Rock Band and Green Day Collide With Mixed Results
It feels like Harmonix pulled out their big guns prematurely with their plastic instrument take on the fab four in last year's The Beatles: Rock Band. It's only arguable by logical technicality that the subjects of said rhythm game are the most well-known and definitive music group in the last hundred years. And the developers went all out, going so far as to recreate the established Rock Band interface with a psychedelic coat of paint, capturing an element of the time period, as well as the band themselves with a certain fluorescent charm. With this latest entry in the franchise, and the second title for Harmonix in their band-specific category, the music-rhythm genre takes a look at yet another definitive group of musicians in the punk-rock group Green Day.
Green Day has quite a history, spanning back as far as the 1980s and moving swiftly into the present day where they're perhaps more popular than ever before. Despite that, the band comprised of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool just doesn't have the foothold on history that The Beatles do, and that's most likely the reason that Green Day: Rock Band falls a little short. It probably doesn't help in any way that the band's music isn't the most appealing to the masses; Armstrong tends to go off on tirades about cigarettes and coffee and marijuana and insanity throughout much of his vocal work. The blatant censoring of the many, many (many!) curse words present in most of the game's 47 songs brings more attention to these profane tendencies than the words themselves. But, for the most part, all of their work plays pretty well on Harmonix's rhythm game platform.
It's a bit jarring to see the normally roughed-up members of this pseudo-punk group looking so clean and animated in their presentation here. There are some tattoos and eye-liner positioned adequately, but a lot of piercings and general aggressiveness pertaining to Armstrong most specifically are strikingly absent. I couldn't shake the feeling during my run through career mode that everyone looked just a little too happy in how they were showcased on the screen. Perhaps that's my own inclination given the general image that Green Day have applied to themselves over the years, or maybe this game occurs in some weird dimension where none of that ever became a part of them. Either way, it's weird.
Most of the special stuff that was done for The Beatles hasn't been utilized in this particular venture. There are three different venues to play during career mode, each with a rather substantial number of songs to play through. You don't get any of the era-switch montages that were seen previously, and the music highway looks precisely as you've probably seen it in both Rock Band 2 and its predecessor. It's kind of a shame; not everyone that's going to be buying this package are well-acquainted with the group, and I'm sure some sort of look into their journey to stardom would have been appreciated. Still, there's an ample number of extra unlockables along the path to the finish, provided you can fish each song with a three or five-star rating in your chosen difficulty.
Speaking of difficulty, most of the music library in this release is fairly sporadic in that department. There's a lot of really easy stuff packed in here, and then there's a large portion of songs that'll provide you with some insane, finger-blistering challenges. I'm not kidding about that. I'm actually nursing some blisters acquired from playing the game for review as I type this.
As mentioned earlier, there are 47 of Green Day's best song's present within Green Day: Rock Band, including all of "Dookie" and "American Idiot," and most of "21st Century Breakdown." The remainder of that last one can be purchased on the Rock Band DLC store. Everything in here seems very telling of the group's style, and pretty much every bit of music that a fan would consider iconic is accounted for. Once career mode is over, you'll have earned a currency known as "Creds" with which you can unlock challenges. They'll require doing this like earning a combined total of 44 stars for all of one of the albums, or 13 stars for a setlist of three songs. There are some more in there, but that's pretty much what you can expect. Other than that, you have the usual Quickplay mode, as well as multiplayer, and for an additional fee you can export all of the music into Rock Band 2 so you won't have to deal with disc swapping. I suppose that's one leg-up this game has over the whole Beatles installment.
When it comes down to it, the thing you need to ask yourself is, "am I a Green Day fan?" If the answer is yes, then ask one more: "Do I like Rock Band?" That's what is going to determine whether or not this game is for you. Green Day's stuff is entertaining to play, but it's one's familiarity with the music presented that makes up at least half of the equation with this type of virtual experience. If you're into these guys, go out and pick it up. You're sure to have a blast. If you're not, ignore that this game was ever released, and hit up the DLC store if you're really jonesing for something new to play. That's what it's there for.