Game Review: Rock Band 2 (XBox 360)

ARE YOU READY TO ROCK!?! ARE YOU READY TO PLAY A GOOFY PLASTIC INSTRUMENT!?!

Yeah… me too.

Hoping Rock Band 2 doesn’t suck?

Find out inside.

Having played the first game on PS3, I was a little disappointed that the XBox 360 wound up with a ‘timed exclusive’ for RB2, meaning I either had to wait for the PS3 version, or I had to spring for new gear.

In the interest of being able to play with the most online friends, to be able to write a timely review, to make an honest comparison, and most importantly TO PLAY THE GAME RIGHT NOW… I caved and bought the XBox game and gear.

From my experience, the games (Rock Band PS3 vs. Rock Band 2 360) play identically on both systems… fanboys can chill, there’s not going to be a debate on console superiority in this review.

I think that statement should carry a lot of weight; Rock Band and Rock Band 2 gameplay is identical.

More of the same is not necessarily a bad thing, and many of the niggling things from the first game have been tweaked.

No longer is it necessary to have a separate character for each instrument, or to have a ‘band leader’ that is always locked to your World Tour. This allows you to switch up instruments and characters in-between sets in World Tour, allowing for more ‘drop in/drop out’ gameplay.

For example, my character is named ‘BOMB Matt’, and I can use the character to play guitar, bass, drums, or vocals. In between sets I can change instruments, add or subtract band members (including swapping out the ENTIRE roster) and change difficulty setting… all while playing in the same band, and continuing the same World Tour save game.

That rocks. No pun intended.

Speaking of improvements to World Tour, you can now incorporate ONLINE players into your touring band. Another much needed improvement.

You can even play through the tour as a single player… more accurately, as a one person band. I like this option, but I do miss the single player campaign, which was sadly removed from the game.

As if to make up for it, Harmonix has added ‘Challenge Mode’. This is a LITTLE like the old single player campaign; it has different tiers that need to be unlocked, each getting progressively more difficult. The downside is that some challenges can only be completed by playing a particular instrument, or with bands with multiple members (although, if you can sing and play an instrument at the same time, it’s not THAT bad).

This time around, the song selection is actually STRONGER than before with a great balance between Pop, Rock, Classic and Metal. Difficulty ranges from mind-numbingly easy (Survivor’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’) to down-right abusive (Judas Priest’s ‘Painkiller’), but the inclusion of a ‘No Fail’ mode and the previously configurable difficulty levels for each player… no one should feel left out.

The hardware has also gone through a minor change. Although I was unable to procure one of the new guitars in time for this review, I did manage to snag one of the new wireless drumsets.

The good, the bad, and the ugly…

It’s good that it’s wireless. I’ve experienced dramatically lower incidents of guitarists tripping over the cable. The new drum pads are softer, quieter, and are velocity sensitive (meaning the harder you hit them, the louder they sound). The kick pedal is now reinforced with a metal plate, making it easily more durable than the original model.

It’s bad that the kit uses standard batteries and that (at least at the time of this writing) a rechargeable battery pack is not included, or even available.

The UGLY? Would you believe I’ve broken it already? While the pedal has been redesigned, the basic support structure of the kit has been downgraded. The lower support bars (running horizontally along the floor) have been changed from light-weight indestructable aluminum to… ugghh… cheap plastic.

I’ve snapped off one of the supports. It’s still playable, but disappointing that while EA fixed one problem, they replaced it with another.

Unless you REALLY want another drum kit cluttering up your house and you are dying to go wireless, I wouldn’t suggest purchasing the drum set if you have an existing kit for Rock Band 1.

I’ll be picking this up (software only) for the PS3, just because… well… I want to play with my friends, and they are all getting it on PS3.

If you liked Rock Band… you’ll like Rock Band 2. If you’ve never played? I’d jump on the bandwagon with this title. If you didn’t like it before, you’re not going to like it now.

Pretty much what we expected.

Matt Says – BUY IT

Matt Ellis is a co-founder of Bag Of Mad Bastards, co-host of the podcasts B!tch Sl@p and Drunken Monkey Tech, and will bury you at any Rock Band instrument, on any song. Care to challenge him? He can be contacted at matt@bagofmadbastards.com or SolarShockMatt (PSN or XBL).

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3 Comments

  1. WoW , youre good ..
    but i personally try reviewing more indie games @ my blog..

  2. Thanks!

    We don’t have any industry support, so we review the games we purchase with our own money.

    I’m just a big rhythm game fan. 🙂

  3. Great review, but I think I still prefer Guitar Hero WT since it allows users to upload songs and share online.


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