seanbooker's Rock Band 2 (Xbox 360) review

Livin' On A Prayer!

Rock Band 2 is the sequel to the highly popularized music rhythm game by Harmonix. The game is clad with fake musical instruments; a guitar, a drum set and a microphone. What Rock Band 2 does isn’t so much a true different take on the first Rock Band, but more just fixes some of the issues the first one had and does so in a surprisingly ‘well worth you money’ way.

Rock Band 2 is a music rhythm game that focuses around making you and your friends an imaginary band. By having fake instruments to be tapped, strums or sang into at certain times, it simulates the experience in a way you would want from fake rocking in your basement. A music rhythm game requires you to hit notes that move across the screen at a certain time. With RB2 you have a note track coming down towards you with colored bars on them. When the bars go in the area at the bottom that matches their color, you have to play that note. Playing that note differs with the instrument. Playing the guitar requires you to hold down the same colored fret button and strum when the note is in place, same goes for the bass. Playing the drums requires you to hit the corresponding color pad when the note is in place, or stepping on the foot pedal accordingly. If your using the microphone, you need to sing the words as they scroll across the screen. You will see lines for the singer and those indicate what pitch you should be at. If the line is high up, sing high and vice versa.

The major difference from the first game to this one is the exclusion of the average single player mode you found in RB1 or the Guitar Hero games. This may seem like something a little crazy but it’s really not because if you’re playing RB, I’m pretty sure you’re playing with friends. The tour mode does a great job giving you stuff to play for a long. It would have been nice to still have the main ‘go through every song’ kind of mode again, because then you can see how well you can play songs on that difficulty. Though it doesn’t harm it that much since when you beat these kinds of modes, you never go back to them, like ever.

Instead of that, this time it’s main focus is on the Band World Tour mode that the first one had. Though the first game had this as a solid multiplayer mode but with some flaws, and the flaws were quite big. Things like having to play multiplayer (or trying to do two instruments at once) made it something you couldn’t play any time you wanted. Now you can play that mode by yourself, which makes sense since there are no other major modes to play alone. It also helps that they brought in the idea to let one character play any instrument you want, so now you don’t need three characters to get all there is out of each instrument. Most importantly they now allow for band world tour to be played online with other people. This is probably one of the best additions to the game for this mode was easily the thing to play in the first game and now being able to play it whenever you want makes it great. And even though you may not be able to talk to the person you’re playing with, it doesn’t feel like you’re missing too much.

Another big addition to RB2 is the idea of band challenges or battle of the bands. In these you get requested to do certain songs in a set list and it’ll rate you on how well you did overall by things like the highest overall score, or the amount of stars you earned. These will be posted up on the leaderboard and by the looks of it, will close and more will be added throughout RB2’s life. Some of these will require an entire band, while some may just be solo or even things like you can play anything as long as there is one vocalist. One of the best things with this is that it shows the overall leaderboard and that it shows your friends leaderboard as a separate section. So you can see which of your friends did better on each individual challenge. Though because of all the leaderboard stuff this game has, it needs to update the servers each time you finish a song/song set which from what I experienced (with a decent connection) took a good ten seconds. This may not sound like much, but when you’re sitting there staring at a loading screen just cause it needs to update scores, it gets old, fast.

The hardware bundled with the special edition of the game is slightly different now too. Though at the time of this game’s launch, you couldn’t pick up the hardware, which always sucks. But if you did have the RB1 controllers, you can use those. The new hardware comes stronger and has sensors in some of the instruments so that you can just hold up like the guitar to the TV and it will calibrate for you. This is a huge advantage now because calibrating is always a hard thing to do and is extremely important in this kind of game. Though when trying to calibrate the RB1 guitar for this game, it never seemed to be able to get it to work. I have no idea why.

Harmonix has always focused quite a bit on downloadable content and just getting your RB library to be as big as possible. This has included with every week they release three new songs to download and every now and then they release a free one. They added the ability to have all the downloadable songs from RB1 to work in RB2 and vice versa. One thing you can do is that if you have the first RB, you can export most of the songs from that game onto your hard drive do you can play them in RB2, and of course these songs will show up during world tour mode put into set lists and what not. Another bonus Harmonix has done is added a code on the back of the manual that will get you twenty free download songs. It tells you to go to their site to input the code in order to get a redeem code to be emailed to you to use in the Xbox Live Marketplace or Playstation Network. As of right now it’s just a message saying thanks for buying the game but having the news of getting twenty free songs is quite great and puts RB2’s songs that come with the game over 100.

The biggest thing with Rock Band has always been the multiplayer aspect. Even once finishing every mode completely, which by the way will take a long, long time; you will still be coming back to this game. With the amount of songs they offer that are rivalled by no other game, you will always find yourself with new things to play. If you don’t have friends around to come over and play, you can always play online with one of the three online modes, or just play them by yourself. Though the game can sometimes seem intimidating to some who aren’t comfortable singing in front of their friends or just in general think they suck at the game. RB2 fixes this by adding a no fail mode where you...can’t fail. This is a great idea, but it still has the crowd bar on the left so you can see how well your doing, which I don’t think was necessary. It will never hit the bottom but it will go down into flashing red, so your track list will flash red. If you’re someone who knows they’ll usually be in there, it can be innerving that it’s always flashing red at you. It would have been a better idea not to have the crowd bar at all so you can just focus on the song and no indicator of failing ever shows itself. After all, if you’re using this mode, you probably don’t really need something telling you you’re doing well, your just there to play and mess around.

Rock Band 2 is the best band rhythm game out there to date and is only rivalled by it’s prequel currently. You can just see that this game was made by people who know what it’s like to go through the real deal here, where over two thirds of the loading screens are information of the band your about to play. Along with subtle notes and how things are generally run in the tour mode, you can feel this game was made properly. Overall, it just feels tight and well put together. You will find yourself having endless hours of fun despite how awful your friend can sing Hello There by Cheap Trick. And with the no fail mode, it’s fun for everyone. You’re definitely getting your monies worth for this game, even if you’re buying all the hardware as well.

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