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Game Review: Rock Band

This is the story of a band from Seattle called Sonic Death Monkey. The lead singer, Chris, a Seattle native, looked like a tattooed and young Trent Reznor; the guitarist from New York, the long haired metal man named Rick; on bass, from Chicago, the sassy Scarlett, able to keep up with these wild boys; and on drums the blue-haired denim-man Mike C, a childhood friend of Chris’. Together they would forge out and become the greatest band in the world.

And that’s how the game goes. Unlike Guitar Hero (which my collective group of friends have), where you choose from a list of people including Death, Lou the Devil, and the Guitar God, in Rock Band you actually create how your band looks. Male or Female, you are given about 5 facial options, with multiple eye color and hair and hair color options. Then of course there is the in depth tattoo and clothing options (Each band member starts with $100 which is enough to get a better shirt. As the band acquires more money, you can buy the Dr. Acula Cape, or the Doctor What outift, amongst others. Our group jokingly thought of getting Fallout-esque outfits and changing the name of the band to Vault 13.) And after the 30 minutes to an hour it takes for the band to come up with their initial looks, it is off to Rock!

The kit comes with a mic, a really impressive guitar that outplays the Guitar Hero guitar with added buttons, and a drum kit. If you have the XBox version, good news, you can use your Guitar Hero Guitar, so for those wanting a four member band, you can have your bassist. All the instruments are great, and I had a blast on the drums (although my thigh is killing me now). Everything is easy to pick up and you can different settings per person. The song list is also impressive with the real songs (not covers which packed the first Guitar Hero), and with XBox Live, you can purchase certain packs like the Metallica Pack, or the David Bowie Pack.

In career mode, you start off in your home city playing a few gigs, acquiring fans and money as you start playing a single song. Each player gets a rank and a percentage, and the band as a whole gets a rating of 0 to 5 stars. As you go through your at first small list of songs, you are given “create a set” and “mystery song” options. Finally you play for things, such as a two song set for a van, or a 3 song set for a bus, and then begin to travel around America and finally the world.

There is still a quick play option where you play the specific song, but at any instrument and with up to four players again. So if you wanted to practice the drums, hop onto quick play and smash sticks. There is also competition mode between players, and this is all on a single console. You have the option to go online and compete against other bands or players, or even acquire other players for your band. Just be prepared during band competition, and have everyone at a high enough level as a band at Hard will beat a band at Medium. Lastly, there is also Solo Tour mode, where you hop in as Lead Vocals, Guitar or Drums (sorry, no bass), and complete a song list that gets progressively harder.

Game play is very similar to Guitar Hero. Each instrument has 5 keys and the screen will go down for the Guitar, Bass, and drum, and sideways from right for the singer. Guitar and Bass have the 5 chords, although the new Rock Band Guitar has not just the 5 buttons at the head of the guitar, with the strum and whammy bar, but also includes 5 chords lower on the neck for solos. The drum features 4 pads, the bass pedal, real drum sticks, and has a full XBox controller directional pad and button set (which makes character creation easier). The microphone is a regular microphone, and it picks up the pitch of your voice, so tone deaf beware, you will fail as singer. And in the case of anyone failing, where you get locked out, one of your band mates can safe the failed member by hitting some right notes. As stated earlier, and the end of each song, each player is given a percentage completed, as well as any important notes that happened, such as Skillful or Life Saver, or Most Energy.

The background visuals are stunning. It is not the cheap pixelated stuff in the background of Guitar Hero, but feels like a cgi movie, with focus on all the band members rocking out. While the early backgrounds themselves aren’t as animated as the Guitar Hero backgrounds, the band members themselves get some of the light, which is a nice change. And during solos, the screen turns blue and the focus goes to that character.

Guitar Hero, all of them, are great games. They are fun to play by yourself or as a group/party game. However you are limited in the number of people playing. Rock Band gives 4 people the ability to play, although you do have to have some room to do it in. The song list is fantastic, and the character creation and band journey give it a more personal touch than Guitar Hero. Unfortunately as most people have lives and jobs, the band will go on hiatus from time to time, but then it feels like a reunion tour when the band gets back together. I give the game a 9.5. It is a fun game for a lot of people that give you more options than Guitar Hero, but because Guitar Hero was here first, it doesn’t get the full 10.


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