Rock Band Preview
As ridiculously popular as Guitar Hero is, perhaps it's time to take the next step in the music genre. Perhaps we needed to expand beyond the customary guitar; after all, there's a lot more to any band than just the guitar, regardless of what kind of music you play. Enter Rock Band, which is primed and ready to deliver one of the most engaging and unique rhythm-based experiences of 2007. We've got a close look at how this one is shaping up, and if you're any sort of Guitar Hero fan, you should stick with us and pay attention. How diverse how can you be? How many musical accessories can you master? Are you capable of handling multiple instruments and keeping your cool when performing on stage (or virtual stage, whatever)? If you think you've got the guts and the capability, you should probably add one more game to your Christmas list.
But before we start down that complicated additional-accessories road, we'll kick things off with the guitar. If you're familiar with Guitar Hero, chances are, you'll have the edge when playing Rock Band because the interactive basics are very similar. As you stand there, ripping off the riffs and pretending you're up there in front of a gaggle of groupies, your Guitar Hero-schooled hands will take to the guitar controller like a fish to water. It won't take you long to excel in this department; the pull-offs and five-button + strum bar mechanics should represent very familiar territory, but there are more advanced aspects to Rock Band. The second you start saying to yourself, "hey, I know this!," the game will throw a wrench into the works and prove just how different Harmonix's latest creation really is. Remember, it ain't always up to you to carry the band; you should have some friends behind you, and if they're suffering, the whole production suffers.
See, if you've got a spaz who can't hold a beat, you're not gonna get many gigs. In this way, the game is pretty darn realistic, because the entire band can fail the song if only one of the band members messes up enough. However, there is a way to save yourself: cover up their mistakes with a blazing solo of your own! There's a feature called "overdrive" in the game (it's basically like the "star power" feature in Guitar Hero) that will allow you to "resurrect" band-mates who have fallen behind. Overdrive will also score you big points with the crowd, of course, but if one of your friends can't handle the workload, you might want to save up some overdrive. As the lead musician on the floor, it's up to you to carry the show even if your less-than-coordinated buddies are dropping the ball. In this way, Rock Band is absolutely nothing like Guitar Hero, although it may frighten some casual gamers who just wanna throw down by themselves every once in a while.
This is why it seems like Rock Band is designed more for the full-on music fan who wants to experience more than just the guitar-playing aspect. However, at the same time, it's obvious not all songs on the track list will emphasize the guitar; sometimes, the lead instrument will merely play a supporting role. We'd be remiss to mention this, because honestly, if you're a straight-up guitar fan and aren't really interested in the rest of it, Guitar Hero III might be your best bet. On the other hand, just look at what Rock Band has to offer! At this point, it has to be the most fully realized music game to date, and we just hope everything gels together nicely. It's true that Guitar Hero veterans will have a jump on the competition in this game, but with three other players - potentially - the entire situation changes. By the way, in case you were wondering, the two guitar controllers are pretty similar, but the Rock Band one has five extra fret buttons at the top of the neck.
Okay, we'll finally get to the part you've been waiting for: the soundtrack. As of today, here is a list of 35 songs that have been confirmed:
- "Are You Gonna Be My Girl," Jet
- "Black Hole Sun," Soundgarden"
- "Blitzkrieg Bop," Ramones
- "Brainpower," Freezepop
- "Celebrity Skin," Hole
- "Cherub Rock," Smashing Pumpkins
- "Creep," Radiohead
- "Dani California," Red Hot Chili Peppers
- "Detroit Rock City," Kiss
- "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," Blue Oyster Club
- "Enter Sandman," Metallica
- "Epic," Faith No More
- "Gimme Shelter," Rolling Stones
- "Go with the Flow," Queens of the Stone Age
- "The Hand That Feeds," Nine Inch Nails
- "Here It Goes Again," OK Go
- "Highway Star," Deep Purple
- "I Think I'm Paranoid," Garbage
- "In Bloom," Nirvana
- "Learn to Fly," Foo Fighters
- "Main Offender," The Hives
- "Maps," Yeah Yeah Yeahs
- "Mississippi Queen," Mountain
- "Orange Crush," R.E.M.
- "Paranoid," Black Sabbath
- "Reptilia," The Strokes
- "Sabotage," Beastie Boys
- "Say It Ain't So," Weezer
- "Should I Stray or Should I Go," The Clash
- "Suffragette City," David Bowie
- "Tom Sawyer," Rush
- "Vasoline," Stone Temple Pilots
- "Wanted Dead or Alive," Bon Jovi
- "Wave of Mutilation," Pixies
- "Won't Get Fooled Again," The Who
There's a really nice amount of diversity here, which should make for a lot of different gameplay experiences. And with accessories like the drum kit and microphone, you can already see which of these songs might be best for each instrument; could be tough to belt out the lyrics to "Wanted Dead or Alive"! Furthermore, there should be plenty more tracks that will become available via download; many more in fact. Supposedly, 18 songs by the Grateful Dead will eventually pop up on the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live, along with more from the likes of Nirvana, Metallica, and The Who. Now, considering we'll have the benefit of online content throughout the game's lifespan, can you imagine how many songs could feasibly come to Rock Band? Heck, if they get the appropriate licensing and the game is popular enough - and that shouldn't be a problem - then there could be no end to the onslaught of tracks!
So without any doubt, Harmonix and MTV Games has prepared a heck of a soundtrack for Rock Band, and it's very unlikely a die-hard music fan won't find anything he/she likes. In fact, with so many classics on the roster, you're probably itching to try them out, and you won't have too much longer to wait: it will release in the US for the PS3 and Xbox 360 on November 20. Gamers in PAL territories won't get Rock Band until early next year. Regardless of where you are, though, this is one game that just about everyone should at least try, and for music lovin' gamers, it'll be a must-own. Let's just hope they can keep the overall price of admission down...
9/27/2007 Ben Dutka