Rock Band – an overview

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Our local Guitar Hero nut (Carl Nienaber) has submitted a very nice preview of the upcoming Rock Band….

If you’ve been comatose for the past 6 months or so, you may not have heard of the upcoming release of Rock Band – a very exciting new music game from Harmonix and MTV Games. Well fear not, for this article will surely lift that dark coma of ignorance; exposing the hidden rocker in you to the sun-like brilliance of the best game of all time.

At this point, it might be rather obvious that I’m quite excited about Rock Band which would be something of an understatement. In actual fact, I’m hardly able to sleep at night thanks to the kid-before-Christmas frenzy of anticipation that?s been gripping me since about June. But I digress, so let’s just get to the nitty gritty – what makes Rock Band so mega awesome.

Gameplay
Rock Band is similar in many ways to the Guitar Hero games: players will use peripherals modeled after musical instruments to simulate playing in a band. On the screen, different coloured musical “notes” scroll towards the player who must play his or her instrument in time with the notes as they hit the bottom of the screen. Unlike the Guitar Hero games which only feature guitar controllers, Rock Band also has gameplay for drums and vocals, in addition to lead and bass guitars. While the guitar, bass and drum parts will use the downward-scrolling note system described above, the vocal parts will be displayed horizontally at the top of the screen similarly to the method used in games like Singstar and Karaoke Revolution.

The game will feature two gameplay modes – “Solo Tour Mode” and “Band World Tour”. The solo mode will let players play through the campaign as the lead guitarist, singer or drummer (sorry bassists). As the name implies, “Band World Tour,” is the multiplayer component of the game that lets up to four people play in their own Rock Band band. Band World Tour has two particularly exciting elements. The first is that it will support any number of offline players, online players, or any combination of the two. Also, players will be able to create and customize their own in-game rock stars, including hair style, body type, tattoos, clothes and onstage movements.

In cooperative play, if one player messes up, that person’s display will be greyed out, rendering them unable to play until they’re ‘rescued’ by one of their band mate’s deployment of ‘star power’ (those of you who have played Guitar Hero will know that star power is a term from that game; whether or not Harmonix call it the same thing isn’t clear at this point).

The Instruments

Rock Band will ship either as a bundle containing one guitar, the drums and a microphone; or as just the game disc, with each instrument sold separately. Pricing hasn’t been confirmed yet, but Gamestop has got preorder prices of $59 for the game, $79 each for the guitars and drums and $29 for the mic. If you want it all, this game ain’t gonna be cheap.

Fender have licensed out their Stratocaster design for use in the game. Bass and guitar will make use of identical Fender Strats which seem a little bit bigger than the units used in the Guitar Hero games. An interesting addition to the guitars is the 5 extra solo buttons located high up on the neck that can be played during solos using only hammer-ons and pull-offs. Players won’t need to use the strum bar when soloing. The bad news for xbox 360 users is that your guitars won’t be wireless units like those of the PS3 version. A small compensation is that 360 users who buy the bundled game will receive a USB hub.

Vocalists get their own microphone that is apparently an authentic size and weight. It will also double as a tambourine (lol) so that singers can keep themselves busy during extended guitar/drum solos. I’m so not going to be the singer in my Rock Band band.

For me, the most exciting new instrument is the drum kit. As you can see in the picture, it resembles an actual MIDI drum kit scaled down to about 3/4 size. Good news for actual drummers is that the kick pedal has been weighted to simulate the feel of an actual kick pedal and the kit ships with a pair of proper drum sticks. This is probably the best instrument to play in the game, and Harmonix have stated on a number of occasions that if you can play Rock Band drums on hard mode, you can pretty much play real drums.

The songs

The game will ship with a 45 track song list. Thanks to the corporate might of MTV behind this project, most of the songs are the original masters by the actual bands, not covers like in previous Guitar Hero games. You can find a full song list here.

Most of the songs are not as lead guitar-centric as I’m used to, but I guess Harmonix had to include music that was fun for the whole band to play instead of just appeasing your typical masturbatory lead guitarist. Still, there are some great songs included with the game.

There will also be a lot of downloadable content, including full albums. Confirmed already are The Who’s “Who’s Next,” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind”. There will also be a lot of Metallica material spanning their long career. I’m very happy that Metallica’s “One” has already been confirmed as a downloadable track.

Closing comments

As you can see, Rock Band is really aiming high as a complete band simulation game. As an real-life (albeit rather mediocre) guitarist who’s played a lot of Guitar Hero, I can confirm that the gameplay mechanic in that game does a remarkable simulation of the actual feeling of playing. There’s no reason for Rock Band’s guitar gameplay to feel any less realistic than Guitar Hero. Vocals and drums are even closer to the real thing, considering that the singers will actually be singing and the drummers will pretty much be doing real drumming. In a nutshell, it should be a total blast to play, both alone and with some mates.

Rock Band will launch in the US is November, but Europe (and therefore SA) will only get Rock Band in Q1 2008. PAL versions of the game will be available for PS2, as well as 360 and PS3.

Last Updated: September 11, 2007

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

  • OH MAN !!! CANT WAIT !
    Yes drums, thats the one i wil go for

  • FeersumEnjin

    So the big question is: Will Rock Band kit purchased in the US work on a PAL 360?

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