The Obligatory Rock Band Post

Harmonix’s Rock Band finally launched in the UK (and Europe) last Friday, on Xbox 360 at least. As I’ve been spending most of my game time playing this one I suppose I’d better post a few early impressions here.

Now I’m not going to go on and on about the price. I will say that I was always intending to buy the pack with all the instruments in, until they released how much it was going to cost. In the end I ordered a copy of the game and a set of drums. I’ve been using my Guitar Hero guitars and a Logitech USB microphone rather than the official peripherals.

I was initially a bit disappointed by the solo guitar tour mode. I think that, as I’ve played all the previous guitar games on PS2 and 360, it all felt very familiar to me. A little too familiar as many of the early songs featured in versions of Guitar Hero.

Once you get into the game you realise that the tracks are done so much better in Rock Band than Guitar Hero. Harmonix just know how to take a song and convert it to their rhythm system so you feel like you’re actually playing it. The Neversoft guys who worked on Guitar Hero III just didn’t seem to nail that at all on the difficulty levels that I played. There are also lots of nice touches in Rock Band like the crowd singing along and I love the fact that you can continue to build up your “star power” when you’re in overdrive mode.

One of the other things that initially put me off was that I started playing through on easy mode. Easy mode in Rock Band is really, really easy. If you’ve ever played a Guitar Hero game then you need to start on the medium level. A nice feature is that the achievement for completing the easy tour unlocks automatically when you complete a harder tour level so there’s no need to force yourself to play in newbie mode.

I’ve just started playing through on hard and, although I don’t think I’ll manage to complete the setlist, I’m already further through it than I would’ve been in any of the Guitar Hero games. Perhaps it’s all a little too easy for Guitar Hero veterans but I’m sure the expert mode must be still challenging enough for master wielders of the plastic axe.

For me, the choice of songs in this game is absolutely great. There aren’t many songs that I don’t know and the ones I don’t know, I liked on first play through.

The vocal mode is so enjoyable. I’ve never played any of the Singstar games but I imagine that this is a very similar experience.

I did have microphone issues at first. On my initial attempts at singing along I kept failing the songs. I was very confused. I’m not the world’s best singer, but I’m not so bad that I would be crashing out in easy mode. Eventually I tracked the problem down to the fact that I had the microphone muted in my Xbox Live profile settings. That’s what I get for being antisocial online, I suppose!

After a few goes with the headset I decided to switch over to a proper USB microphone. It does provide a better experience. It’s a better tool to play the “tambourine” sequences with and is also a lot easier to trigger overdrive mode.

As my drums were meant to be a birthday present I didn’t actually open them and use them until several days after getting the game. I’m glad I waited as it kept the excitement level up and meant that I didn’t try to cram in too much of the experience at once.

The drum kit is very solid and not as noisy as I expected. I think I’ll invest in some sound dampening just to take the edge off, though. Playing the drums is really easy to get into on the first level of difficulty. I’ve yet to try them on the harder modes. They’re certainly an awful lot of fun to play.

I’ve experienced very little of the world tour so I’ll reserve my judgement on that mode until later.

The Rock Band solo experience is easily as good as Guitar Hero’s. In local multiplayer Rock Band really comes into its own. I’ve been playing the game a lot with my wife who, although she appreciates the songs and the enjoyment you get from playing along, isn’t really into spending a lot of time hammering the plastic strum bar. She has enjoyed the drums, though and actually likes the singing mode a lot more than she thought she would. It may be that we attempt the world tour with her on vocals. My sister also came to visit for a couple of days over the bank holiday. She’s a big Guitar Hero fan and loves the new additions in Rock Band. Banging out tunes as a three-piece was great fun.

I think that if you’re really into Guitar Hero then it is well worth picking up a copy of Rock Band game just to use with your existing peripherals. It’s hard to justify the pricing on the official kit but if you are a rhythm game addict then the drums are almost impossible to resist. I’m just a bit worried about the long term value with new games, using different drum controllers, on the horizon.

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