Rock Band is a blast to play, but due to removed features and watered down visuals, the PlayStation 2 version offers a less than ideal experience.
The Guitar Hero series revolutionized the rhythm game genre in ways that few other games did. But while using plastic guitars to play covers of popular songs might have been novel and fun once, it soon became repetitive. Harmonix, the same company behind Amplitude, Frequency and the first Guitar Hero, had the difficult task of improving a formula that was revolutionary once, but has turned stagnant since then. Enter Rock Band, a title that puts you in the shoes of a guitarist, bassist, drummer or singer which means that you can form a band with friends and family and play at the same time. Rock Band is a blast to play, but due to removed features and watered down visuals, the PlayStation 2 version offers a less than ideal experience.
Rock Band allows you to play solo or cooperatively with up to three of your friends, but the latter option requires you to have all the plastic instruments. On the PlayStation 2, the number of modes seems anemic, specially if you compare it to the ones includes on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 where you can customize the members of your band and tour around the world earning money and getting fans. Those parts of the game, as well as the online mode, are nowhere to be found on the PlayStation 2.
The soundtrack is absolutely outstanding and the best part about it that there are just a few cover songs and pretty much every major genre you can think of is represented here. There’s something here for everyone, including songs from The Ramones, Nirvana, Radiohead, Weezer, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, The Clash, Hole, Pixies, Bon Jovi, Kiss and The Strokes, among many other artists. As it’s usually the case with most rhythm games, playing songs is always fun and the best part is that you can discover your next favorite band just by playing the game.
Although there are modes where you can compete against friends (Tug of War and Score Duel,) Rock Band is all about being part of a band that’s working together for the same goal, so cooperation is paramount. Most of the times, each member will be playing a different instrument and should anyone fall behind, you can activate Star Power (called Overdrive here) to revive a losing team member.
Apart from being able to play as part of a band, there aren’t many innovations, but the game doesn’t need them. You certainly feel like part of a band and playing with others is an amazing feeling that no rhythm game before has been able to capture. It’s also great to have four instruments to choose from, so if at any point you become bored of singing, you can always switch with another player and try whichever instrument you prefer. Playing guitar is pretty much the same as it was in Guitar Hero. Bass is simpler than guitar, but it’s always fun. Drums is also entertaining and the best part about it is that this skill transfers to playing the actual instrument. Finally, singing is similar to Karaoke Revolution, a series where Harmonix also worked on some games. In other words, no matter which instrument you choose, you’ll have fun.
My favorite instrument was the microphone, so this is probably where I spent most of my time with Rock Band. Nevertheless, I noticed that some of the songs are censored which makes sense since the developer wanted to put this game in the hands of as many people as possible, but at the same time, singing a song and noticing that some words are missing sounds weird. Also, when you’re singing, there’s no way to improvise which is one of the best parts about karaoke.
One of the fears I had before playing this game was how the developer was going to communicate all the sections that each players was supposed to play without cluttering the screen with notes and information. Luckily, the user interface is clean and organized which means that at no point you’ll feel confused of what you’re supposed to play next.
Also, there are several difficulty modes to choose from, the only problem is that when you’re playing on your own, once you fail a song, you lose and you have to start from scratch. To mitigate this, the developer included a training mode where you can practice specific parts of the song without the risk of losing and there’s also a tutorial mode that teaches you the basic mechanics that come into play.
if you can get all the instruments and have some people over, Rock Band will soon become a party favorite. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to play on your own, but you’ll get more out of this experience when you have people around you playing the same song. Unfortunately, the watered down visuals, lack of customization options and the fact that the world tour mode isn’t here at all make the PlayStation 2, the worst version of Rock Band. It is still fun to play, but if you have a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, get those version instead, it will not disappoint.