Last year, Rock Band in its oversized plastic peripheral glory came to past and rocked the very foundations of the music and rhythm game genre, bringing it to a new level. Since it seems like video game law requires a sequel within a year or two, Rock Band 2 rolls out almost a year later (and a month earlier than the other versions.) on the X-Box 360. While the game is the only thing available in mass (some drum kits and guitars were released.) it is clear that Rock Band 2 is less of a game, and more of an upgrade, but that also mean’s its still fun.
The premise is to play one of four parts of a Rock Band, guitar, bass, drums or vocals, and work your way up to the expert level, shred, bang, or shrill out the notes in quick succession and get the highest score possible. It’s a major throwback to the old school gaming, improving your score every time you play until you can achieve a perfect game. The archaic gameplay works in this situation, and it is still as fun as ever.
While the game has literally remained unchanged since, well, Guitar Hero three years ago, this version of the game has been totally revamped, cleaning up the clutter and problems from Rock Band. First and foremost, there is now an online world tour mode, essentially becoming the single player campaign if you like, or get three personal or online friends to join you on the quest for total Rock dominance. This is without a doubt the biggest change to the games format, and is very welcome to all fans of the game.
There are also a lot of new additions, such as the Battle of the Bands mode, which is weekly challenges for various leaderboard positions online, or the Challenge mode, which is going through setlists based on instruments, genre of music, or even albums and track packs from the online content. These modes are great ways to not only practice the harder songs in the game, but also to generate cash flow, unlock new challenges, instruments or costume pieces, and are a nice diversion over the world tour mode.
Speaking of songs, the games soundtrack is perhaps among the best ever conceived, with a great diversity in the game disc library. Going from radio sing along staples like “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor and “Any Way You Want It” by Journey, to the relenting stamina marathons of epic songs like “Painkiller” by Judas Priest, gives a lot of longevity to the game. There is something for everyone in this game, from punk to rock to classical rock to metal, and the choices made, while some are not perfect (such as AC/DC’s debut “Let There Be Rock”) it’s a solid setlist overall. Compound the backwards compatibility of the Rock Band disc (minus three songs in the U.S at least, albeit three very good songs) and the entire online category that has been faithfully updated EACH WEEK since the game came out, it’s very likely that the game can boast over 500 songs by Christmas time, and that alone is an impressive feat, adding great longevity to the game.
The games only real flaw is the graphics, which have remained unchanged and look very cartoonish. I also think the practice mode should have been revamped, and there should be some more statistical knowledge besides leaderboards online revealing your exact score and rank, maybe some improvement statistics for the more serious players who want to take over rank one on scorehero.
But the minor nitpicks aside; Rock Band 2 is essentially the server update that people clamored for last year. Almost everything has been improved in the game, and with the game out as it’s own entity, being used by the new or old sets of instrument controllers, Rock Band 2 is proving itself to be the rhythm and music game for the ages, one of the best in the genre, and a must own for fans of these games.
Final Score- A-