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Rock Band 2 Hands-on

16 July 2008

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one preparing to rock out on Tuesday as I headed into Harmonix’s private meeting booth. I walked in to the booth to immediately discover that the new Guns ‘n’ Roses album is a reality due to the fact that Rock Band 2 will be showcasing a single from it. Well that's a good start. Not only that, but the game will also feature songs from AC/DC, a band never before seen in a video game. As many of you know, Rock Band 2 is going to feature over 85 songs out of the box and is expected to offer around 500 total songs worldwide by the end of 2008. This will create a phenomenal choice of songs for fans of the franchise.

Most of you know what Rock Band is, so I’m going to skip the formalities and dive straight into the new features and info you guys want to hear about. One of the things Harmonix has implemented in order to make things easier for its users is the ability to browse through songs alphabetically. Now, by this I don’t mean you’ll have 200+ songs lined up like that, but you’ll be able to just pick out a letter and the game will list those bands under that letter. This will make finding the song you’re looking for that much easier and will make parties a lot smoother.

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One of the questions posed by our forum members was if you’d be able to create a custom set-list and have it play back-to-back for ease of use. The answer to that question was a resounding yes. Not only can you create your own set-list, but Harmonix has made the process convenient and easy. You’ll have the option to just click on a band name and have their entire lineup added to your custom listing. This will prevent users from having to face long load times after each performance.

As for the instruments themselves, from what I took from my hands-on is that each instrument with the exception to the microphone are all wireless. They’ve improved the guitar a significant amount and have added a cool feature to it as well. The guitar contains this audio circle type thing that will help you calibrate the responsiveness of the controls. This will definitely appeal to the hardcore Rock Band player who is very adamant about how his instrument controls. On top of this, the strum bar has been upgraded to feel more genuine and sturdy and to prevent the fear of breaking it while playing.

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As for the drums, well, we’ve all seen the $299 premium drums. They had them on display for my hands-on opportunity and, unsurprisingly, they felt very good. The cymbals are placed by choice and, though they are color-coded, they truly have no significance on the title at all. You can hit the cymbal, but the song will continue to play as expected. The only time you’ll hear a cymbal sound while playing is during a fill section where the game will recognize the difference between a tom and the cymbal itself. Just so you’re aware, the default drum kit that comes packaged with the title will provide slots in order for you to attach the cymbals themselves, so you won’t be forced to buy the entire premium package.

That covers the instrument changes, so I’ll dive into the new features the title provides for fans either continuing their love of the title or newcomers picking up their instruments for the very first time. The World Tour mode has been completely revamped to avoid the generic “play 5 songs, unlock 5 songs” mentality that seems to be prevalent amongst music rhythm titles now-a-days. Instead, World Tour will include Tour Challenges that will give you the chance to complete certain song objectives. The coolest part about these challenges is their dynamic element. Custom challenges will pop up depending on what songs you have downloaded onto your console. So, if you happen to have The Who album available, you may see a “The Who Challenge” icon displayed for you to complete.

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The other portion of the World Tour is Battle of the Bands. This new addition will allow you to battle other bands in hopes of topping their scores to move up the popularity ladder. This adds an entire new difficulty and competitive aura to the title that truly gives you another reason to improve on your skill level as times goes on. No longer will you pick up the instruments and just mess around, now you’ll have bragging rights that matter at stake.

Rock Band 2 will also allow you to hire a band manager. These cunning individuals will be able to help you score millions of supporters or millions of dollars depending on who you sign. If you’re going after straight cash money, you’ll end up losing fans and looking like a sell-out to the entire world. So this decision has some strategy to it depending what type of band you’re trying to create for yourself and your friends.

Overall, Rock Band 2 has more than enough intuitive advancements in the series to warrant the purchase of the sequel. Whether you’re keeping your original equipment from the first title or diving in for the first time, chances are, you’ll be impressed. I for one am looking forward to purchasing Rock Band 2, hopefully upon release.


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