Rock Band Review

Discussion in 'Reviews and Articles' started by tweakmonkey, Jan 12, 2008.

  1. tweakmonkey

    tweakmonkey Webmaster Staff Member

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    [align=right][​IMG][/align]Bad graphics aside, Rock Band is a great game under a wide variety of circumstances.

    What Rock Band's about
    Just like Guitar Hero before it, Rock Band is a game where music plays while on-screen, notes fall from the top to the bottom of your screen. You synchronize your fingers and hands with the timing while jamming out to rock music throughout the years. The sound track is basically pure rock, including Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, REM, and even songs from Nirvana and Radiohead. It's got a balanced sound track with some great classics of our (your?) generation (complete tracklist is here). Unlike Guitar Hero, Rock Band includes other elements of a band (drums and vocals) to give the feeling of playing in a whole band instead of just the guitar.

    What's included
    This isn't a normal game by any means and the package I'd recommend is the $170 retail box that includes a microphone, guitar, drumset, drum sticks, and a USB hub to hook it all up. If you buy this game and only buy the microphone or guitar (or you don't buy any of the controllers) I think you'll be sorry later. One of the best parts about this game is learning a variety of skills -- and the drums are a totally different challenge than the guitar or singing.

    [align=left]YouTube - Move Along (Rock Band Expert Drums 5 Gold Stars)[/align]The guitar feels solid except the "strings" -- which is a plastic button that flops up and down to simulate the playing. I still can't play very fast because of this button, and I blame it solely on either a poor design or mis-operation on my part. Your Guitar Hero guitars will work and I like them better than the Rock Band version of the strat. The five fret buttons are "okay to good". Sometimes they feel cheap and very Fisher-Price, but they always seem to work correctly for me. I know a lot of people have had the guitars break or malfunction but a customer service number was supplied which supposedly replaces the equipment and (according to this article) was offering free games for people with defective units. Other than the basics, the guitar has a good strap, the buttons feel okay, and it even has a whammy bar and effects switch. You can flip to different modes (none, wah-wah, flange, chorus, and echo) mid-song and use the whammy bar to hold/tweak notes.

    The drums seem very durable in a general sense, assuming the technical details are worked out (as mentioned above with the guitar). Compared with a real set, the biggest weaknesses are a lack of hi-hat cymbal (so your left foot is idle), the bass drum pedal does not feel much like the real thing, the drum heads don't bounce like the real thing (especially a snare drum), they're all the same size and close-together, and there's no sensitivity for how loud the drum is when you hit it. *takes a breath after run-on sentence*

    The worst thing about the drums is that they are very loud when you hit them. The drums feel like they are plastic 5-gallon buckets with a thin piece of rubber over the top. I hope Rock Band fixes how noisy they are in future generations, because if you don't have the volume up really loud, it's hard to hear the game-drums over your plastic drums. They are that loud. You can buy pads to quiet them down and I plan soon.

    [align=right][​IMG][/align]
    Other than these shortcomings, the drums are awesome. You will love them if you're a drummer and particularly if you're a new student. These would be great practice pads if you can't afford the real thing and I know from experience the whole Rock Band kit is about 1/8th the price of a borderline acceptable electric drumset (I have the Roland Compact V) -- and while the real thing is certainly infinitely better for real music and practicing on a real drumset, the Rock Band variety is probably better in many respects for learning basic coordination, timing, drum fills, and beats from many rock songs since the game is geared so well for this particular instrument.

    I have little experience with the microphone and have only tried singing one song. I'm not big on singing, but the microphone does feel pretty nice. It's heavy and hooks up via USB as the other Rock Band items. The in-game voice part is so different than the guitar, bass, and drums that I can't really give an opinion on it. The way it works though is by matching your pitch with that of the song, so if you're out of key you lose. As you sing, arrows indicate if you should have higher or lower pitch. You must also slap the microphone to simulate a tambourine or cowbell in certain songs.

    The USB hub is cheap but it works fine. None of the gear is wireless, so be warned you'll have a bunch of wires in the house if you buy the whole setup.

    What's good
    The game is best for multiplayer environments. You want to have a great party? Rock Band's sure entertainment for up to four (4) people in your group assuming you have a 2nd guitar, and it's got a good enough sound track that it would only need to be the only sound going on at your party to keep most the guests happy. BTW, I haven't played it online yet and know nothing about its capabilities.

    If you're looking for a game to play with your brother/sister/dad/cousin/roommate you'll probably enjoy this game. I don't know about girlfriends because I'm single, but I'm sure some couples would dig this game.

    The game is very challenging (in the best way) and offers a lot to unlock. Beating 100% of the game would take ages regardless of skill level, especially if you challenged yourself to use every instrument or tried the guitar as a lefty afterward and so-on. As you progress in your timing and coordination, you'll step up the difficulty. At first you'll think playing on Expert of any instrument would be impossible, and I imagine when I reach that point I'll be thoroughly

    How about motor skills? This game would build crazy coordination between your hands and legs, and a better sense of rhythm. The guitar parts would probably help you increase finger dexterity for the real guitar if you were new to it and overall it's a really hard thing to do until you're good at it, giving you additional challenges. You may learn how to sing better and you'll know the words to some songs if that's something you'd be interested in. :)

    [align=left]YouTube - Rock Band - 29 Fingers - Expert - Guitar - FC[/align]What's bad
    There are some significant load times on the Xbox 360 version, particularly when you're going to get the initial band working together.

    The drums are loud as mentioned above. The "string" for the guitar feels loose and flimsy to me. If you bought this game with every instrument it's $170 and it's probably your best option unless you already have a guitar hero guitar (but the drums are basically a MUST).

    If you want to play in a band with 4 people, you'll need a second guitar to have someone play bass.

    The soundtrack may get tiring at first because you'll hear the first few songs many times, especially if you're trying to unlock a bunch of the songs with various instruments or switching from single to multiplayer. You can buy tracks off Xbox Live for a small amount of points though.

    You'll want this game if...

    You're big on music and like rock or want to eventually play an instrument but are too lazy/bored/busy currently.
    You want a challenging game that you won't beat 100% on your first try and want to develop a different type of gaming skill.
    You have a roommate(s) or friends that come over and often have several guests at your place.
    You can have a good time while looking like an idiot, at least in the privacy of your home.

    Who else has this game? What do you think?

    (images from gwn)
  2. tweakmonkey

    tweakmonkey Webmaster Staff Member

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  3. Bear

    Bear Hoot!

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    Great review!

    As far as graphics go, it's not the best-looking game on the market. However, with the right HD setup, the colors are vibrant and sharp. Scrolling text for singers is easy to read, as opposed to a composite (yellow,red,white) connection (trust me, from personal experience). Depending on the song, the character models will make gestures imitating the singer, even busting out with a cowbell for Don't Fear the Reaper. The character's mouths do a good job matching the words, as well.

    Biggest gripe, some of the drum sections on hard/expert (mostly) have 'almost' impossible drum patterns that I can't see being done with out double kick pedal.

    Harmonix's constant flow of 3 songs every Monday is coming along nicely with a wide range of selections for every crowd. Guitar Hero 3 seems in the water compared to Rock Band.
  4. jake

    jake Vagabond

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    Really fun game to play with a group. But all the instruments feel really cheap and I can't see them lasting long.