frenchfriedfool's Rock Band (Xbox 360) review

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THE Music rhythm game.

What's better than having one music god? Having four music gods. That's the overall message that Rock Band seems to shout at every possibility, why? Because it's true. As a multiplayer experience, Rock Band is without a doubt the best music rhythm game to date and arguably one of the best games ever.

Without sounding too overdramatic, lets go over some of the finer points of the game itself. Within Rock Band you are immediatly given a choice of 4 instruments to play (unless you purchased the game by itself, leaving you the choice of vocals via a Xbox Live headset and guitar via a Guitar Hero guitar.) Each of these are incredibly varied (Bass and Guitar are more diverse than in Guitar Hero) and offer hours of entertainment.

Vocals can be performed with any USB Microphone but the Rock Band package comes equipped with one anyway, so hey, why not. The singing performs very similar to the popular Singstar series where you must sing the correct notes which appear on screen as bars. This may put some off but given you're allowed to sing in any octave you want, it's alot more welcoming than many would assume, specially on the Easy and Medium difficulty settings. The biggest criticism with the vocals is that without prior knowledge of the games lengthy setlist, it can be incredibly hard to sing some tracks, but this is down to personal taste, but it's true that here the game is a victim of it's own length.

Guitar and Bass are very similar to Guitar Hero in that they are played in the same fashion with the differences being merely cosmetic (Hammer-on's are smaller notes as opposed to lit up, Star Power is re-titled Overdrive.) The difficulty for these instruments is noticably different to that of Guitar Hero 3. Since Guitar Hero 3 is designed to be a more solitary experience the difficulty is higher than Rock Band's social 4-way system, this is very noticable when I (while not the best player out there) can play Expert on Rock Band and often struggle with Hard on Guitar Hero 3.

Drums are an entirely new aspect to the Music Rythm genre and are to a word... Awesome. The system works very similar to that of the guitar and bass where the notes scroll down screen and the correct 'notes' must be hit at the correct time. Difference is the orange 'note' is replaced with a foot pedal and appears as a bar which covers the entire note (thus making it hard to visually miss.) This system seems initially daunting but is actually very welcoming and user-friendly. I would strongly suggest you start on either the easy or medium difficulty settings as the higher up ones are... well terrifying. Another strong plus for this instrument choice is if you play it long enough to be able to play Expert, it can help you learn to play drums in real life. My main criticism with the drum kit however is the foot pedal itself is at times unresponsive and hard to hit fast repeatedly, however this may be down to my own kit.

Rock Band's setlist is incredibly strong, ranging from classics such as Highway Star and Paranoid to more recent hits like When You Were Young and Dani California. As previously noted, the songs you are unfamiliar with make vocals alot harder, for example, I can ace Epic and Black Hole Sun but others struggle due to no knowledge of it's tune. (90's ftw.) However, this is by no means a fault, the massive variety in the setlist makes it very accesible meaning nearly anyone can pick up a controller and find something they can happily play along with, and even then, there's always DLC...

Rock Band's DLC is one of it's strongest points, offering hours of extra gameplay to those who would believe they'd seen it all, the DLC currently on offer is incredibly varied and has something for everyone (Roxanne and Hammerhead anyone?) Also, given it carries onto Rock Band 2 and is incredibly good value for money, you never feel like you were ripped off, which is good, because you weren't.

Online Rock Band is a very enjoyable experience, while only offering 2 modes (Tug of War and Score Duel) both are deep and fun enough to keep you coming back for more. However, I personally was very let down by the lack of World Tour (The mode where atleast 2 instruments play together, guitar & bass, drums & vocals etc.) online support? Surely this would've been the obvious addition... Specially given the solo options on offer.

As a solitary experience, Rock Band is still a blast to play, but can drag on at times, specially with songs you are unfamiiar with. The guitar's difficulty can be a blessing or a curse depending on what you want from the game, if you want to play until your fingers bleed, get Guitar Hero 3, if you want to play along to your favourite tracks, get Rock Band. Vocals can drag on alone, also, it may raise a few eyebrows when a friend can hear you singing 'Bend me, break me...' distantly in your best female impression. Drums are still enjoyable alone (and hard...) but Rock Band was clearly designed to be played with a friend... or three.

Cost aside, (Seen the price of the European edition?!) Rock Band is one of the best packages currently on the market, it has very strong replay value, a good sense of fun with friends and one of the best setlists (DLC included) ever made. What can I say? You really haven't lived until you've given Rock Band a try, it's social, it's crazy, it's always gonna keep you coming back for more and the most important part. It's fun.

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