Xbox 360 Review: Rock Revolution
From the moment I first laid eyes on Rock Revolution, my first thought was "Oh, my, Konami, what the **** have you done?" From the start, RR reeked of Guitar Hero/Rock Band copycat imitation with an interface that paled in comparison to the latter titles. With the maddening success of Guitar Freaks and DrumMania in Japan (and, technically, the U.S. Guitar Freaks cabinet - made by the same publisher as the wretched Rock Revolution, mind you - released way back in 1999), it still boggles everyone's mind as to why the format wasn't domesticated and delivered. Instead, Konami had an abomination built from scratch to cash in on the craze it launched ... and failed to capitalize on in the U.S. Hasn't Konami ever heard the phrase "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?"
The most puzzling facet of Rock Revolution lies in the fact it fails to match either Guitar Hero or Rock Band on any level and, yet, it begs almost the same retail price as its superior brethren. After years of quality releases asking players to pick up plastic guitars, it's impossible to not compare Rock Revolution to those titles, no matter how hard I try. Even if Guitar Hero or Rock Revolution didn't exist, Konami once again formulates a title which infuriates its Bemani fans with asinine changes while confusing and making a laughingstock of itself to new gamers with far inferior cash-ins on the music-gaming bandwagon.
Even at its core, the mechanics are a mess - a confusing, poorly laid-out HUD, horrible presentation, terrible note charting and song covers that would make even a dog cringe in audible fear are things you won't find listed as bullet points on the back of the packing, but they're all here. Konami once again gips the consumer, laying out a paltry 40-ish tracks, compared to the 80+ on-disc found on Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour. That's double. Furthermore, not only is it double, it's double the master recordings for almost the same price. When your music game doesn't even provide the artist for the songs, you know something is up. But, then again, if I were a band, I wouldn't want to be associated with this train wreck of a music game either.
While Rock Band or Guitar Hero relies on rhythmic mechanics for its difficulty, RR sees fit to throw a clusterhump of triple guitar chords into the mix to create its difficulty on the hard and expert levels. And why adding an extra pad from the Drum Mania arcade unit was deemed necessary, I'll never know, but, thankfully, an option to cut the drums down to five pads for the sake of Rock Band drum kit compatibility makes the spread a little easier to swallow. But then again, if you own a Rock Band drum kit, why the hell are you playing Rock Revolution - nearly every single "song" in the game can be found in Rock Band via its games and DLC. Looking at videos of the not-even-release perephrial gives me a headache and I'm not sure if that's from the pain induced by RR or from the constant motion of my head shaking at Konami's baffling treatment of the music game genre. The charting of the songs is harder than it needs to be at most points and the lack of any real content drives the playability of the title into the ground.
The graphics in RR are about as average as it gets. Players are stuck to pre-programmed avatars (what is that guy doing with Terry Bogard's hat? SNK will sue!), meaning the players have very little customization with their band outside of its name. The band routines are fairly well done and the environments are fairly lively, but the crowd is laughable with its mass reduplication of the same people, moving in the same few frames of animation over and over in sync. The menus are as generic as it gets and the in-game HUD is just short of being an eyesore. The audio hardly aids the presentation, mostly in the form of its terrible, terrible covers. When I first heard the vocals to Chop Suey, I laughed out loud for at least two minutes. Honestly, the vocals are my biggest gripe as the guitar and drum work is mostly spot on, but just like all other aspects of RR, it lacks polish and the void of licensed master tracks is a real sore spot on the face of the title.
Maybe five or so years ago, I would have given this game two to three stars, but Konami needs to realize the U.S. is no longer in a position where it has to accept anything Konami gives to it just so it can have music games. Fans of the genre deserve much better and that's why I have to bring the hammer down on this one. On its own merits, Rock Revolution offers a few new ideas, but it fails on every conceivable level in comparison to other games in the genre. I'm frankly embarrassed by this effort after supporting Bemani for almost 10 years now. There is absolutely no reason to own this game. You can find nearly 100% of what you see here in Rock Band 2 or Guitar Hero: World Tour and you get double the content and better execution for your money.
The biggest knock on Rock Revolution isn't just because it doesn't compare to GH or RB, it's just a lazy, horrible game. The songs aren't interesting at all for the most part, the chartwork assigned to the instruments isn't fun and the entire presentation is about as average as a game can get. The in-game recording studio is fairly confusing and doesn't add to the scope of the game very much. If I can't stand playing the basic game, why would I spend hours creating new content for the same mechanics? I probably say this too much, but, what was wrong with porting over the Guitar Freaks series, which has been finely crafted over nearly 10 years with some top-notch artists (Fact: Early versions of Guitar Freaks contained U.S. licenses such as Alanis Morissette's You Oughta Know, Bon Jovi's You Give Love a Bad Name and Bad Medicine, Jamiroquai's Virtual Insanity, Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild and more very familiar songs - why couldn't this have been done here?). Rock Revolution will make Bemani fans steam with anger and it will just make the casual game player point and laugh at how bad of a knockoff the game is. Just steer clear of this one, no matter who you are.