band 2 continues to provide improvement over the last title. To begin with, owners of Rock Band can import all songs from the original disk, with exception of 3 tracks, for five bucks. Plus all previously purchased DLC can be used in either game automatically. When selecting songs in the playlist modes, Rock Band 2 will list them as songs from either the original Rock Band, Rock Band 2, or DLC. Each song will also breakdown the difficulty levels for each instrument.

Another area where Rock Band 2 shines is with the improvements in single player and multiplayer modes. Let's begin with the single player. As you begin play, you will need to make the "Rock 'n Roller" of your dreams. Each profile can hold 25 characters--so you will have plenty of space to make several. One big change with characters in RB2 is that they can play every instrument and sing. This allows you to only need one character to play any game mode and is a great improvement over the original title.

When participating in an actual song, Rock Band 2 really shines. Unlike the first game, your band does not have to contain a single "band leader" who plays the same instrument. This means that you can play online or offline with as many different people as you want, with no fear if your "band leader" is not present or wishes to play a different instrument. Even with all the other features and improvements--these changes are by far the best and improve upon the biggest complaint of the previous title.

To keep players actively competing against each other and coming back for new and more exciting challenges, Harmonix has added The Battle of the Bands. These are weekly challenges that pit you against other bands, on your friends list, and other Rock Band 2 players from around the world. In addition, there are other weekly challenges that include the latest DLC to play. This gives you a reason to pick up the latest releases and try to outplay everyone else.

Rock Band 2 continues to include an enormous amount of customization options. Players can still buy, earn, and unlock clothing and accessories for their character. In addition, you can customize tattoos, face paint, and even add logos to instruments. One of our staff added the Apple logo to his guitar. Another great customization option is creating your band logo. I spent hours trying to perfect it--but you can have a basic logo in just a few minutes. The process can be as involved as you want it to be. You can also go so far as to create a bio page for your band. All of these tools make for an incredible experience that make you feel like you are in a real band.

With a huge library of songs, awesome instruments, easy to use multiplayer options, and an incredible experience online or offline, Rock Band 2 completely overshadows the first game. If you were a fan of the first or are new to music games, this title belongs in your library and will once again fight for the 2008 Game of the Year crown. We give Rock Band 2 our highest praise.

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By Kaleb Rutherford - 10/08/08
ESRB Details: Rock Band 2 is a music and rhythm simulation game in which players can perform songs along with on-screen avatars. Some song lyrics contain mild language ('a*s' and 'damn') as well as references to violence (e.g., 'I'm gonna pull the trigger and blow them all away.'). Some song lyrics also contain sexual innuendo (e.g., 'she spent her twenties between the sheets') and references to drugs and alcohol (e.g., '…you think I get high' and '…I was drunk.') Players can customize various aspects of the avatars' appearances; the names and descriptions of some available outfits are playfully suggestive. Other outfits reveal small amounts of cleavage and male buttocks.
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