Review: Rock Band 2

 Rating Preview
 Fun Factor

 9.5 
 Graphics

8.0
 Sound

9.5
 Multiplayer

9.0
 Single Player

8.0
 Controls

9.5

Let there be light, and there was light. Let there be sound, and there was sound. Let there be drums, and there was drums. Let there be Rock Band 2, and on Sept. 14, 2008, there was Rock Band 2. It is Harmonix’s second installment of the hit series, which lets gamers experience what its like to be a rock-and-roll god, only with plastic instruments.

If you have been living under a rock for the last year and haven’t played either Rock Band or Guitar Hero, Rock Band 2 is a very simple concept in which the player is tasked with playing along to their favorite rock and roll anthems by "playing" different colored notes as they come down from the top of the screen. For guitar, the player hits the proper button and strums on the fret bar, just like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. For drums, you hit the colored drum pad or step on the bass peddle. For vocals, you sing along to lyrics and match the pitch as it moves across the top of the screen. Rock Band 2 takes a whole bunch of basic concepts and mashes them to together to form the most complete music game to date.

They didn’t break the mold with Rock Band 2, and for that I am thankful. Harmonix had a good thing going with Rock Band, and to change it too much could have made the game a lesser experience. That’s not to say that Rock Band 2 is exactly the same as the original, because there have been some great improvements, but the overall gameplay remains intact. You can even use all your original Rock Band equipment, or Guitar Hero guitars, so there is no need to buy the new stuff if you already have Rock Band.

Out of the box, Rock Band 2 includes over 80 songs, some of which are winners and some of which are duds. While musical taste will play a large part into what you consider duds and winners, there are some songs that are just down right not fun to play. A few here and there are very repetitive, and sometimes even painful. There do seem to be more drum-focused songs, and with the addition of drum solos, drumming seems to be the best experience.

If you owned Rock Band, you can migrate all but three of the songs from the first game to your hard drive and play them in Rock Band 2. All of your downloaded songs will be available for play from day one as well. They also re-worked the song browser to look like the online store. Now you can see the difficulty for every instrument before you jump in the song, so you know if your guitarist is a little weak, that maxed out guitar track might not be the one for you.

The single player for Rock Band 2 has been reworked in a major way. There is no more going down the list and playing every song one after the other to unlock them. Now, if you have the whole band together or if it’s just you alone, you still get to take part in the World Tour mode.

Just like the first game, World Tour is where Rock Band 2 really shines. It’s an incredibly deep experience that can be played with a group of friends in the same room, by yourself on your favorite instrument, and for the first time, online. World Tour works just like what the name implies: your band travels to different venues all around the world playing gigs, earning fans and cash and unlocking new songs as you go. It’s a ton of fun to get a group of your friends together and play some World Tour, and with the addition of the "no fail" mode, even your less skilled friends can get in on the action without messing with everyone else’s fun.

The custom rocker creator in Rock Band 2 has been slightly expanded, but not really changed. You still make your characters like the first game, but you have more crazy looking outfits to choose from.

Online is where a lot of the major changes took place in Rock Band 2. They now have a Battle of the Bands mode, where you and your friends can meet online and slug it out with a rival band for the crowd’s affection. As mentioned, before they also added the ability to take World Tour online, which is a lot of fun with your friends, but slightly less fun with random strangers.

Visually, nothing revolutionary took place in Rock Band 2. It looks like Rock Band, with some slightly better character animations. Your rockers look more real on stage, and they move along with the music better then the first game. As you would expect in a music game, the audio is top notch. Playing the game in surround sound really feels like you are up on stage rocking out with your band mates. The way the crowd acts adds a lot the authentic feel, right down to them singing along to the chorus of songs if you are doing well.

If you liked Rock Band, then you will love Rock Band 2. If you never played Rock Band, I would still suggest picking up Rock Band 2 if you like music games at all. While Rock Band 2 didn’t exactly redefine what music games are about, a new set of songs and some new modes make it a great game for the crafty veteran or the beginner.

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