Rock Band 2 Review
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Rock Band 2 isn't a "true" sequel, but it's the best encore we've ever experienced. Warn your neighbors -- this may be their last proper night of sleep for months.
- The massive, meticulously crafted setlist
- The Battle of the Bands mode
- The refined guitar and drum peripherals
- Laggy drum fills and pitch recognition on some setups
Rock Band revolutionized the music game genre, allowing users to play with not only a guitar peripheral, but a drum set and microphone as well. Many dubbed it the perfect music game. A year has passed, and Harmonix has crafted a sequel to the original legendary title. While the main formula remains relatively unchanged, Rock Band 2 is more than a worthy encore.
The guitar peripheral has seen subtle yet beneficial enhancements. Visually, the color scheme has been altered entirely in an attempt to mimic the real Stratocaster. Although plastic, the guitar looks more like a genuine instrument than a toy. The other major change is the new strum bar. That “mushy” feeling that so many hated the original peripheral for is gone. Instead, strumming is a perfect hybrid between the “mushy” Rock Band 1 strum bar and the “click” of past Guitar Hero peripherals. This combination is sturdy, yet not rigid. Other minute changes include the altered placement of the effects pickup switch, raised surface around the start button (to prevent accidental game pausing), a more reliable overdrive accelerometer, and quieter fret buttons.
The drum set is undoubtedly the most improved piece of hardware. First off, the set is now wireless, so no more pets (or people for that matter) can trip on the wire and yank your PS3 off the shelf while you’re jamming out. Second, the pads are velocity sensitive, so your hits dictate the in-game volume. Third, the pads are much quieter with better rebound, so you don’t drown out the song, but concurrently feel more like you’re playing a real drum set. Last but not least, the bass pedal is now reinforced by a metal plate, so no more snapped pedals.
The Rock Band 2 microphone is identical to the previous one. So, yes, it’s still wired. It’s a classic handheld mic, and if you like singing you’ll love it. If not, well, you won’t. Simple as that.
But I digress, for there’s a game buried in the massive Rock Band 2 box too! For those of you who played the first game, the base gameplay in Rock Band 2 is virtually identical. For the guitar and bass, there are five notes to press and strum along to; the drums, four pads hit and a bass pedal to press; and the microphone, scrolling lyrics to sing along to with while matching your pitch to the undulating bar on the top of the screen. It worked well before, so Harmonix didn’t reinvent the wheel, and that’s fine. A few minuscule gameplay additions include the occasional drum solo and a revamped atonal voice detection system. Unfortunately, Rock Band 2 has taken a minor step backwards as well. On certain displays (or with certain sound systems), drum fills and pitch recognition are laggy. This issue can be remedied with some crafty tweaking, but you may be required to shut off surround sound output in the process. If there’s one game that has to be played in surround sound, it’s Rock Band 2.
So, if there aren’t major changes, why does the Rock Band 2 disc warrant a purchase? Two reasons: songs and polish. Let’s start with the songs. There are over 80 songs on the disc, and the game comes with a code to download an extra 20 songs for free. That’s absolutely unprecedented - over 100 songs for $60. Even if this game were merely a Rock Band 1 track pack, it would still be worth it. Some of my favorite bands/artists on the disc include AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers. As taste in music is entirely subjective, none of those picks might necessarily float your boat, but with a total library of nearly 600 songs (between all released downloadable content, exported Rock Band 1 songs, the AC/DC track pack, and all Rock Band 2 tracks), Rock Band 2 is variety in a box.
Then there’s the incredible amount of polish that pervades every aspect of the game. Nearly everything that you have possibly wanted added to Rock Band 1 is present. Online World Tour mode helps alleviate the loneliness of solitary rockers. A drum trainer mode provides hope for Keith Moon aspirants. A “no-fail” ... (continued on next page)
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