Rock Band Review

Rock Band is a big title. Too big for one man to talk about on his own. (Plus, so many people got it or played it for hours, it was tough picking only one person to do the review.) What was our solution? Pair up the two guys who disagree the most in their reviews, and have them review the game together. Things didn’t quite progress into a full-out kung-fu battle like I hoped (no refunds on the ticket!) but it still worked out well. Enjoy. – B


Band Member Profiles

Name: Kyle Stallock
Weapon of Choice: Not the microphone
Skill Level: Hard
Prior Experience: Lover of music, but people love it more when he doesn’t try to play real instruments

Name: Dac
Weapon of Choice: Drums
Skill Level: Expert
Prior Musical Experience: Born with umbilical cord in one hand and drumsticks in the other

Kyle: Harmonix is back and ready to reclaim the throne they themselves built and abandoned with one of the most ambitious gaming packages to come along since Capcom released Steel Battalion in 2002. Unlike Guitar Hero which just focuses on, you guessed it, the guitar, Rock Band allows people the opportunity to become the Vocalist/Bassist/Guitarist/Drummer they have always wanted to be. Real musical talent not required, but in the case of the drums and vocals, it definitely helps.

That real musical talent is something that I personally don’t have and since I was most excited for the drums, they were the first instrument I tried. Let me just say this: if the only type of “sticks” you have held are the “chop” kind, expect to get your gaming ass handed to you.

Dac: Now I come from a very musical background (seeing as how both of my parents are music teachers), so I’ve been a huge fan of the rhythm genre ever since the days of Parappa. I can remember the night I grabbed my copy of Guitar Hero; all of my friends criticized me for dropping 70 bucks on what seemed to be nothing more than a musical gimmick. Of course, when my non-believing buddies finally got their hands on that piece of hardcore plastic, it became quite apparent that Harmonix did their job in making a dent into the casual gamer world. The thing I love about Rock Band is that instead of simply trying to improve their slightly-stale Guitar Hero world, Harmonix decided to completely reinvent the magic, this time in a diverse multiplayer environment.

Kyle: Ok, while I agree with you that it’s an unbelievable game, I think calling it a reinvention MIGHT be giving it a little too much credit.

Dac: Well, while the individual gameplay elements were nothing new, when you combine these aspects together, it brings back the same feeling you had the first time you activated Star Power in Guitar Hero. You’re a ****ing rock star! It’s rare to find a rhythm game that more than two people can enjoy, and only Rock Band gives you such intense feeling amount four people.

Kyle: I’ll agree with you there, playing with a full band feels almost better than playing Guitar Hero for the first time, maybe it’s because we know the formula already and everyone’s a bit experienced…who knows EXACTLY what it is…magic? Maybe.

Oh, and I don’t know if Rock Band is the only thing that will give you such an intense feeling for four people. There was that one time at a brothel…but that’s neither here nor there.

Dac: Actually, that’s an interesting point: everyone’s a bit experienced at this point. It’s hard to find any avid gamer who hasn’t given Guitar Hero a try by now, on any of its many renditions. On one hand, Rock Band tries to cater to this crowd by offering the traditional hard and expert levels to all of the instruments, however many seasoned Guitar Hero champs (such as myself) have been a bit let down by the overall difficulty for the guitar and bass charts. On the other hand, Rock Band does such a good job at capturing the attention of the non-gamer, you’d think it was developed by Nintendo. My whole family has tried Guitar Hero time and time again, but never really grasped the addiction like I did. But when I sat my mom down on drums, threw my dad on bass, and tossed my sister the microphone, you would’ve thought we were the Brady family. I literally had to tear the hardware away from their fingertips just so I could have my 360 back to play a little Halo.

Kyle: I have a similar story with the game but hey your story is nice so I’ll spare everyone and skip it. Now, I know a few seasoned GH veterans who are actually knocking Rock Band for it having guitar parts that are too easy. What do you think? Is this even an issue?

Dac: Well, here’s the problem. Most GH rockstars are immediately comparing Rock Band’s guitar parts to Guitar Hero 3, which is absolutely crazy. One side of the argument is that Guitar Hero specifically caters to those parts, and Rock Band offers more generalized note charts since it uses more instruments, but this is just a terrible argument. Harmonix created Guitar Hero 2, which had slightly harder riffs than Rock Band. Now, the other side of the argument is that Harmonix (or probably MTV) chose songs that were more fitting for all of the instruments involved, which is understandable. But, personally, I believe Harmonix knows that there are gamers dissatisfied with the difficulty, and I’m positive they’ll address this with their downloadable content. (I’m still hoping for Dragonforce!)

That being said, it still seems like the guitar and bass tracks are harder than the original Guitar Hero, so they’re certainly not going in reverse.

Kyle: That’s the great thing about Rock Band. If this DLC stuff takes off, you’ll be able to cater the experience however you want. I think the game right now is almost analogous to an MMOs initial release.

Dac: That’s true. Now, about that DLC… Even though it seems expensive, do you think it’s worth it? Rock Band comes with 58 songs packed onto the disc, and for me, that wasn’t enough.

Kyle: It’s a good amount, but it’s never enough. The songs are ridiculously varied and, like everyone else, I would have taken out a couple, added a couple, but I’m really not “disappointed” with the song selection.

Dac: Oh, not by a long shot. I mean, we have everything from melt-my-face Metallica to paint-my-face Fallout Boy. And not to stray too much off-topic, but I’d like to be the first to say that the $170 price point is fantastic. I expected to pay $200 or more when it was first announced, so I have no problems pouring cash into grabbing extra songs.

Kyle: There is no way around it though, paying 170 for a game sucks. But you’re right, it really is a pretty damn good deal considering what you get, especially if you consider what the competition offers for half the price.

Dac: You can obviously still grab the disc only for around 60 bucks, but you’re paying for the guitar, drum set, and microphone when you pick up that giant-ass bundle. But this brings me to my next point: the hardware. When you look at it in terms of price, we’re paying around $110 for a wired guitar, an electric drum set, and a great-quality USB microphone. From a retail view, that’s a steal; it’s almost too good to be true. In fact, it seems like it IS too good to be true. On average, it seems like around 1 out of 10 Rock Band bundles have some type of hardware defect. Whether it’s a faulty strum bar, or an unresponsive drum kit, it’s still bad news for the consumer. Personally, my drum set was Dead On Arrival (see what I did there?), and I had to immediately return it. Luckily, though, EA is being extremely generous in handling all cases of broken and faulty hardware so far. Have you had any problems yet?

Kyle: Yeah, I teach a videogame class and on that Tuesday we had planned to finally have some hands-on time with it but, like you, I had an instrument that was DOA, but unlike you it was the guitar. Whatever, I was disappointed but I’m pretty glad that they are replacing it for free. Let me just say that I actually DID play this game using all of the necessary instruments and that my experience with their defective product doesn’t really reflect upon this review….just call it… a heads up, or an FYI if you will.

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty: what do you not like about this game? What can’t you stand?

Dac: Not to be generic, but I can’t think of many complaints. Getting online going with four people was a bit of a pain. Also, I’m not too keen on playing the same songs over and over in Multiplayer career mode. But other than that, the easy guitar parts, and the hardware issues, Rock Band gets my vote for best rhythm game of all-time. (Except for maybe Daigasso Band Brothers for the DS. And if anyone reading has that game, you officially win the Internet.)

What about you?

Kyle: Going over the same songs is rather unfortunate, especially considering the fact that I kept getting Roxanne and Blitzkrieg Bop for my mystery setlists, and the way in which you unlock new content isn’t very obvious, but nothing is worse than having a bad vocalist. Not only do you fail the song, but you have to listen to their nails-on-a-chalkboard voice over and fucking over! I am of course the poster boy for this as any of my “bandmates” will attest so back off, I can say it!

But yeah, I agree, it’s pretty damn flawless. Going back to what I said though, depending on how they approach the DLC, in 6 months this game might be much different from what it is today.

Dac: You know what really impressed me, considering it’s a rhythm game? The visuals. And no, I’m not talking pure poly-count here, I’m talking about the overall visual presentation. First off, comparing it to Guitar Hero, it looks and feels much more realistic and mature. Creating your own character is awesome, but watching him sing and rock out on stage just adds a level of depth that GH can’t compare to. And have you seen the animations for the performers? The drummer looks like he’s really playing a set, and the lip-synching is just fantastic!

Kyle: Ya know, I usually have tunnel vision when I’m playing so it wasn’t until around hour 12-13 of my experience that I took a break and just watched people play and finally saw these “visuals” you speak of. Yeah, they’re pretty damn fantastic, especially during solos and how the strobes and lights all work together to make you feel like you’re actually kicking ass on that instrument and not murdering a giant piece of plastic.

Kyle’s take:

If you have a 360 or PS3 and enjoy rhthym games, it pretty much goes without saying that this is a must-have. While playing by yourself definitely isn’t as fun as playing with 3 extra people (it IS called Rock BAND after all) not being limited to playing just one particular instrument puts this game/package far above its competitors and in doing so, may achieve a far greater social impact than Guitar Hero ever did. Furthermore, depending on how Harmonix approaches the downloadable content, the initial experience we find ourselves with today may eventually become substantially inferior to the product it might become in 3, 6, 9 months from now. That doesn’t mean the game is currently flawed and in need of “upgrades,” although they are always appreciated, it’s a testament to the amount of depth and variety made possible by this groundbreaking, albeit expensive, package. Call me trite, but Rock Band really does effin rock.

Score: 9.5

Dac’s take:

Simply put, Rock Band is f***ing AWESOME. It’s absolutely worth the steep price tag, and guarantees to provide countless hours of intoxicated enjoyment. With a great begining selection and endless downloadable content in sight, it’ll be tough to hit that eject button, so save up some cash or start writing to Santa, because this is definitely a game you need to have.

Score: 9.5


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Author: Kyle Stallock View all posts by

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