Google+

Rock Band 2 review

AT A GLANCE
  • Plays like an even better dream
  • Ridiculously huge track list
  • You can use your old gear
  • Not a huge leap forward
  • No cymbals just yet
  • New drums still aren't that quiet

If the first Rock Band was the opening leg of a full-blown concert tour, with four players living the rock and roll dream via color-coded buttons and plastic guitars, drums, and microphone, Rock Band 2 is like the final show of that same tour. It’s not radically different from its already brilliant predecessor (at least not yet), but everything is tighter and runs more smoothly, and there’s an explosive, extended encore.

Gameplay, for example, is almost the exact same massively fun shredfest you remember: Colored gems scroll down the screen in time with the music, you click buttons in time with the gems, somebody sings, and the crowd goes batshit. It’s totally euphoric.

Yes, we said “almost” - there are several very welcome tweaks, like the ability to switch instruments and even entire band members mid-career, a “no-fail” mode, and custom setlists. Bassists can have a full career now, and there’s an online-enabled battle of the bands that should prove marvelously addictive. There’s also a drum trainer that will teach you the basics of actual drumming, should you wish to exchange this virtual band with a real one someday. All good stuff, though it’s more the perfection of a wonderful existing formula, rather than a totally new one.

The new drums are wireless now and have a dozen barely perceptible improvements ranging from a slightly quieter sound to a kick pedal that stays put when you lift the kit. But they’re functionally the same – at least, until the optional, attachable cymbals (and possibly the rumored double-kick functionality) show up in early 2009.

The same goes for the new guitar, which is prettier, has marginally clickier buttons, a screwdriver-free battery compartment and a fantastic auto-calibrate sensor, but feels essentially the same. You can even use the drums and guitar from the first Rock Band and forego the new gear entirely – nice bit of help for the penny-conscious.

That brings us to the songlist, which is comically mammoth right out of the box. There are more than 80 tunes right on the game disc, and the manual has a code that will enable you to download 20 more – nice way to get people to actually real the manual.

Then, for five measly bucks, you can rip 55 of the 58 tracks on the first Rock Band disc onto your hard drive for play in Rock Band 2 – this bit of familiarity is more than welcome. Plus, any of the bonus songs you’ve already downloaded in RB1 will simply appear in RB2, no token required. The grand total? You should have upward of 500 tracks at your disposal by the end of the year, with more coming every week.

The only real thing to complain about with Rock Band 2 – and it’s barely even a complaint - is that it polishes rather than reinvents. Make no mistake: We appreciate the backwards compatibility of the instruments, and the gameplay additions and tweaks that have been made seem universally designed to make the player’s experience better. But with no real revolution, this feels more like an 80-song expansion pack than an all-out sequel.

But you know what? We’re okay with that, at least for this year. We’re thrilled that Harmonix didn’t try to fix things that weren’t broken and add in silly things just to add bullet points on the box – the original Rock Band was nearly perfect already. And even if we know the setlist by heart, we still find ourselves running to Rock Band 2 every week and basking in the intoxicating clamor of the in-game crowd’s standing ovations. What can we say? We love living the lives of a bunch of rock stars.

Sep 14, 2008

More Info

Release date: Dec 23 2008 - PS2
Sep 14 2008 - Xbox 360
Dec 23 2008 - Wii
Oct 19 2008 - PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: PS2, Xbox 360, Wii, PS3
Genre: Simulation
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Harmonix
Franchise: Rock Band
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Lyrics, Suggestive Themes
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

32 comments

  • R38P3R - December 7, 2008 5:34 a.m.

    At least they fixed the guitar.
  • meluigi - December 6, 2008 6:07 a.m.

    i think im gettin it for christmas
  • tcrudisi - October 8, 2008 11:24 p.m.

    I'm a huge fan of RB1, but I never purchased the game. I've yet to play RB2, but considering they made it to where I can get all the RB1 songs, I'm definitely buying RB2. My question though, is this: Will I have to buy my own brand-new RB1 disc to get the songs available, or can I go to a store and buy a used copy? Or perhaps even use a friend's RB1 disc?
  • Coolbeans69 - September 17, 2008 4:14 a.m.

    I used 2 think that gh4 was gonna blow rb2 away, but now that I've played I think gh4's gonna have 2 be one bad ass game
  • oreomonkey - September 15, 2008 9:16 p.m.

    I would get it if it didn't come with $160 dollar price tag. :\
  • TENAXIS (PSN) - September 15, 2008 8:44 a.m.

    hmmm gonna wait till GH4 review, b4 buying RB2
  • CuddlyBomber - September 14, 2008 11:34 p.m.

    Very nize. Definately Deserving of that 10. Got it on the launch day and it is amazing!
  • almer145 - September 14, 2008 10:38 p.m.

    AGhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.....If it's not expensive on e-bay would've been able to plzy iy yesterday....wahhhhhhhhhhhhh
  • Coolbeans69 - September 14, 2008 6:02 p.m.

    I'm so getting it today!
  • flare149 - September 14, 2008 5:06 p.m.

    Dang, I was hoping the review would talk about the strum bar of the guitar and if it was fixed or not, cuz the first one was horrible. Also it sucks that the drums aren't quiet cuz I just got rid of the drum silencers... Overall it sounds pretty good though
  • lfcaron8 - September 14, 2008 9:09 a.m.

    Yes this game will kick ass but what i want to know is.....when will it come out in the uk :(
  • Techfreak313 - September 18, 2008 12:29 a.m.

    I,m still confused which game i should get RB 2 or GT4, but... rock band 2 is looking pretty sweet!
  • ALF - September 16, 2008 10:03 p.m.

    -Saw Rock Band 2 (check) -Bought Rock Band 2 (check) -Played Rock Band 2 (check) -Die happy(check)
  • Defguru7777 - September 16, 2008 12:30 a.m.

    The one complaint I have with games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero: it would be cheaper to just download the damn songs on iTunes or something.
  • cciu23 - September 15, 2008 10:21 p.m.

    This game looks amazing, of course Im getting it. Though it sucks it wont be coming to PS3 for another month :( No big deal really, I got Star Wars The Force Unleashed that comes out tomorrow to bide my time!
  • Whit - September 15, 2008 9:27 p.m.

    Been playing RB2 just about non-stop since yesterday--great game!! Fixes so many little nits. Still not perfect, but much closer. As for the RB2 and GH:WY--the instruments are compatible, no? Get both...
  • 4444 - September 15, 2008 8:35 p.m.

    i was gonna compare RB2 with world tour before choosing one but this makes me want RB2 now...if i had the money
  • ALF - September 15, 2008 7:16 p.m.

    "♫ Today's the best day ever, Cause I'm gettin' Rock Band 2! ♫"
  • dvader72 - September 15, 2008 6:03 p.m.

    Played this last night online until 3am. If you like the first RB, you're gonna pee your pants with RB2. It's better in every way, while still keeping the same appeal as the first game. BTW - there are definitely some more challenging songs on guitar in RB2.
  • Akiira - September 15, 2008 10:58 a.m.

    gay

Showing 1-20 of 32 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000