Rock Band

I have had the game for a week now, and I have to say it is quite awesome.

Before this, I had played a little Guitar Hero, all at parties, and I previously owned one Karaoke game for the GameCube. But Rock Band presents everything in a way that just appeals more to me that any of those.

The first day we had it, the wife and I played for a about eight hours, me on guitar and her singing. Having played no other part of the game, we stumbled into one flaw of the game: if you jump immediately into multi-player there are very few songs unlocked, so they repeat… a lot. Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is a fun song, but after it came up for the seventeenth time, we were pretty sick of it. Then on Friday we had a friend come over, he brought a guitar (the wireless GHIII guitar) and he and the wife played guitar and bass while I sang. Since the wife and I had not unlocked very much, our six hours of playing were met with some variety mixed in with repeats of Say It Ain’t So by Weezer and In Bloom by Nirvana. It got to the point where during parts where no singing was required, I would talk up the crowd by insulting the songs. However, we learned that a song unlocked by any player or band becomes available for set lists.

The last couple of days have been the wife and I trading off playing the solo version of the game trying to open up as many songs as possible. Because I didn’t spend the past few months monitoring the Harmonix website and memorizing the set list, every time I open up a new city and see the song list, I’m pleased to see new songs… Epic by Faith No More, (Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, and Vasoline by Stone Temple Pilots, just to name a few.

Overall, the game play is aces. We haven’t played with a full band yet, but we will. Soon.

The guitar plays mainly like any other guitar game, in fact, the much hyped “solo frets” for playing solos without strumming are usually left unplayed, because the advantage of not having to strum is defeated by having to move your hand and lose your place on the guitar. I do like the effects switch on the RB guitar that allows me to throw in some wah-wah, flange, echo or chorus on my solos and overdrive. Sadly, the RB guitar is also rush built. From the forums people who are braver than I (and perhaps more fool-hearty) have opened up their guitars to discover that some parts are hot glued into place, glue which apparently warms up and/or slides causing the strumming not to work properly. Our guitar worked fine for about a day. It still does work fine on occasion, but in any song where fast strumming is required, forget it. So later I’ll be blogging about my experience returning the guitar. In the meantime, I picked up a copy of Guitar Hero II with the X-plorer guitar on Black Friday for cheap, so we’ll use that. We had wanted to get it to have a designated bass guitar, but plans change. As a final note, the Guitar Hero games are utterly incompatible with the Rock Band guitar, so if you want to play both games, you’ll need both guitars, or just the GH guitar, which is annoying since I prefer the feel of the Rock Band guitar.

The microphone is… well… its a microphone. It reportedly has the ability to detect pronunciation to determine if you are saying the correct words, but so far on Easy level it doesn’t appear to do that. Singing is a blast, if you like that sort of thing, and I do.

I haven’t spent much time on the drums, just a few practice songs to see if I could get the hang of it, and I did fairly well (over 90% for all tries), however I’ve avoided playing them because my one short stint on the skins showed me that I need to find the right chair and position to sit in. I couldn’t seem to keep my foot on the foot pedal. The tension in my calf while waiting for the next bass drum beat lead to me constantly resting my foot on the floor instead of the pedal, so I invariably missed the first bass kick of any series. Once a chair/position is found, I will become a double pumping cymbal crashing two fisted hammer of god… hmm… maybe this Rock Band thing is going to my head.

Lastly, outside the game-play of playing songs, Rock Band allows you design your own rock alter-ego. The one thing that always struck me about the Guitar Hero series was being forced to play as the characters provided. In Rock Band, you make your own you, and you earn money and buy clothes and tattoos, you can paint your face and put on make-up. You can buy guitars and decorate them with art. It adds a whole new level to the game as I find myself not only wanting to perform my songs better, but I want to buy the perfect wardrobe to fit my new found rock and roll lifestyle.

So yeah, I like this game a lot. Hopefully I’ll be able to sort out the guitar issues before too long, and maybe RedOctane/Activition will release a patch for their games to let the Rock Band guitar play.

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