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Friday | September 21, 2018
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Rock Band 2 (Xbox 360)

Rock Band 2 (Xbox 360)

Rock Band 2 is the follow-up to the successful original game released less than a year ago. It addresses some of the issues detailed by both critics and the public and introduces a new online mode which is sure to please hardcore fans of the franchise.

Rock Band 2 brings 84 new titles to the table, and this time around they are all master tracks and it would be fair to say that this collection is probably the best yet. Not only do you get all master tracks but there is a new Guns N’ Roses song called “Shacklers Revenge” which is pretty cool. Additionally there are songs across a 50 year span from the 60’s to the present day. AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Journey, Megadeth, Metallica, Bon Jovi and Rage Against The Machine to name a few. Obviously this is all personal taste but the collection is both wide spanning and great fun to play, I can’t see any music lover failing to like the set list.

To further enhance value for money, the 84 built in tracks aren’t all to be gained from the collection.  You can reuse all your downloaded content from the first game right out of the box, and if you pay $5 (400 gamer points) you can export 55 of the Rock Band tracks to play in the new one. As if this wasn’t enough, with your purchase of Rock Band 2, you are immediately illegible for download of 20 free songs online. I wasn’t able to get a list of these tracks just yet from Harmonix however they told me that the 20 track bundle would be available before Christmas. In theory you could play Rock Band 2 right now with a huge collection of around 300 tracks. Not a bad set list for a just released product !

The game has seen some overhauls since the first release and the 84 new tracks are more enjoyable to play now. The original game in the series was known by Guitar Hero aficionados to be rather easy however the difficulty level has been ramped a little. Don’t panic if you aren’t Steve Vai as there are some easy songs in the mix to break you into the flow more gently, It is just there are more challenges this time around. The drum side of the implementation has also been dramatically improved with songs more finely tuned to judge your skillset. All players will be losing much hair mastering the ultimate challenge with Judas Priest’s Painkiller. Nightmare!

Rock Band was open for criticism from people who wanted a more challenging single player game, the more skilled guitarists amongst us wanted deeper and more intense songs to battle with.

Another big game change is the fact that players are no longer locked into a single character and those characters are not tied into one instrument either. You also no longer need to sign in each player to a different account. You can just jump right in and select any of the predefined characters.

People can appear and vanish at your choice in World Tour or any other game mode, I love this feature as the original mechanic was very tiring and not really very intuitive either. This time around you can also select fill in characters for your band, so if someone isn’t available to play then one of the created characters will show up on stage as the backup player.

Also, Harmonix have created an awesome new mode called “No Fail”, this basically lets you enjoy the quick play setlists without the risk of being booed off stage. You can’t obviously compete in this mode but it’s perfect for a party situation where all your family or friends just want to have a laugh without being kicked out to menu screens all the time.

Rock Band 1 had a pretty solid core gameplay mechanic and it hasn’t changed much, there are now 15 new arenas to add more variety to the environments and the on stage presentation has been enhanced with more active movements from the band members. The guitar players now have more areas of hammer-ons in hard or expert level and the speech style sections on the vocals are easier.

World Tour mode is still the primary section of the game and for the most part it is identical to the first title, however you can play this mode without penalties. There are also no forced higher difficulty sections either so you can take the single player mode at your own pace. If you are in the house on your own you can jump online in World Tour mode and play with friends (or strangers) without hassles. The online options are still limited in some key areas, but they work well.

So for the most part the World Tour is pretty much a copy of the first one, however I don’t think there was much wrong with it so it’s not really as if this could be classed as a negative point. I was dreading the fact that this game could have been changed dramatically for the worse. Even the world art is identical to the last game. A new addition however is the fact that you can now change your management and hire new publicists and promoters. Some of these new people can land you gigs you wouldn’t normally see, so there is some incentive to play around with this, even if it isn’t ultimately that rewarding.

The character creator is a little limited and it hasn’t seen that much attention from the previous one, there are a few new faces and some new clothes. It is just a shame they didn’t spend as much time on this area as they did on the tattoo creator, which is excellent and very versatile.

Another new mode is called “Battle Of The Bands” which is a series of challenges in which your score is taken and compared against those of your colleagues as well as the rest of the online gaming world. These challenges do vary and Harmonix have stated that they will offer a new challenge (at least) every day. One of the challenges could be aimed for example at guitarists and they have to score as high as possible in a complex solo section or for the next challenge it could be aimed at the drummer. When you play a challenge you will see the score of the person ahead of you as well as a progress style bar which depicts if you are slowly taking the lead or not. It is good fun.

Due to user feedback, Harmonix have included a drum trainer in Rock Band 2 which aims to help you improve your timing skills. This places you into a series of tasks which consist of common drum patterns and as well as this there is a free style mode to let you hit the drums without backing. So you can improve on your single player fill skills.

So how much is RB2 to purchase? The basic game is supplied at around $60 (sorry UKer’s nothing for a while yet), and you can use your Rock Band 1 instruments (phew!). There are however new versions of the guitar and drums. The guitar has been tweaked both visually (new Gibson starburst style template) and technically (to be more responsive). It still falls short of the Guitar Hero guitars however, and my personal favourite is still the ugly white guitar from Guitar Hero 2. In my opinion you can save yourself money on this upgrade when it comes time for you to buy Rock Band 2.

The drums however have been seriously improved in the last year, they are now wireless and much quieter than before. The pads are velocity sensitive and they use this to measure the speed and force used to hit the pads. This means if you hit the pads softly this creates quieter sounds and vice versa. Also on the “to fix list” was the drum pedal which has made the move from cheap plastic to metal for durability. This is a major overhaul, however only you can judge if this is worth another $90 of your hard earned money.

Rock Band 2 is clearly improved in most of the key areas compared to last year’s game. I think the tracklist is much superior and the difficulty level is more diverse and challenging in the implementation. The fact you can also play all the songs from RB1 (including downloaded content) is a major bonus. The game is worth the cost alone for the Battle Of the Bands multiplayer mode.

The game is highly recommended to all fans of the series, it is just a shame you guys in the UK will have to wait a while for the game to make its way to your shores.



Tried and tested gameplay which has been finetuned.


Polished and entertaining, but you spend most of your time focused on coloured circles!


Amazing collection of tracks from most of the major bands across the globe.

84 songs out of the box, the option to use all your RB1 content as well as forthcoming store releases.
(not an average)

Nothing revoluntary, but it’s still killer entertainment.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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