Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rock Band 2 Review

Rock Band 2 is back and better than ever, as it brings all of its familiar features back, plus a few more, as well as some more user-friendly functionality and more flexible character creation.

Like always with these games, the first thing to talk about is the instruments. Rock Band 2 implements some new gear, although they play like the previous. The drums now contain velocity-sensitive pads and a metal reinforced pedal. The entire drum set though is still designed the same as the first, so if you’re used to playing with the original drum set, then you’re right at home. Same goes for the guitar, which while it sports a new color scheme and firmer buttons, maintains its original design. The improvements made to these instruments aren’t too noticeable, but they are for the better, and all old RB instruments are compatible, so if you just want to pick up the disc only, then you’ll be fine doing so.

Naturally, the first thing you will want to do when you have assembled your instruments and started up the game is to create your own character. The character creator is very similar to the one in RB. You choose from a handful of basic features and can then really set yourself apart via all of the clothing and accessories you acquire throughout the course of the game. Luckily though, Harmonix fixed their problem in the first where you had to create a different character for each instrument. Now, you can create a single character and have him or her play any and all instruments, which allows us all to breathe a nice, big sigh of relief. They also fixed the need to have a band leader always present while doing the world tour mode. Now, there is no band leader and you can play with whomever on any instruments without worry.

At first glance, there isn’t much to do with Rock Band 2 it seems from the menu, as your only real options are Quickplay and Tour, but there is some depth once you explore the various modes and features. In Quickplay, you have your basic choose a few songs and play either by yourself or with friends. Then you have Score Duel and Tug of War for some added excitement and a chance to embarrass and demean your friends.

However, Tour mode is where the meat of the game is housed. The first major feature of the Tour mode is of course the world tour, where you go from city to city and venue to venue playing one to many songs, accumulating fans and money along the way. This tour presentation is what really sets the game apart from Guitar Hero: World Tour and makes it what it is. Instead of simply having a bunch of fliers around and making you play 3-5 songs in a row, you can around from city to city, playing a variety of songs, over and over again, and get new fans and unlock new venues and super marathons and all sorts of things. It’s really fun and rewarding to play through a few cities and then get invited to a special event where you can win a car or jet so you can then travel to new locations to put on shows. Then you have a variety of decisions to make, like should you take the charity show and earn some more fans while sacrificing money, or should you go double or nothing? As your band gets more popular, you can even hire a single person from a group, which will earn you special rewards, like getting more gigs in a certain location, or earning more money or fans. Then of course the overall presentation of the singing and stage performing is, what I would consider, of higher quality and more variety, with the color and camera effects. Unlike Guitar Hero, the tour mode in Rock Band can last a very long time and require lots of dedication if you want to pass some of those crazy-long marathons and it just makes the game more fun with the hundreds of venues you can travel to. (Note: you can play the tour mode solo if you have no one to play with, and then with other people later, so the choice of playing with different people, or online, or just by yourself is nice.)

Also housed in the Tour mode are Battle of the Bands and Challenges. Battle of the Bands creates a special venue for you to play in just about every day. While touring around, you will see these special icons, and if you go to them you can participate in these battles and try to get a high score. These battles will always have some sort of category or genre associated with them, that range from some standard to some crazy stuff, so keep an eye out.

Ah, your mom. Total hottie. She is one of many employees you can hire to help you out on the road.

The Challenges are a bit different. These come in a variety of difficulty tiers, seven to be exact, and each tier houses another seven or so challenges. These challenges feature a handful of songs and are specific to a certain instrument. For instance, there are challenges tailored around the guitar, drums, vocals, and band. In order to attempt these challenges, at least one member of the band (current people playing) must be using that instrument. For instance, if I am using the guitar and my friend is using the drums, we wouldn’t be able to try the vocals challenge. Someone would have to be using the microphone. And of course, you can attempt these challenges by yourself, except for the band challenges, which require at least two players. I believe how the challenges work is that you have to acquire a certain number of points to clear the challenge or it could simply be that you clear the song without failing; I’m not a hundred percent on that. Either way, while this doesn’t really add anything new to the game, as you will still be playing the same songs, it gives it a little freshness and a new way to approach playing the songs, as it always gives you a good feeling to clear a "challenge."

Some other added features in Rock Band 2 are no-fail mode, and a variety of other Extras which can be unlocked, like speeding up the highway, or the ability to just rock out to no music, or using your MP3 playing to just rock out, best used with the drums. There are also a variety of training lessons to go through if you’re a n00b, and they added solos for all instruments so people wouldn’t be so jealous of the lead guitar.

Overall, Rock Band 2 is a great addition to the new franchise, giving players 80+ new songs to play to, while constantly giving them more via DLC. Harmonix extended the Tour mode a bit, adding in some new features to make it more exciting. The presentation has been tweaked a bit to give the game more flavor, and there are still tons of items to collect to pimp out your character. If you like music games, I think this is the one to own. It may come down to which instruments you prefer, Rock Band or Guitar Hero, but both sets are compatible with each other, so you can choose to get the GH instruments and then pick up the RB disc, or vice versa.

Overall Score: 9/10

Posted in cooperation with GamersPlatform

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