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Rock Band

Score: 99%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: MTV Games
Developer: Harmonix
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Rhythm/ Simulation/ Party

Graphics & Sound:

From the second the intro video begins to the gameplay itself, Rock Band is a pretty game. The characters are a bit cartoony and the character editor is limited as far as the measurements, but there is a wide selection of clothing and makeup and you can select or create tattoos to make your character look like you want.

The in-game graphical effects are beautiful. Take, for example, the fret-boards that represent the music notes you are to play. These feature ornately decorated inlays normally. When you play well for a while, for instance, on the bass, you will reach a "Bass Groove" mode, where your fret-board turns into a dynamic blue color swirl. When you build up enough energy and go into overdrive, the fret-board has this same swirly dynamic look and your effects pedal goes into effect. By contrast, if you do poorly, your fret-board will begin flashing red, alerting you to your status without requiring you to look elsewhere on the screen... which is a good thing, since I find that most songs require so much attention that I can't often take my eyes off my fret-board and just look around.

However, for anyone who's watching and not playing, the animated backgrounds behind the gameplay are cool looking and feature post-processing effects and camera angles that look like they're straight out of music videos.

Of course, the most important part of Rock Band has got to be the music. Rock Band really delivers in this department, with heavy rock anthems to college rock and even some crazy bonus sings, such as "Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld" (Timmy!), from South Park. Some of my favorites include, "Sabotage" (Beastie Boys), "Should I Stay or Should I Go" (The Clash), "I Think I'm Paranoid" (Garbage), "Enter Sandman" (Metallica), "In Bloom" (Nirvana), "Creep" (Radiohead), "Dani California" (Red Hot Chili Peppers), "Orange Crush" (R.E.M.) and "Black Hole Sun" (Soundgarden). All-in-all, there are 58 songs that ship with the game, with packs of new songs available for purchase via Xbox Live Marketplace. Hopefully, we'll see a long series of song packs to allow players to pick and choose what new songs they'd like to play in Rock Band.


There have been singing games before - Karaoke Revolution, SingStar - and there have been guitar games before - Guitar Hero, anyone? However, there has never been a console game that let you try your hand at a full five drum drum-kit. Nor has there been a game that allows four gamers to each pick up an instrument and play together as a band. For this, Rock Band is AWESOME.

Rock Band allows you to form a band of up to four people, with a guitar player, a bassist, a vocalist and a drummer. These four can be located in the same living room or in different corners of the globe. Then, together, you can take the world by storm, playing at virtual venues around the world, building your fame and fortune along the way.

Rock Band focuses a lot on the cooperative aspect in Multiplayer Career mode. If one player is doing poorly, another player can use their energy to make the entire performance better. Not only that, but if one player fails in the middle of a song, another player can use their energy to "save" the other player and bring them back in to the game up to twice, giving each player up to three chances. Furthermore, multipliers help not only your score, but your bandmates' scores - and the scores really get high if you and a bandmate use your energy at the same time. Rock Band provides an excellent cooperative gameplay experience that encourages teaching, helping each other out and, of course, placing blame where it is (or might not actually be) due.

Or, if you prefer, you can strike out on your own and pursue a solo career as a bassist, guitarist, vocalist or drummer. If you are concentrating on a single instrument, you can even take your band member and have him pursue a solo career, then return to multiplayer band play whenever you like. You get to keep clothing items and other modifications made to your band member across single player and multiplayer modes. Essentially, when your character pursues a solo career, it's like he's actually pursuing a solo career; he can return and play with the band anytime he likes. Pretty cool.


Rock Band is not an extremely simple game to play; some songs are challenging even on Easy. This is especially true if you haven't played other similar games, such as those in the Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution and SingStar series. If you can carry a pitch and learn from your mistakes, vocalist is not too overly difficult. If you can master timing but aren't good with pitch, then you may be better on the drums. Rock Band allows two guitars to be used in the game - one as a guitar and the other as a bass, although the game only ships with one guitar. If you're familiar with Guitar Hero, then you're fairly familiar with the guitars in Rock Band; the only differences I see are that there is a second set of colored buttons close to the body (great for solos) and a multi-position switch used to select effects, such as Wah-wah, Flanger, Echo and Chorus effects.

If you find that you need to get up to speed or you feel that you're holding your band back, you can practice the songs or even develop your skills (and your character) by playing the Solo Career as your character. You'll earn money to buy things for your character and you'll be able to practice your parts while your bandmates are busy doing other things.

When playing online against someone in a game of Tug of War, it will be very difficult to play against more talented opponents. Most games compensate for this by scoring you based on your skill level and your opponent at theirs. Tug of War, however, counts notes successfully played as being in your favor and notes missed are counted against you. The problem is that if you are playing a lower difficulty than your opponent, you're going to have fewer notes to play than they will. Even if you play flawlessly and they make a few mistakes here and there, they're going to win. If you play the bass part and your opponent plays guitar, they'll typically have even more notes, still. Add in the fact that every time I play against someone online, I end up not being the leader and watching helplessly as they select songs I'm not familiar with or songs with a nearly nonexistent bass part and you'll understand why I don't play online multiplayer very often.

Game Mechanics:

Overall, Rock Band is an awesome game. It has to be said. There are, however, some minor details that are bothersome. For example, the fact that when I try to play a multiplayer game online, the other person always ends up becoming the leader and, hence, gets to choose the songs. That's aggravating and nothing in the manual explains why this keeps happening to me.

It also seemed for a while that we had to keep playing the same songs over and over for quite some time without really unlocking many songs or being able to progress much. It turns out that to unlock songs and progress, you have to choose the special gigs (at the bottom of each club's list), rather than simply selecting a song to play. These special gigs unlock songs and advance your careers. Gigs in Rio, however, serve to unlock bonus songs.

The other thing that drives me batty is the fact that one of us will end up backing out of menus accidentally by pressing one of the buttons on the guitar or bumping into a drum pad. This is less likely in games that use the Xbox 360 gamepads, but when you have a special controller (drums) with a "Back" button about the size of a CD, things will happen.

One hardware complaint that has to be made has to do with the included powered USB hub. For us, it lasted exactly one night. We set it up and used it, then the next time we tried to use it, not all of the ports worked; one guitar couldn't be recognized. I plugged each instrument into a separate plug on the 360, except for the guitars, plugging them into a non-powered hub I already had, and had no problems playing the game. (Note: In addition to the two USB ports in the front of the 360, there is a single USB port in the rear of the 360.)

Minor annoyances aside, Rock Band is a fantastic game which is likely to be the hit of many parties, and is likely to launch a good number of garage bands, possibly with pretty decent drummers. And, at least the guitarists will have strong fingers, even if they have to work on getting the right strings and finger-placement.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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