After taking some time off from the Rock Band franchise, Harmonix is ready to bring the rock back, albeit in a slightly different form than fans are used to. The new entry, Rock Band Blitz, shrinks down the overblown, expensive series into a downloadable.
We had a chance to check out the plastic guitar-less rhythm game at PAX East, and walked away with some interesting information on the downloadable revival.
No peripherals necessary
Rock Band Blitz is the first console-based series entry to shrug off instrument controllers entirely and only utilize an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 controller. Likewise, it's the first downloadable entry in the series, with the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network release due out this summer.
Similar to Rock Band Unplugged on PSP and Rock Band 3 for Nintendo DS – or more notably, series predecessors Frequency and Amplitude on PlayStation 2 – you'll match beats for multiple instruments using button presses, essentially making you a one-man-band as you play through a variety of licensed songs. And it's just you out there – Blitz is not a multiplayer experience.
Familiar, but fresh
Though it looks much like some of Harmonix's past controller-based rhythm games, Rock Band Blitz sets itself apart by not having the game automatically play each instrument on its own when you complete a section. Instead, you'll aim to continually bounce between the various instruments on screen, leveling up the multiplier for each to send your score skyward.
Once you've leveled up each instrument on the screen to an 8x multiplier by completing the needed number of sections, it'll bump up a tier and challenge you to notch each up to 16x, and then so on and so forth based on your skill and the length of the song.
Keeping it simple
Each instrument only has two notes on the track, which are controlled on the right side by the A button on Xbox 360 or X on PlayStation 3, and the left side with the D-pad. You'll flip between instruments by clicking in the trigger or shoulder buttons on each side. The challenge is in keeping up with everything happening on the screen and developing strategic scoring routines.
All of the DLC works
Despite the shift away from playing instrument-shaped peripherals, Rock Band Blitz supports all previous Rock Band downloadable content, which means – as of this writing – more than 3500 songs can be played in the game. A Harmonix rep at PAX East also confirmed that songs from past disc-based Rock Band games can be imported into Blitz without a fee.
But it comes with songs, too
If you don't have previous Rock Band DLC or wish not to download any from within Blitz, that's fine too – the game will ship with at least 25 new tracks not previously seen in a Rock Band game, including "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People, "Always" by Blink-182, and "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield. All of the tracks can be freely imported into Rock Band 3 and played with your plastic instruments of choice. Plus, the Blitz menus recommend other similar songs to try based on those you play, including DLC you don't own.
Power-ups are key
Prior to each song, you'll choose your power-ups – it's essentially your loadout. Overdrive-based ones like Bandmate (which automatically hits notes for a short time) and Bottle Rocket (in which the titular fireworks shoot forth and clear notes up ahead) are fueled by hitting glowing notes on the screen before you tap the button to let them loose.
Blitz also contains note-based power-ups, which are activated by little purple notes that appear from time to time. One such power-up unleashes a pinball that bounces back and forth on the screen, and your note bar turns into a Breakout-like paddle for keeping it alive. Each note hit by the ball earns you points, though focusing too much on it may take you away from your instrument score multipliers. Additional power-ups will be revealed closer to the summer release.
And that's fully intended. Between the power-ups, score multipliers, and tracks that bob and weave through an animated world, it can be tough to stay on top of things. That's why only having two note streams per instrument totally works here, because it's not your only focus in this score-centric, arcade-style romp.
Rock Band Blitz is set to come up on XBLA and PSN later this summer.
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