(Why you would offer up all four parts is beyond me)
If you’re just cottoning on to this Guitar Hero trend, you’re so far behind you might as well be … well, Guitar Hero. Rock Band is the new hotness, developed by the scorned developer of the first two Guitar Hero games. It’s not available in Canada until mid-December (which is after my birthday, so i don’t know what they could possibly have been thinking) , but my own personal guitar hero scrounged one up for me during a shopping trip to Buffalo. (Thanks, Ryan!!)
The game turns the music rhythm genre up to eleven, and then trashes a hotel room, sets fire to its guitar, and bites the head off a chicken – all before you get a chance to hit “START”. You can play four instruments: lead guitar, bass/rhythm guitar, drums, and your own voice (via a USB microphone).
For those of you who DO know all about the game and are looking for that extra little recommendation to push your over the edge (in case the 90+% score on Metacritic wasn’t enough), here’s are five things you might not know about Rock Band that make it fully worth the purchase price:
I don’t think he’s wearing his seat belt
The Intro Movie
Usually, a slick intro movie isn’t much to recommend a game on. i think it was because of the developers’ dodgy character models and lacklustre animations from GH1 and GH2 that i had my doubts about Rock Band’s level of quality. Once i popped in the disc, though, i was met with such a mind-blowingly amazing intro movie that my already sky-high expectations shot straight into the stratosphere.
i won’t blow any of the details if you haven’t seen it, but it’s a quality piece of animation that i have to watch the whole way through whenever i start playing the game.
Despite what you have heard, these are NOT easy to disassemble and stow
To keep lawsuits at a minimum, developer Harmonix kept the Star Power system from the Guitar Hero series and renamed it “Overdrive”. Players can build up energy by playing certain song sections perfectly. To maximize their scores, the guitarists tip their instruments’ necks up to kick the performance into Overdrive, doubling their score combos. The singer has to improvise over an empty gold-coloured stretch of the song. while the drummer has to hit a crash cymbal note at the end of a fill.
Drum fills pepper every song in the game. Here, the song’s actual drum track is silenced and Rock Band’s toy drumset plays “real” drum notes. You can fill the song however you want – your snare, cymbal, bass drum and toms are at your disposal while the drum fill section is live.
It sounds like a simple thing to build into the game, but it’s genius. It takes Rock Band a tiny step further from “nerds playing plastic instruments in a video game” to “nerds playing real instruments. In a video game. And the instruments are still plastic.”
I wish I could get away with pants this tight
i dismissed Rock Band’s character customization feature out of hand because during the whole game, you’re staring at a fret board. i don’t have time to enjoy the antics of my on-screen rocker, because my eyeballs have completely dried out and airborne dust mites and cat fur are sticking to them as i strain away at the onslaught of bright shiny coloured notes. Aside from that, claims of an amazing character customization feature almost always fall flat.
The most recent hype has been about Mass Effect’s character creation tool, with which you’re reportedly able to tweak eyebrow height, bone structure, and skin texture to the point where you can make a character who looks exactly like you. If by exactly like me, reviewers meant exactly like me as drawn by Billy, age 6 from the Family Circus comics, then i’ll concede their point. Otherwise, i wasn’t impressed with Mass Effect’s avatar tool one bit.
Billy says “Guitar Hero looks like toilet sausages!”
Rock Band, on the other hand, wows with its initial toolset. Given a list of extremely well-designed presets, the player can tweak his character’s face, hairstyle, skin tone, build, and height. Additional options like “home town” endear the player to his creation. Further into the game, the player starts earning money to buy an incredible array of costume pieces, hair styles, jewelery, make-up, facial hair and face paint. Each costume item is sorted by music genre – Rock, Metal, Goth, and Punk.
You wanna create a short little Brian Johnson wanna-be with a cap and black curls for your AC/DC cover band? No problem. Fancy an Alice Cooper-styled rocker? Sure thing! What if you want to recreate KISS with their trademark face paint? Rock Band gives you a sticker art tool to custom-build your own face paint, tattoos and band logos. Believe.
Rock Band: the most fun you’ll have faking it
With all this amazing customization, it would be a real shame to let the band avatars fade into the background behind a wall of fret boards, twitching to the beat with sorry animation. Harmonix has cooked up some really great ways to utilize your avatar.
During loading screens, you’ll see grainy Polaroids of your band hanging out and getting into trouble. One early pic has your group setting stuff on fire in the parking lot. The game poses your avatar for this shot, so that every tattoo, earring and pair of leather pants appears just as you decided in the Rock Shop.
While your band is on stage, the lip-sync is something to behold. Rock Band and Guitar Hero are the kinds of games that people enjoy watching (though with Rock Band supporting two extra players, one would hope that more party guests will get in on the action). The Guitar Hero games, with their pre-fab rockers and rotten animation, pale compared to seeing your custom avatar on-stage lip-syncing beautifully to every song, playing every drum hit in time with the music, and shredding the solos while actually pressing chords and strumming the strings.
The end result is that the character you created on a lark with a joke name actually becomes you in the game, and you actually start to feel like you’re in a real band and the crowd is going crazy for you. (While you’re at it, those voices in your head are probably real, too. Oh well. Guess it’s time to go murder your next door neighbour with a hatchet before the government activates the behaviour constraint mechanism in your teeth.)
The crowd does more than simply scream for your alter-ego. If your band plays well, the crowd will actually start singing along.
Now consider this: when additional songs were released for Guitar Hero II, people balked at the price. The songs were packed as inseparable bundles, with usually one decent song and two mediocre songs that you had to purchase. Proponents argued that the songs cost so much (around $6 for a bundle of three) because of all the extra work that went into programming them. You had a lead guitar part. A bass guitar part. Four difficulty modes for each part. Practice mode sections. Co-op and versus modes. Detractors said that the song pricing was just plain greedy.
Rock Band’s list of additional content is huge, and this is only the first week. Just like Guitar Hero, Rock Band has 3-song packs, but players can opt to buy the songs separately. Each Rock Band song contains game data for four difficulty modes across four different instruments – that’s 16 game tracks per song. Add to each of these a Tug of War versus mode, and practice mode sections for each song. Each song must also be programmed with the excellent lip- and play-sync information i mentioned earlier.
And THEN, consider that if each additional song supports the audience participation feature (and i haven’t confirmed that they do), the developer actually has to record a group of people singing along.
Now for the kicker: the Rock Band content is priced cheaper than Guitar Hero content. For my buck, that’s a slam dunk.
Rock Band has consistently been the only game on my must-have this year, and now that i’m playing it, i’m thrilled to say it’s exceeded my expectations in every way possible. It’s simply the best game i own, and i can recommend it to anyone who has time to hear me rave.