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Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2007-12-03 05:11:39
Rock: Band Special Edition is quite a chunk of money. Again, I'll have a full review up for the site relaunch, but my initial impression of it is extremely favorable, despite the steep cost of entry.
I certainly see it as a step up from Guitar Hero. Rock Band is one heck of a party game, and is a blast to play with others. Instead of passing the faux guitar around and taking turns, or dueling as adversaries, up to four people can jam together. (Although, it only comes with one guitar, so you need an extra for the bassist.)
The new Rock Band guitar is pretty good, although there are internet reports of them breaking down. So far, mine's fine. The major change is that the strum bar no longer clicks, and that takes a bit of getting used to. I find it to be neither better or worse - just different. I think the manufacturers were trying to make it feel more like a real guitar, as silly as that is.
The microphone is just like the one from the Karaoke Revolution games on the PlayStation 2, and works exactly the same way. There's a pitch detection thingamabob that checks to see if you're singing on key (you can sing in any octave you like).
The drums are the coolest part of the game. They're pretty much an equivalent to a passably decent electronic drum pad kit you can buy at, say, Guitar Center. The toy guitar is more akin to playing the piano, but the drum set is pretty much analogous to the real thing. Also, man do I suck at drumming. It's humbling to be so bad at something. With Guitar Hero, I pretty much cranked it up expert difficulty from the get go, but medium seems to be my current max ability at Rock Band drumming. I seem to lack the gross motor function to handle mixing in the kick pedal while banging away with my arms.
Storing all of these peripherals is kind of a pain. The drum kit in particular takes up a lot of space unless you take it apart. The wires for all of these attachments are also burdensome, as they can get easily get as tangled as real audio/music equipment. A fifth participant to act as roadie would be handy.
The song selection is decent, with most of them being master tracks as opposed to covers. This is where Rock Band will eventually succeed or fail. With music revenue sliding across the industry, new outlets like Rock Band could potentially be a godsend. The developers are hooked up with MTV and their URGE network, and they've promised the moon in terms of music that will eventually be available. I downloaded one extra track as a test (a cover of CCR's "Fortunate Son". It cost twice as much as a typical music download, and also took up twice the hard drive space as the MP3 would (9MB). This is the first time I've actually worried about the limitations of the Xbox 360's 20GB hard drive. I seriously considered getting the PlayStation 3 version (functionally identical), except that I wanted to make sure that I could jam with my vastly larger buddy list on Xbox Live.
Bottom line, if you love music, this is it. Get it. Don't worry about the cost. It's worth it. So is downloading additional songs that you enjoy. Have friends and family over and enjoy rocking out.
Rock Band - tentatively Rank A (could easily bounce up or down a grade depending on the future value of downloadable content)
Xbox Live/PSN Gamertag - Vawce