Rock Band 2
Just to get things clear: this review of Rock Band 2 is only about the software. The hardware I used was that of Guitar Hero: World Tour. Don’t make me accountable for it but the worldwide web by now has reached some sort of consensus about that fact that the hardware of the latter is just a bit better than that from the Rock Band series. Whether the same goes for the software is a more controversial discussion!
While the first Rock Band of course unleashed a small revolution in the music genre this sequel is more a refinement and an improvement. Little really new under the sun but enough adjustments and tweaks to make us happy. On top of that the gameplay has remained equally fun and addictive and for me that’s enough to put the disc on the pile of “often played” games next to the 360.
The World Tour, where you can unlock the songs, has improved. The characters are more fun, have more gear and are exchangeable, you can earn vehicles to reach other countries and there are a lot of fun venus to unlock and “Mystery Sets” bring some variation. Also the extras that pass by unexpectedly (like for instance recording a video clip during your set) make it all varied and keep it exciting. On top of that you can now also take on other band members online so that your friends and you can play together from your own homes.
Nice is also that you can use the instruments from Guitar Hero 2, 3 and World Tour. Long live compatibility! The game itself is still as streamlined and just that bit more clinical and less kitsch than competitor World Tour. New are the many drum solos where you can have a blast and afterwards activate Overdrive, a very interesting and good addition. Too bad that the drumming itself is still limited to four colors instead of the double cymbals from Guitar Hero. In exchange for that slightly bigger accessibility you do get a game that’s better as party game or for having newcomers join in.
The overall difficulty is a bit lower, eventhough I don’t agree with the fact that some songs in the World Tour mode can only be played on Hard or Expert, especially when there are classics like Battery by Metallica. A party game shouldn’t block you from playing all songs on all difficulty degrees. Luckily the makers implemented a “No Fail” mode which allows you to continue playing your songs without failing, no matter how bad you’re doing. In exchange you can’t unlock achievements with it or save your progress. There’s also a Drum Trainer, a made where you learn to play beats or how you can fill in the freestyle pieces without sounding too bad.
The soundtrack has over 80 numbers and concentrates on rock and some metal from now and before. Overall the songs are quite good and sound excellent if you’ve got some decent speakers around but there are simply too few well-known songs. When you play with your friends, especially when someone needs to sing (which isn’t the most popular activity) the lyrics are often unknown and boring to do. I more than once heard someone pray for more popular or known numbers, whether or not they were rock. Pop Band anyone? We’ve outgrown the stage of guitar-only so why only focus on numbers where rocking is central?
The DLC is very extensive but again only few famous songs are present. During partying you’ll more than often go back to hits like “Eye of the Tiger”, “Livin’ on a Prayer” or songs by Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam or RHCP. Perfect for rock adepts, less for the casual musician. Those that want can for 400 points (ridiculously expensive) import the tracks from the first Rock Band on his harddisk to use them in this successor.
The conclusion is actually quite simple: Rock Band 2 is an evolution of its predecessor with some good improvements but still that same fantastic gameplay that will bring you hours of fun both alone as with friends. The soundtrack is excellent but could be a bit more popular for a party game. If you don’t have such a game to fill your living room with yet, or want more than Guitar Hero: World Tour then this is an absolute must and probably even a better game than the competition! Be sure to check the tracklists first though when you make your personal choice.