Do you still play Rock Band on a regular basis? Are you a Green Day fan? Then you should pick this up - it’s as simple as that. For $60 you get 47 songs, including Green Day’s three biggest albums (Dookie, American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown) plus a few filler tracks for good measure (notable singles from Insomniac, Nimrod and Warning). A tad pricey, but the sheer playability of these songs makes up the difference for those who always want more Green Day.
Securing Dookie was honestly a make or break scenario. It’s the band’s most popular album and if it weren’t here in its entirety, there wouldn’t be much of a game in the first place. So, with it and the other two biggest albums covered, most Green Day fans will feel satisfied with the setlist… as long as you weren’t hoping for something pre-Dookie, as in Kerplunk or 39/Smooth. They’re 100% missing due to [intensely boring legal reason]. And from the sound of it, there’ll be no DLC to fill out that back catalog, though we can hold out hope for something from Rock Band 3’s weekly DLC offerings. Probably not pre-Dookie, but maybe some leftovers from the middle albums.
The good news is the songs that are present are a total blast to play. Green Day is nothing if not frenetic and energetic, and it comes through in the note charts, especially on hard and expert. Hell, if you love playing bass or drums, consider picking this up even if you’re not a huge fan of the band, as the tracks are challenging in an intensely fun way, not a frustrating, “why would they do this to me” manner as some songs have been in the past. There are also vocal harmonies on select songs, so you can have a little Armstrong/Dirnt crossover action with friends who prefer to sing.
All in all, Green Day is a far better fit for Rock Band’s mechanics than the Beatles, regardless of your feelings towards either group. The attitude, appearance and sounds all gel with Rock Band in a way last year’s Beatles game never could.
However, even with the strength of the music it’s hard not to notice the lack of - I hate to say “effort,” but that’s essentially what it is – that went into the presentation. It’s not as bare bones as the laughable AC/DC release, but it’s so far from Beatles that you can’t help but feel somewhat cheated. Instead of elaborate, custom-made visions that synch up with the songs or venues that tie in very well with the setlist, we get a bar, a big venue and then an even bigger venue, none of which really line up with the band’s career to the degree that we’d expect from Harmonix.
Examples: The Dookie-era venue is a dive bar, meant to convey the band’s Gilman Street beginnings. The problem is that Dookie is a major-label release that sold 15 million copies, was heavily featured on MTV and received near-constant radio play from 1994 to the present day. It makes no sense to have them slumming it with songs that made them millionaires. Similarly, when you flash forward to the American Idiot time period (skipping nearly 10 years of the band’s existence), they’re decked out in eyeliner and the black/red outfits that go with that album, yet the setlists include shoehorned songs from Insomniac (1995), Nimrod (1997) and Warning (2000). It’s not a huge problem, but for a developer that prides itself on knowing music, these seem like bizarre oversights.
That’s not to say there aren’t some fun moments and shout-outs to fans a la Beatles Rock Band. The song “FOD” opens with no drum track, so drummer Tre Cool roams the stage aimlessly, harassing Billy Joe and generally behaving like Tre is known to behave. You’ll also see tons of typical Billy Joe facial tics that make the performance feel a bit more Green Day than a polygonal assemblage of technology.
In another bout of tit for tat, once the minimal Green Day vibe does manage to sink in, you’re plucked right back out when one of their notable lyrics is censored. Yes, the band known for its foul-mouthed singles and rebellious, punk-ish behavior has a game that is censored to avoid an M rating – because lord knows kids can’t hear “shit” anywhere else. It’s truly baffling, because the audience for this game is Green Day fans, who already own albums with cussing and don’t mind the language. Does Harmonix really think an M rating will eat into their Green Day sales that much?
Outside of the gameplay you’ll find a treasure trove of unlockable photos and videos featuring the group throughout its years of playing and touring. These are awarded the same way as in Beatles, where getting three stars on a song unlocks one photo, five stars gets you two and then another specific challenge unlocks one of several videos. Fun stuff that does a better job of summarizing their rise to fame than the comparatively bare career mode.
Of course, none of that will matter when you inevitably transfer these songs over to Rock Band 1, 2 or the upcoming 3, which is a hugely welcome feature missing from Beatles. That kind of makes this entire game feel unnecessary, more like a $60 DLC expansion than a true standalone game. It’s a common issue with all of these band-specific games (Metallica, Aerosmith and so on) that Harmonix avoided by making Beatles so visually specific. Green Day is just weaker by comparison.
Which kind of brings us full circle – if you like Green Day and Rock Band, get it now. If you’re iffy on either, there’s not enough interesting stuff going on to pull you in. I’ve never been big on the Beatles, but I beat Beatles Rock Band solely because I wanted to see what the game would do next. It gave me a new appreciation of the band and opened my eyes to why they were such a force – Green Day doesn’t quite do that, opting instead to offer superior gameplay.
Fun as any Rock Band game could be, but only if you’re already invested in both brands.
Jun 8, 2010