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Rock Band 2

Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Harmonix
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4, 1 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Party/ Rhythm/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

If you have Rock Band and you are already familiar with the look and feel of the game, nothing in Rock Band 2 is going to surprise you too much. The look and feel is pretty much unchanged in the sequel.

Basically, you create an avatar who can look how you like, from very close to how you actually look to very, very out there. Your band is four of these people (with computer-controlled stand-ins playing as necessary to fill out the band). The Guitar player, Bass player and Drummer all have tracks that look sort of like fret bars in perspective, with note indicators coming towards you and they have to use their instruments to play the appropriate notes at the appropriate times. The vocalist has a different device, that looks much like the scrolling pitch indicator from the Karaoke Revolution games, located at the top of the screen. Mind you, all of this is going on at once. Usually, the best you can manage is to mind your own part of the action... which is fine, as that's all you need to do. While you and your friends are playing the game, your avatars are playing the song onstage.

As for music, Rock Band 2 ships with 85 songs out-of-the-box, and is also compatible with your Rock Band Downloadable Content (DLC) songs, if you've got some of those. I won't list the included songs, as they've been posted all over the internet already, but the music includes songs from Beastie Boys to Nirvana and from Motorhead to Rush and pretty much everything in between. And, if there's something you'd like to see that isn't out there, post it on Harmonix's forum... they're adding more music every week via downloadable content.


As in Rock Band, Rock Band 2 lets you form your own band and work your way around the world, from one venue to the next, earning money and gaining fans by playing gigs in various bars and clubs as you work your way from West Coast to East Coast and across the globe.

While that hasn't changed, there are some new, cool features that make Rock Band 2 worth buying, even if you have Rock Band already.

Drum Trainer

The Drum Trainer helps you practice drumming, with increasingly difficult and more complex drum beats. You can practice Beats, Fills or simply Freestyle. In fact, you can access the Xbox Music Player while in Freestyle mode and then drum along with your favorite music.

Tour Mode

Tour mode was great in Rock Band, but it was kind of a drag that your avatar had to stick to a certain instrument. This led to me playing as different characters when playing Rock Band at parties, depending on what instrument became available. A friend of mine actually created several different bands, and would select the appropriate band depending on who was playing what. That's just... wow. That's a lot of creating characters. Rock Band 2 corrects this issue by allowing your avatar to play different instruments. You chose who you're playing as after you've picked up the instrument. If your friends bail on you or show up to practice late, you can take your character on some solo training, playing whatever part you like with the same character.

Additionally, the Tour mode has been enhanced by adding some activities such as recording music videos and hiring and firing staff to help promote your band.

Battle of the Bands

With your Xbox LIVE account, you can play against other bands from around the world in daily and weekly challenges, battling for overall domination and rewards.

Tour Challenges

Another new feature in Rock Band 2 are the Tour Challenges. These are special challenge sets - some are for a single person, while others are band challenges. Beating challenges unlocks further Tour Challenges, providing hours of additional gameplay for those who, well, like to challenge themselves.

Rock Shop

Your characters are also more customizable than they were back in Rock Band. Rock Band 2 has more options for faces and hairstyles and has an additional catalog of clothing, called Thrift Threads, which allows for easier access to clothing of different styles and genres, on the cheap.


Yes, the instruments are new and, yes, they're backwards compatible, whatever you mean by that. However, there are new features made available by the new instruments, in some cases, that are only usable in Rock Band 2. For example, the Drums have a metal-reinforced kick-drum foot-pedal which is much nicer than the original one, and can be used with Rock Band. The Rock Band 2 drums also have expansion ports in the back to allow for the addition of cymbals. Nifty. I'm pretty sure that the cymbals won't be supported by the original Rock Band, but I don't have any to test... yet. I'll let you know what I find out when I get some in-house. The material used to make the drum heads is a softer (read quieter) rubber material, much like the drums for Guitar Hero World Tour, which is not only backwards compatible with Rock Band, it's also much more compatible with people who don't like videogames and loud noises but have to be in the same house as you. (This is a good thing, trust me.)

The guitars are improved, as well. Somebody yell, "Wireless!" Yup. Wireless OEM guitars, with more realistic looking Fender Stratocaster-ness. The strum bar seems quieter than the previous guitars and there is a raised plastic ridge around the (Start) button to help avoid accidental pressings. Now that the guitar doesn't have a cord to come out of the cord-jack, the button used to sync-up the controller with your Xbox 360 is located in the recess. How utterly fitting.


Ah, to be a rock star... Don't worry if you haven't got much skill, anyone can be a musician with the help of electronics... why, look at Britney Spears, Milli Vanilli...

There are five different difficulty levels to choose from. These difficulty levels change the complexity of the actions you have to make with the controller as well as the number of fret buttons / drum pads you will have to use. For vocalists, the difficulty levels change the harshness of the scoring mechanism, allowing you to be "close enough."

If you can enjoy playing in Quickplay mode, playing mainly downloaded content or if you have a friend who has unlocked the various songs for you, then you can play on Easy and let that be that. If, however, you need to progress through the Tour and unlock additional songs, you'll need to work your way up through the difficulty levels. The harder the difficulty, the better the rewards; at a certain point, you can't really progress unless the band members "step it up" to the next difficulty level.

Don't worry, though, there are lots of opportunities to practice. There is the abovementioned Quickplay mode, Practice mode (which will even let you try songs at a slower pace to get the part down) and Tour Challenges, which try to get you to push yourself further.

Anyone who wants to play Rock Band 2 and has any musical aptitude should be able to do well, given enough patience and enough practice.

Game Mechanics:

Everything that made me love Rock Band makes its expected appearance in Rock Band 2... including all of my Downloadable DLC content. That, I have to say, is sweet indeed. If you have some favorite songs that were in the original (on-disc) lineup for Rock Band, you'll have to pony up a bit of cash for a key from Microsoft, but the process looks simple enough. You simply get the the latest patch for Rock Band and then select the "Export Songs" option from the menu, using your code key. Personally, I'm not in a rush to move the songs over; I still have the original game, should I choose to play those songs.

For me, the feature that really sells Rock Band 2 is the ability to use your avatar with the instrument of your choosing, as your whim moves you. This was a point of aggravation in the original game.

The instruments are much better, with the guitars and drums being wireless, but many people are likely to play Rock Band 2 with the old instruments, so the fact that the changes aren't too extreme is probably not that bad a thing, overall.

If you're a big Rock Band fan, then Rock Band 2 is more of what you like Rock Band for, with less of what you didn't like. If you're from the Guitar Hero sect, your choice becomes more difficult, with Guitar Hero World Tour offering the ability to play with a drummer and a vocalist, while keeping that Guitar Hero flavor that can only be fully tasted by placing one's tongue firmly in one's cheek. Which brings us down to the final word. For many people, the question is whether to buy Rock Band 2 or Guitar Hero World Tour. The answer, in a word, comes down to "taste."

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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