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Publisher: MTV Games
System: Xbox 360
Release date: Available now
Review by: Christopher J. Troilo
We move further and further into an age when gaming has become a group activity in which we combine electronics with our favorite pastimes. From a hardware standpoint, Nintendo has learned how to take simple sports and games and make them interactive, and now Harmonix has done the same thing for music with its Rock Band series, and they’ve done it really, really well. With the release of Rock Band 2, it’s more than apparent that the developers have listened to their fans’ calls for improvements and have tried their best to address every one of them.
For those of you who might be new to the Guitar Hero/Rock Band experience, here’s a brief overview of how these games are played. In Rock Band, you choose between singing into a microphone and playing one of three instruments (guitar, bass or drums). While you listen to mainstream songs, you attempt to play along by using your voice or your instrument in synchronization with colored notes moving along the screen in time with the music. For guitar and bass, you “strum” a flat lever while pressing buttons on the guitar’s neck. For drums, you have four color-coded drum pads to hit, and a kick pedal to simulate the bass drum. Vocalists get lyrics and an oscillating line that indicates the pitches of the notes.
You can play the game solo or invite three friends to join you, either online or in person, to form a true band. There are several gameplay modes, one of the more popular of which is the Tour Mode. Your band starts out in its hometown, playing relatively easy songs to small crowds. As your band becomes better at pleasing the audience, bigger venues open up around the world, unlocking new songs to play for the larger crowds. Big audiences mean more money, and more money means the ability to buy new swag to customize your characters or hire staff to help your band achieve its dreams.
If your sole aim is to unlock all of the songs as quickly as possible, Challenge Mode is the way to go. In Challenge Mode, the game gives you set lists of increasing length and difficulty to complete. The only catch is that some of the challenges require you to have more than one person playing. Once you pass the easy levels, more and more challenges open up, and eventually all of the available songs on the Rock Band 2 disc are unlocked.
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