Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Ok, I’m writing this blog post because if I don’t take at least a twenty minute from Rock Band, both my arms are going to fall off and my right thigh may explode…and you know what? It would worth it.

If you can’t be bothered reading the rest, just know this. Rock Band is a big old bowl of Awesome drenched in Awesome Sauce with Hell Yeah sprinkles.

The first thing I want to mention about Rock Band is just how accessible it is. I’ll be completely honest and state for the record that I absolutely sucked at Guitar Hero when it first came out and I’m still not what you’d call a ‘skilled player’ even after a fair bit of practice. I wanted to get Rock Band as a party game and as something for Sunny and I play together. Knowing Sunny’s tolerance level for frustration, I was a little worried about the difficulty level.

I shouldn’t have worried. Apart from the drums, which take a modicum of coordination even on easy…Playing Guitar on ‘easy’ is just that…easy. In fact, it’s incredibly easy…and Bass even more so.

Normally I’d consider this a negative…but considering Rock Band is a party game, the more people who can actually play it, the better. It’s a game an absolute beginner can pick up after a couple of beers and make it through a song.

That’s what Rock Band is all about. It’s not about beating a crazy-difficult song just so you can say you did…it’s about getting a bunch of your friends over, making an improvised headband out of a curtain tie and rocking out.

You know how awesome it is when you’re driving somewhere fun with a bunch of friends in the car…and that perfect song comes on the radio… and before you know it, you’re all belting it out at the top of your voice? Rock Band is that multiplied by exactly one squillion.

All that being said, crank the difficulty up to Expert and you’re going to be challenged, plain and simple. For the record, I decided to try a song on expert…and got booed off the stage in under ten seconds.

Basically, there’s something for everyone. This is a game your Granny can play after a few minutes instruction, and a game that’ll keep a seasoned Guitar Hero player entertained.

Ok, there’s not much point explaining what playing the guitar is like, considering every man and his dog has at least seen Guitar Hero, but before I talk about the drums (my personal favorite), let me state that the singing portion of Rock Band is a masterstroke.

Here’s the thing about singing. People get self conscious. Anyone’s willing to pick up a guitar-shaped controller or bang on a drum kit in front of strangers…but very few people are willing to sing in front of people they don’t know. Hell, I don’t know many (sober) people who are willing to sing in front of people they do know.

Rock Band has come up with an amazingly simple way around this.

Rock Band scores your singing performance on how in-tune your voice is. However, just because the console needs to ‘hear’ your voice to score your performance doesn’t mean it needs to put your voice out through the speakers as well.

Basically, you get to set the volume of your own voice and the original vocals seperately.

If you feel in the mood to show off, turn the original vocals all the way down and crank your own way up. This way, Rock Band works just like Karaoke. If you’re a little more self conscious, turn up the original vocals and turn the volume for your own voice all the way down. That way, you get to join in and play, but no-one’s going to hear your voice over the music and the original vocal.

Finally, let me talk about the drums:

Maybe it’s because I actually play the guitar, but playing guitar games like Guitar Hero never even came close to feeling ‘real’ to me. They’re a hell of a lot of fun, but I just feel like I’m pushing buttons, I don’t feel like I’m playing a guitar.

The drums are different.

A lot different.

Again, maybe it’s because I’m not a drummer, but banging away on Rock Band’s drum kit really feels like you’re playing the drums. In fact, one of the main things I’ve heard is that once you get up to Expert difficulty, you essentially are playing the drum part…albeit on a smaller drumkit. After playing a few songs just on medium, I’m perfectly willing to believe it.

It’s just an absolute blast. I’m not ashamed to admit it, but after Sunny left for work and I blasted through the driving drums of ‘Wave of Mutilation’…I threw the double-goat.

That’s right. Alone, in my living room, I threw the sticks down, thrust both hands into the air, index fingers and pinkies thrust out at the sky and proclaimed “RAWK!!!”.

It takes a very special game to make me do that, and Rock Band is it.

There are only two real negatives that I can see to Rock Band, and they’re more minor niggles than anything else.

The first is the track list, in that it’s not really long enough. There are roughly 45 songs (not counting the bonus tracks which are made up almost exclusively of ‘local’ bands)…and there are just a few too many B-Sides among the classics.

It just feels really odd to be rocking away to Black Sabbath or The Who…and then the next you’re playing Coheed and Cambria. Again, this might just be my personal taste, but even a lot of the big name bands seem to have brought their B-Material.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad songs…but you get the feeling the Rock Band crew turned up a little late to the Licensing party.

The good part is that there’s a ton of tracks available for download of Xbox Live at under 2 bucks a pop, or less if you buy a bundle, so there’s sure to be something to match your taste.

My only other little complaint is that the single player experience is a little light. Whereas with multiplayer you form a band, choose your gigs, earn cash, earn and try to keep fans, unlock tour buses and private jets etc, etc, all the single player mode allows you to do is play through progressively harder tiers of songs just like Guitar Hero.

Again, this is an extremely minor complain as Rock Band is first and foremost a party game. Complaining the single player mode isn’t as much fun as the multiplayer mode is like complaining that playing twister along isn’t as much fun as playing it with a bunch of oiled-up Victoria’s Secret models.

Anyway, long story short, if you own a PS3, Xbox 360 or a Wii and don’t own Rock Band, you should, so go out and get it…especially as the special edition (Game, Guitar, Drums and Mic) is now less than $130 a Wally World.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go inform some folks that they should not fear the reaper.


Sunny said...

LOL_ you took a break from RB to come TYPE on the computer.....some break THAT is!!!

Evanesce In 2008 said...

You'll unlock some really cool songs as your skill (or the skill of your band) progresses.

I'm with you on the drums. I get the same feeling as you when I play drums. In fact, the kids have told me to quit hitting the drums so hard!

I'm one who will belt out the lyrics if I know the song... if not, I'm a little timid.

The guitar is actually my least favorite instrument in the game... maybe it's cuz I play the actual guitar (albeit poorly).

NOW... we need to get together and try playing online. I know you can do it, but I haven't done so yet.