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Arriving Late to the Show: A Look Back at Rock Band (Review)

August 13, 2008 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Arriving Late to the Show: A Look Back at Rock Band (Review)on Twitter

A little late, aren’t we? Probably, but I think it’s worth revisiting this massive title that, for better or worse, opened the floodgates to the wave of rhythm games and plastic peripherals that will soon be upon us. As I said yesterday, despite my initial thoughts that perhaps the rock ‘n’ roll rhythm genre was dying out, the fact that so many new titles are on the horizon suggests otherwise.

So fire up those X360’s, PS3’s, and Wii’s, and get ready to take another look at Rock Band. Does the game’s DLC keep you coming back for more, almost a year after the game’s release? Are you ready for the next onslaught of plastic guitars, drums, and microphones that will be hitting this fall?

Read the ramblings of a mad man after the jump.

So yeah, I’m pretty impatient when it comes to these games. Ever since the first Guitar Hero on the PS2, I’ve always skipped the career mode in favor of entering a cheat to unlock all the songs in the quick play mode. Heck, the classic rhythm games that I started with (Guitar Freaks and Dance Dance Revolution) didn’t let players customize anything in the game.  Players are welcome to do all the customization with their guitars and characters and such, but isn’t the important thing the music?

As far as this generation of rhythm games is concerned, I feel that Rock Band has the strongest track list. In my mind, GH III lost this round (although sales numbers suggest otherwise) solely based on song selection. When you’ve got a game that’s about rocking out to your favorite tunes, I think Rock Band has a track list that is more relevant to the typical gamer today. Tracks like “Epic” by Faith No More, “Highway Star” by Deep Purple, and “Vasoline” by Stone Temple Pilots really hit the spot for me. I prefer this approach to the Guitar Hero formula that attempts to appeal to a larger audience by including a lot of older material that speaks less to the average gamer. Additionally, with the DLC, there’s a slew of great music available to jam to, and again, that’s the main focus of a game like this. It’s a shame that Harmonix was unable to persuade Nintendo to confront the storage issue problems with the Wii, as the Wii version suffered heavily from the lack of DLC and online multiplayer.

Is online multiplayer such a big deal, by the way? I mean, it may be fun to play with your friends, but isn’t it so much more important to actually be in the same room with the other players? Otherwise, you may as well have a PC controlling the other instruments. I don’t see online play as such a big deal for these games, but I guess for people like me who don’t have a whole lot of friends locally, it’s the best we’ve got. I’ve spent a lot of time playing Rock Band solo, and it’s definitely not as fun as with a group. I think of all these rhythm games as party games at their core. It’s about showing off to your friends and enjoying your favorite music.

So, the instruments. People bitch and moan constantly about the Rock Band instruments. The drums are too loud, the guitar isn’t “clicky” enough. I guess the guitar issue is valid, as the strum bar sometimes doesn’t snap back into place fast enough during a series of rapid notes, making it difficult to execute these segments at times, but I was really never bothered by the loud drums. You can always buy the foam covers for the pads for $15 or whatever they cost if it’s such a bother to you, but I think for the price, Rock Band is a pretty solid package.

What’s next? I actually had jotted down some thoughts about Rock Band shortly after it was released, before there was talk of Rock Band 2, Guitar Hero World Tour, Guitar Hero IV, and Rock Revolution… back in the good ol’ days, perhaps? I was thinking it would be awesome to have a mode where players can create their own music together, but just as I foretold, this feature has been confirmed in some of these upcoming titles. The question is do they need to make adjustments to the gameplay? Konami seems to think so, and Rock Revolution is shooting for a more realistic, musically-accurate performance style. But does this really help people play the game, or does it alienate people who don’t really care if they’re playing “real drums” or not? I question whether the “more realistic” approach is the way to go. I am completely satisfied with how Rock Band tackles this problem, as even the drums are way too difficult for me to handle on expert.

I suppose the one thing I would change about Rock Band would be the visuals. I previously mentioned Guitar Freaks and Dance Dance Revolution, both of which featured music videos in the background. With Guitar Hero, and then again with Rock Band, an on-stage performance style was adopted, featuring messed up looking characters that really don’t add to the experience. Is anyone else in favor of having some awesome music videos to enjoy while we’re jamming out with these games?

There’s a lot more of this stuff coming. Rock Band 2 is just around the corner, and I honestly hope they don’t change much. There are a lot of complaints out there, but I think there are people out there who are with me when I say I thoroughly enjoyed the Rock Band experience and am looking forward to more. Plus, what’s more fun than having an entirely new set of plastic peripherals to store in your closet?

Are you still playing Rock Band after all these months? Do you feel that the ultra-realistic approach is the right way to go, or did Rock Band have it right the first time?

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