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Rock Band

01 Dec 2008

Guitar Hero made gamers feel like they could play guitar – well, a small plastic guitar at least. Being a virtual guitar virtuoso is undeniably cool, but what if you want to sing or play the drums too? Electronic Arts has created the answer with Rock Band.

You’d be gravely mistaken if you think that Rock Band is an easy game. After six hours of playing, I can assure you that careful timing, coordination and rhythm are essential skills you’ll need to succeed at this game. You might ask: where’s the fun in being so disciplined? Well, that’s the beauty of Rock Band – you can play it as competitively as you like or just for the pure fun of it.

If you’re at all familiar with Guitar Hero, you will understand the basic game mechanics behind Rock Band. If not, Rock Band is a simulation game where you play plastic instruments in time to music and colour-coded patterns on screen (called a ‘chart’). The objective is to improve your musical skills and gain points and achievements by completing various modes of gameplay (either solo or multiplayer). The difference between the two games is that Guitar Hero focuses on your skills with a plastic guitar, whereas Rock Band gives you the opportunity to be part of an entire virtual band. You can even add vocals to the mix with a microphone.

People new to this type of game will need to spend some time working through the tutorials. Once you’ve learned the ropes you can begin rocking out in ‘On Tour’ mode, where songs are unlocked as you progress through various venues and difficulty levels. As you finish ‘gigs’ you and your band (if you have one) will start to make money, which can be used to upgrade your equipment and customise your rock star with new clothes, hairstyles and even accessories like tattoos. These customisation options are quite impressive. You can alter your rocker to suit your personal style, rather than having to stick to predefined characters. It’s a lot of fun creating your own crazy musician character – after all, the game is all about being a rock star!

The game controllers are some of the most important aspects of Rock Band. The guitar (a plastic replica of a Fender Stratocaster) takes some time to get used to. The buttons are wide and require you to be extremely accurate in both timing and coordination for the notes to register as you play. There’s no doubt that the guitar in Rock Band is a lot sturdier than the one that came with Guitar Hero. It’s also a lot bigger and closer to the size of a real guitar.

But the peripheral that will really get you rocking out will be the drum kit. It’s used in exactly the same way as the guitar: coloured drum pads correspond with the notes that display on the screen as you play. You have four drum pads and one kick pedal for your foot. Rock Band is separated into solo tour modes for each peripheral (including the microphone for all the crooners out there), so you’ll be able to work through each solo tour and then rock out as a band once you’ve mastered the basics.

Online game modes include Local Play (playing with friends in your home) and Quick Play (playing online with other people using the band game mode). As a party game, Rock Band is pretty hard to beat. The drum, vocal and guitar peripherals take social online gaming into a new stratosphere of collaborative possibilities. Anyone who truly loves music will relish this opportunity to unleash their inner rock star upon the world.

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