And while this may come off as nothing but nitpicking, I'm not a fan of all of the repeats found in both Rock Band and Guitar Hero III. If you own both games (and you really should) then you will no doubt hear "Cherub Rock" by The Smashing Pumpkins a few too many times, along with "Mississippi Queen" by Mountain, "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys, and "Reptilia" by The Strokes. This isn't that big of a deal, but as a person who came from non-stop play sessions of Guitar Hero III to non-stop play sessions of Rock Band, these duplicates are frustrating and disorienting.
My only other complaint with Rock Band stems from the online mode. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of the online mode, being able to play against (and with) people online is a must in any music game. But the online multiplayer feels more like an afterthought in Rock Band. The biggest travesty is that you can't play the world tour with friends online. The problem I have is that most of my musically-inclined friends live an hour or more away from me, so I won't have as much access to the world tour as I would like to. There's really no reason for them not to allow us to play this campaign online. I suspect this will be something Harmonix fixes in the near future, but as of this writing I still could not enjoy the world tour online.
Although there are a few different modes to choose from, most of the choices will be pretty familiar to anybody who played Guitar Hero. Score Duel is probably the most balanced way to play online; basically it just has two players playing the exact same song with the exact same notes, the person that has the highest score at the end wins. The Tug of War is slightly different, but is generally the same principle. In this mode you won't be playing the same notes, the two players will take turns back and forth playing different strings of notes. Whoever has their meter most filled by the end of the song is the winner.
While these music games have never been about stellar graphics, I really like the art design of Rock Band. None of the characters look photorealistic; instead Harmonix is going for a simple look with features that stand out. Unlike Guitar Hero you actually get to construct your own rocker, it's that rocker who you will tour the world with and who you will earn points with. Better yet, it's that rocker that you will get to dress up and buy stuff for. When your virtual avatar is offstage their simple look isn't anything to write home about, but once they start rocking you'll be fixated on the well-animated moves. It's not that the game looks great; it's that it got all of the animations and style right. It always looks like the characters are singing their songs, playing the right notes and hitting those drums in beat with the song. When the singer is not singing he (or she) will be running around the stage getting the crowd going. The animations are absolutely perfect, they really give off the impression that Harmonix paid a lot of attention to how musicians actually move.
Unfortunately the stages aren't nearly as interesting as the animation. In all there are around 40 different venues for you to play, but only a few really stand out. The reason for this is the camera angle, you rarely see past the first few rows and it's always dark. What you can make out is well detailed, but these levels are nowhere near as interesting as what you saw in Guitar Hero III. On the other hand, there are a lot of levels and they do put forth the right atmosphere every time.
One thing you won't be disappointed with is the game's audio. Beyond all of the great songs to choose from, Rock Band also has some great sounding sound effects and crowds. When you first start the game you may be surprised to hear the audience singing along to one of your songs when you're doing well. Although this is hardly the first music game to support true surround sound, it is one of the best sounding games I have ever heard. The crowds are priceless and the way the music sounds is second to none.
I'll give you that $170 is a lot to spend on one game, especially if you're already starting to lose interest in the Guitar Hero franchise. However, it's hard to imagine the fun you will have when you play this with a large crowd. No other game has been able to capture the same feeling that you have playing Rock Band with three other people, for once you actually feel like you're in a band. It's good to know that there's a real person next to you playing the drums, trying to keep the beat so that the guitarist and singer will know what to do. It's fun to win and lose fans on your way to being the biggest rock band in the history of the world. It's fun to be able to download the songs you want when you want them. It's just fun. Rock Band is one of the most fun gaming experiences of the year, and that's why it's a must-buy for anybody who even remotely enjoys rocking out to classic music.
Rock Band is as incredible as it sounds. It's a big box full of great music, cool instruments and more fun than you can imagine. While not as solid as a single-player game, the game's multi-player experience is better than just about anything else released this year. You must buy Rock Band ... and then you must rock!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!