Having first seen Rock Band at Play.com Live earlier in the year I had decided there and then I wasnít going to buy it. Why would I want to look like a fool in front of my friends as I squeal like a strangled cat or duff up even the simplest of riffs while accidentally smashing the drum set up in a fit of puerile rage? Ok I may have been a little hasty in my condemning of this game as Iíll be the first to admit I let the Guitar Hero games pass me by, But peer pressure and my sheer boredom of my 360 right now demanded I buy it.
And here is where we hit our first brick wall, the price. Itís understandable that the accessory pack should retail at £130, after all gamers will happily slap down £60-£70+ for Guitar Hero with guitar but Rock Band is different in that the game is sold separately. £50 extra to an already hefty price is asking a lot from the consumer but Iím not here to grumble. Iím sure if youíve wanted this game from day one youíll already have it regardless of price.
After purchasing the complete Rock Band package I only then realised how big the box it came in was. A little word of advice to anyone wanting to buy rock band and donít own a car, find one or get a taxi as the box isnít so much huge but is of a cumbersome size and weight. I found myself having to take breaks as I hauled it to the train station.Gameplay
Once I got home I opened the box and started to set everything up, the Guitar, Drums and Accessories were all neatly packaged in their own little boxes with the only the mic loose in a plastic bag. The drums were extremely easy to setup as was the guitar.
The build quality of the drums is rather impressive, once setup they feel solid. The aluminium bars make the setup light and easy to move around. The Drum pads themselves are made from what looks and feels like rubber and the kick pedal gives enough resistance to give the impression you could be pushing down an actual kick pedal.
After the setup the drums were the first thing I tried, I started a single player Solo campaign that saw me, an unknown newbie drummer joining a band, from there I must play 5 songs in a city in order to progress to the next city. The fact that I had never drummed before ensured me needing to start on the easy mode. The first set of songs ease you into getting the rhythm without making you feel like a child with stabilisers on your bike, the game stays this way for pretty much most of the easy mode only ever dropping a song that uses the kick pedal more every now and again thatíll require you to try it a few times until youíre used to it, but apart from that its pretty smooth sailing. The game progresses in this fashion, the harder songs on easy generally have the same difficulty as the easier songs on medium and so forth.
The guitar is in the shape of a Fender Stratocaster, and matches the drums sleek, black look. It also comes complete with directional pad, start and back buttons along with a 4 light LED display similar to the one on the Xbox 360 controller. This guitar however has 2 major differences to its Guitar Hero sibling, one better, one worse.
The better is the inclusion of 5 more buttons on the fret board located toward the bottom of the neck; these buttons are used for guitar solos which give you bonus points during play without having to strum the guitar itself.
This however brings me onto the one problem Iíve found with the Stratocaster, Though I may have let the Guitar Hero wave blow over me I did have the joy of playing it several times at a friends house, the click of the Guitar Hero guitar as you strum is not present on this guitar, instead thereís a very unsatisfying nothing. At first this seemed strange as I was playing, as the click generally helped me with the rhythm and the fact itís not there meant I had to rely very much on the main beat of the music to keep rhythm. But once youíre used to it, itís not too bad. The guitar is responsive enough and the extra buttons help to move all the action from the top of the fret board. It also makes the tried and tested GH formula feel fresh.
The mic, this originally was the main reason I had stayed away from any notion of Rock Band, yeah you can miss a few notes here or there on guitar but to actually sing, It takes something else, either a kind of karaoke obsessive or a drunken party where everyone is so whacked off their faces they donít notice. This is only partially the case, thankfully.
The mic itself is also black to continue the black theme; itís around normal mic size and has a good weight to it. Made by Logitech it also can be used as a plug and play mic for your pc. The singing aspect of the game is reminiscent of sing star for PS2/3 as there is a bar that represents pitch, it moves up or down according to the pitch of the song, your job as the vocal artist is to match the pitch of your voice to the bar on the screen, easy? Well yes actually it is, even on increased difficulty the bar merely gets thinner. The only real problem with the singing campaign is you need to know the words to all the songs though the games does encourage you to Ďwing ití if you donít know them.
Another small word of warning, if you canít afford the entire instrument kit, yes the Guitar Hero guitar can replace the Rock Band one but I advise against trying to use your 360 headset instead of a USB mic as I found out the headset doesnít cope well with changing of pitch or low notes which can really hurt your bands performance and could mean you getting a lower score than you would have with the official mic.