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Preview: Big Band (Xbox 360)
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on August 24, 2007   |   Episode 45 (Show Archive)  

   
Hot on the heels of Rock Band, Electronic Arts has announced their next music game, Big Band. Big Band, the newest collaboration between Harmonix and MTV, is scheduled to be released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii next summer, but Defunct Games is able to bring you an exclusive first look of this promising new game. Over the past few months Electronic Arts has been rather vocal about Big Band, hoping that this upcoming party game will put the final nail in the coffin of Activision's popular Jazz Hero franchise. And from what we can tell EA may be on to something, because Big Band is really shaping up to be something spectacular.

In Big Band you play a struggling musician looking to make it big in the fast-paced world of swing music. The game starts with you practicing your instrument by playing along to your favorite

These three instruments are just a sample of the 19 instruments you will be able to play in Big Band!
big band records, including such hits as Count Basie's Bill's Mill, Duke Ellington's Take The 'A' Train, and Chattanooga Choo-Choo by Glenn Miller. Once you've mastered these big band staples you're off to find a group to play in and an audience willing to listen to you perform.

But Big Band is about more than just playing for small crowds at swing clubs, it's about taking your craft on the road and becoming the most important musician in the world. Along the way you can take gigs playing on some of the hottest radio shows, such as Jack Benny, Figger Maggie & Molly, The Bob Hope Show and Burns &

Electronic Arts has gone to the trouble of recreating Lawrence Welk's likeness for this exciting new game!
Allen. If you're good enough then you'll soon find yourself coming face to face with the master of champagne music himself, Mr. Lawrence Welk. Do you have what it takes to play on the Lawrence Welk's show? Find out when you play Electronic Arts' exciting new game, Big Band!

What sets Big Band apart from all those other music games on the market is just how ambitious the package is. While Rock Band allows four players to get together and make music, Big Band ups the ante by

Rumors persist that all of the songs in Big Band will feature the master recordings, unlike Activision's Jazz Hero!
allowing up to 19 people to play on one single console. That means that you'll have to figure out who's playing the trumpet, trombone, bass, piano, saxophone, flute, and clarinet. Beyond the traditional instruments, Big Band's biggest draw has to be the addition of the tom-tom drum.

While no official pricing has been determined, Electronic Arts is doing what it can to keep the price of this package as low as possible. Currently GameStop and Best Buy are offering pre-order packages for the full kit (which includes 19 different instruments) at around $1,500 ... though some analysts feel that this price could

Warning: Playing Big Band may result in your friends and neighbors performaing dangerous swing dance moves!
go even higher once the prices are officially set. Big Band may be expensive, but there is no game on the market that is more ambitious than this brand new game from Harmonix.

The initial disc will come with more than 100 songs, including classic tunes from Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey. Electronic Arts is hoping that gamers will be excited by the steady supply of downloadable tracks, including full albums from some of the biggest bands of all time. Up first is the All Time Greatest Hits album from Glenn Miller. Although EA has not said anything officially, they have hinted that there could be a brand new album to download every week. So far pricing has yet to be determined.

While we only had a few minutes to actually play Big Band, I can tell you that there is a lot of work left to be done before this game hits retail shelves. There's no denying the appeal of playing some of my favorite swing songs with my video game trombone, but I worry that Harmonix may be spreading themselves out too thin by including 19 different instruments. Worse yet, I found it awfully hard to pay attention to what was going on. If you have

Big Band is exactly like this ... but with 15 more people in the room with you!
played Rock Band then you will already know that it can be a little challenging paying attention to what you're supposed to do with four groups of notes on the screen at all time, now imagine the screen split into 19 parts and you can start to see how complex this game is. But I'm sure these problems will be ironed out by the time Big Band hits the shelves this summer.

Beyond having the print magazines and online websites promoting the game, Electronic Arts has an aggressive strategy to get people hooked on their newest music game. Next summer EA will be sponsoring the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy tours, as well as sending around Big Band kiosks when the Cherry Poppin' Daddies tour Europe. What's more, I hear that EA may be thinking outside of the box and taking Big Band to retirement villages and weddings. We'll have to see if this works or not, but if Electronic Arts can get some traction with this strategy then I suspect we're going to see a lot more of this kind of unique marketing in the future.

It's clear that Big Band is just the first step to a future of music games that is not just about pop stars and rockers. It's clear that gamers have had enough of playing the guitar and singing karaoke to a bunch of one-hit wonders, it's time for some real music to take center stage and show these young whippersnappers how it's done. Even Sony's long-running Sing Star game is starting to branch out with their recently announced Sing Star: Screamo!, due out early 2008. Unfortunately Defunct Games was unable to secure a preview build of this newest Sing Star game, but we hope to have a preview of that product in the near future. Until then we hope that this early information about Big Band will whet your appetite for what's to come. Over the next few weeks look for more full coverage on this hotly anticipated game, including a full track list and actual screenshots.

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