Well, looks like it’s that time of they year again to call up all your friends and get the old band back together. Pull out the guitars, drums and microphone because it's time for Rock Band 2. Keeping to the same concept as the original game and adding a few new extras, Rock Band 2 is sure to be a hit. Grab those sticks and get ready to the reach the top of Rock Band fame.
So to start I must say I’m pretty honored to be reviewing Rock Band, personally the best music sim game out there. Almost a year after the first Rock Band, Harmonix Music System releases Rock Band 2. With the same game modes and a few new additions Harmonix decided to keep it safe, and sometimes keeping it safe can be exactly what a sequel needs. Rock Band 2 opens pretty much the same way as the first Rock Band game, showing two groups of singers battling it on two moving cars to see who’s better. At least we know that we have got the same game which is a comforting thought. Assuming everyone knows what Rock Band is by now we’ll just be taking a look at the game modes and what else is new. Once the opening is done it's timet o jump into the main menu, and this is where all the fun begins.
At the main menu screen you are given the usual options, quickplay, tour, training, options, extras and music store. The first options being quickplay is exactly as the title states. Once selected, you have the option of solo or band quickplay, tug of war and score duel. Solo quickplay is where you select a song to play from the list, then an instrument and have some fun, whereas band quickplay is the same except you and some friends select instruments. Tug of war is a multiplayer mode where you and a friend compete to see who can pull the most of the songs and basically points. Score duel is the same concept but it’s to see who gets the most points between you and friends.
The next option in the main menu is Tour, and this is where all the action happens. Tour all starts with you creating a band. Pretty simple, pick a name and a location for you band and your set. Later customization for you band can include creating a logo and adding a slogan. After that you get to create your very own rockstar, and no, your Rock Band 1 character can’t be transferred over. Creating a character starts with making a name, and then a location, hair, build and height. Also you can customize clothing, tattoos, face masks and guitars in the tour rock shop, where all this can be purchased. Once all this is done and you friends have their characters, unless it’s a solo tour, you can now begin. As in Rock Band you select a city to play in and start the set lists or single songs. Once you complete certain songs new venues and cities are unlocked so you can travel the world and be the rock king.
There are a few new things to say about tour mode though. First off you can now do tour mode online with friends. This can be fun in many ways but it still doesn’t beat having your friends around and playing some RB. Another great new feature in tour mode is challenges. In challenges there are four stages, each increasing in difficulty, and inside each stage there are several challenges. For example, the first stage is local upstart, inside of local upstart there are 4 challenges to start with. One challenge is Band warm-ups, which is where all your band mates get together to complete a set list and unlock new events. Also in local upstart there is fender warm-ups, where only a guitarist plays, drum warm-ups where only drummers play and so on. In each challenge involving only drums there must be a drummer to complete it, but you can still have a guitarist playing also, but only for fun, the guitarist accumulates no points. Challenges are a great way to unlock new songs and get some practice in on certain instruments, or vocals.
If all this isn’t enough there’s also Battle of the Bands, one of the best new features to Rock Band 2. Battle of the Bands has several challenges; in which all band members or only one band member must complete a set list either with one certain instrument or all members performing. Each battle has different settings, there are different songs, different ranking (either by star count or point count), no fail (impossible to fail), certain instruments, no star power allowed and so on. The great thing is once you complete the battle your score is added to an online leader board so you can see how you and your band stack up against the world.
Now for the music. The music in Rock Band 2 is excellent, there are 84 songs on the CD; which include, “Let There Be Rock” by AC/DC, “E-Pro” by Beck, “Everlong” by Foo Fighters, “Down With The Sickness” by Disturbed, “Alive” by Pearl Jam, and “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads. These of course are only to name a few. Also some time in late fall Rock Band will be releasing 20 bonus track to download for free with the code on the back of the manual which comes with the game. So far no details have been given on the songs. To add more songs to the list all the songs you downloaded online for Rock Band are automatically transferred to Rock Band 2. Last but not least, in the options menu of Rock Band there is an option to export songs, so all (except for four) Rock Band 1 songs will be added to your HD and transferred to Rock Band 2. But if there are some songs in Rock Band 1 you aren’t fond of they can be deleted from your HD and will not appear on Rock Band 2. Keep in mind though, a license must be purchased (Xbox Live, 400 MS Points) in order to transfer the songs. So all together there will be enough songs to keep your whole band busy for quite some time.
As for the other options on the main menu, there’s the training option, which is where you can go to practice any instrument, with any song, and have the ability to adjust the speed at which notes come down. Then there’s the options menu, which is self-explanatory. After that there’s the extras menu. Extras is another neat new feature where “cheat” codes can be unlocked and used. For example, if easy is still to difficult you can turn on no fail mode, this will make sure you don’t fail out of a song. There’s several other neat little bonus items, but you can find those out yourself. And last but not least in music store, where your entire extra tracks can be purchased at the Xbox Live online rock shop.
The sounds and graphics really haven’t changed much from the two Rock Bands. The graphics are still clean, notes are easy to see coming down and the crowd still rocks out in the same symmetrical manner as before. As for the sound, the tracks still play loud and clear and the little clunks and clangs of missed notes still ring out clear to let friends know you aren’t doing so well. Something neat graphics wise is the addition of several new tattoo arts that have been added to the collection, so you can have some excellent tattoo combos. But aside from that the graphics and sound are still safe and wonderful, just like the first Rock Band.
As mentioned before, Rock Band keeps it safe by adding in a few new game modes while keeping all the essentials. The graphics and sound were great in Rock Band 1 and they stay the same in Rock Band 2, no need to change something already good. The character customization is ample and sure to keep your rockstar looking up to date. The new modes added are a perfect touch with each song played getting ranked on the Rock Band leaderboard. You can always see how your doing compared to everyone and strive for the higher score. Tour mode is now online and offline, which is great for people who can’t always get together with friends. There is an ample amount of songs, only downside not all of them are fun to play and some make you stop and think “How did this get into Rock Band?” When you reach “So Whatch’ya Want” by the Beastie Boys you’ll understand.
All in all Rock Band 2 is a must have if you’re a fan of music Sims then this is a must have. Simple changes, lots of songs and more to come along with great gameplay and a new online mode makes this one for the library of games. If you haven’t picked up Rock Band yet I suggest you make this your next purchase.
Reviewed by Chris Gagne | 10.06.08