Tuesday, December 04, 2007

VG REVIEW: Rock Band

“ROCK BAND” Electronic Arts, for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, rated T for Teen (lyrics, mild suggestive themes), $169.99.

Admit it. Deep down inside you wish you were a rock star.

It's a common dream, but all too often a severe lack of talent and skill prevents most (oh, all right me) from ever actually getting up on stage and prancing about like a golden god.

Thats why I'm so grateful there are games like Rock Band out these days. With a sizable cash infusion I can now make like not only Jimmy Page, but also Robert Plant, John Bonham and even John Paul Jones via my video game console. Best of all, I can bring three of my friends
along for the ride.

The developing studio Harmonix, which created the first two versions of the uber-popular "Guitar Hero series, as well as such other music themed games like "Karaoke Revolution" and "Frequency," has produced some inspired games before, in many ways this ambitious title represents the culmination of everything they've done.

Lets get the biggest problem with Rock Band right out of the way — its terribly expensive. At some future date you’ll be able to buy the various instruments separately, but ideally you’ll want to shell out the big bucks for the $170 special edition package.

If youve played any of the "Guitar Hero" games or even fiddled with a karaoke machine, you can get the basic gist of Rock Band quickly enough.

In the game you and up to three other people take on different band roles — drums, guitar, bass and vocals — and play along to a variety of songs by such folks as Nirvana, Radiohead, KISS and The Who.

As with "Guitar Hero," the goal is to press (or thwack) the colored buttons on your controller at the same time they scroll down the bottom of your TV screen. The vocal section, meanwhile, works just like most karaoke games, with singers having to match the pitch and phrasing of the
song as accurately as possible.

Of all the instruments, playing the drums is the most fun and challenging section of the game (and the one that resembles the real thing the closest).

If you dont have enough (or any) friends to play with, the game does offer solo tours, where, after creating your own character and outfitting them in ridiculous costumes, you can take a spin
through rock stardom.

Ideally however, "Rock Band" is a game designed for and best played with a group of people,
either in your home or online. The "Band World Tour" section, for example, is the real meat of the game, with players able to garner stars, fans and even roadies and tour managers as they
make their way from a tiny dank night club to arena stadiums (unfortunately, this section doesnt have an online mode).

Though the soundtrack provided in the game is excellent, users can download new songs (for a price naturally) on a weekly basis. Even full albums like The Who's "Whos Next" will eventually
be made available for download.

Despite its expense and limited one-player features, "Rock Band" is a stellar achievement and, with the right settings, perhaps one of the best experiences you'll have playing video games.
When youve got four people playing along to "Suffragette City" and everyones in sync the effect can be magical.

It's no substitute for actual music lessons, but "Rock Band," like "Guitar Hero" before it, should inspire a few intrepid souls to put down their controllers and pick up an instrument.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2007



At 9:39 AM, Anonymous GiftedPlacebo said...

No review is complete without mentioning the horrible hardware failures that have plagued this release. If you purchase this game, expect to be returning the guitar and drums within a few days.

The poor quality of hardware is a disgrace.

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Chris Mautner said...

I wasn't aware of the game's hardware problems when I wrote the review. In fact, I've had more luck with my Rock Band instruments than I've had with my Guitar Hero III controller, whose strum bar has the annoying tendency of sticking.


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