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Game Review: Rock Band

Platform: XBOX360 Published: EA Developed: Harmonics Genre: Rhythm

SCORE: 9.0

Developed by Harmonix, and creators of Guitar Hero, Rock Band was an all new game that promised the joy of playing as a band. They did this by allowing the player to play with the guitar, the bass, the drum, or as vocals. The game allows you to start your band and encourages co-op play with other people. The player starts from their garage to various clubs in order to make their way to the big stage.

When Harmonix stepped back from making Guitar Hero, I was eager to see what they would come up with instead. Once Rock Band was announced, I thought they had made a great, and logical, follow up to Guitar Hero but the problem was could they deliver?

One of the great things about Guitar Hero was that it empowered the player with the sensation of playing real music. Another thing was its enjoyable selection of rock songs to choose from. Finally, the way they got players to feel like real rock star. This was due mainly because of the peripherals. The peripherals that come with game are controllers in the shape of an instrument. These controllers are used by striking a note when it reaches the line. While it sounds simple, it becomes very challenging as it progresses. So now, Rock band had to surpass it by expanding this feeling onto all four instruments.

The game allows the player to play either solo or band tour. The solo tour plays virtually the same as in Guitar Hero, where the player starts with five or six songs and as they clear the songs, they unlock new songs. The band tour is more of a co-op game where the players assume different roles of the band. The band allows the players to start out in small locations to gain both fame and money. Fame comes in the form of fans that the player obtains; this lets him/her unlock new venues to perform. The money is used to purchase new customizations of your character, such as clothing and instruments.

When Rock Band was released, Activision released their new iteration of Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero 3, however they played it safe and only emphasized on the Guitar. Yet on the other hand, Rock Band tried to do something innovative with the genre by adding all these elements to the game. My concern with this, were the songs and whether it would allow the player to enjoy the gameplay regardless of the instrument they were playing. This is because even if a song is “good”, some instruments might be neglected, especially in vocals.

Rock Band’s design deals with this issue very well. The way they did this was to first choose songs that were balanced. This allowed so that any instrument in use was fun to play with. Because of the nature of songs, this is still not enough when it comes down to the vocals since most songs will have places where the singer does not sing. So to avoid boring the player, they implemented a feature that let the player tap the microphone to gain extra points. Tapping the microphone during these times, depending on the song, would either make the noise of a cowbell or a tambourine. Making this give extra points instead of being something that would make the player fail the song, as it is when the player messes up a phrase, was a great choice. This allows players to play both microphone and any other instrument without the distraction of the tapping.

Another good feature in this game is its online music shop. This allows the players to purchase additional songs and extend the replay value of the game. Unlike previous attempts in Guitar Hero, Rock Band updates their songs more often which makes the player look forward to see what new songs become available,

Despite having several good qualities, there are areas in the game where it falls short. One of these is that the game does not allow you to play as your band if you the leader is not present. This can become frustrating if the player wants to switch from one instrument to another since he can’t switch the leader from his initial instrument. Another feature that one would expect from a game like this would be the ability to let the player form a band with his/her friends online and while the player can play online with other people, it does not allow you to play the career mode.

With all of this in mind, the only things I would focus on are their short comings. The player should have been able to choose what instrument to play in their band, to promote the use of all of their features. While this can seem like a minor detail, it is oversights like these that can frustrate the player for no real reason. The ability to form a band online seems something that they should have gone for, however with everything else they had going on making this game, I can see how that might have been a secondary feature they could not get to. However, this is one feature I would focus on for the next game.

This game took a chance in expanding the gameplay but with their previous success with Guitar Hero it was only natural to have the ambition and drive to do it. Rock Band has reinvented the way Music/Rhythm games are made.

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