Rock Band Unplugged – hands-on

There’s been some discussion as to whether Rock Band can “work” on the PSP. Without diving into too much history and boring you with the details of which developer did what, we can quickly tell you “yes, it can,” because Harmonix has already proved this gameplay concept works. See: Frequency and Amplitude, the dev’s pre-Guitar Hero gems.

Above: Maybe too crazy for the mainstream…

Look familiar? Flowing tracks with jewels you burst by pressing buttons at the appropriate time? That’s PS2’s Amplitude, and that’s more or less how Rock Band Unplugged works. Each instrument (guitar, drums, vocals and bass) is represented by scrolling tracks and you have to juke between them, playing each instrument’s phrase or melody before moving on to the next.

So, instead of worrying about the one instrument you’re playing (as with the console versions), you’re in control of the entire song. Hop over to the vocals on “Mr. Brightside” and you’ll hear Brandon Flowers’ voice rise above the rest of the instruments until you successfully nail all the notes in that phrase. Once you get ‘em, the vocal track keeps playing on its own, while you use L and R to swap between the remaining tracks. And, by the time you’ve cleared drums and guitar, the vocal track has returned and you quickly realize just how fast, chaotic and downright zen-like the gameplay experience can be.

Above: The drum track in action, L and R switch to Bass, Vocals and Guitar

As with Rock Band, bursting the gems is all about pushing buttons to be beat. In this case there are only four colors to worry about (plus the usual two and three note chords), and the default arrangement is as follows:

Above: If you really despise this setup, it’s all customizable

The experience is still similar to the originals due to the Rock Band branding and the borrowed set list (41 master recordings from 1 and 2, nine of which are exclusive to PSP), but the actual act of playing is entirely unique and worth exploring even if you utterly loathe the plastic instruments of the consoles. Think of it as a fast-paced music puzzle game.

Speaking of the Rock Band brand, the name brings with it requisite modes like World Tour (with customizable band), plus new concepts like Band Survival (the four tracks never disappear, forcing you to constantly juggle all simultaneously) and Warm-Up (pick one track and stay there without worrying about the others).

Above: Band creation isn’t 360/PS3 deep, but it exists

Another first for the PSP version is the inclusion of online DLC, with 10 songs available for purchase from launch day on. No word on what those songs will be, but given that the on-disc songs include a mix of Rock Band 1 and 2 tracks plus exclusives, we expect the DLC will follow suit. There’s also this thing:

Above: PSP bundle for $199.99

Side note: we really like how, for once, there’s a game that requires all the constant button pressing that’s depicted on TV and in movies (you know, where the kid is mashing everything on the device instead of actually playing). This gameplay setup worked once in 2002, and it’ll work again when Unplugged shows up in June. As a parting gift, here’s what we can share of the track list:

Apr 15, 2009


  • Neotepen5 - April 23, 2009 12:39 a.m.

    GO!!!! BUDDY HOLLY!!!
  • dereq - April 18, 2009 10:38 p.m.

    Stupid idea. Take away the guitar peripheral, and it's not Guitar Hero. Hitting buttons is not even close!! What is wrong with you people?!
  • MW3M - April 18, 2009 12:58 p.m.

    An Amplitude sequel on the PSP you say? WANT!!!
  • Coolbeans69 - April 18, 2009 1:12 a.m.

    Wow good, looks like wii graphics and that's saying a lot for a handheld, i wish i had a psp
  • Stopwatchers45 - April 17, 2009 6:14 p.m.

    where do u sing at?
  • HMXsean - April 17, 2009 4:38 a.m.

    Oh hell yeah! HMX in the house!
  • drprofessor - April 16, 2009 1:57 a.m.

    NOW THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT! I dropped far, far, far to many hours into Freq. and Amplitude. They are two of my favorite games EVER. I love Harmonix they are win. Now, if only they would bring it to live arcade.....
  • RamenDragon - April 15, 2009 11:08 p.m.

    The setlist seems like it'd be pretty punishing on Expert. Mad props to anyone who can beat Mr. Brightside on Expert Drums, or Painkiller on Expert Guitar.
  • GamesRadarJoeMcNeilly - April 15, 2009 10:05 p.m.

    Back in the day people thought I was crazy for liking Frequency, but who's laughing now?!?!?!?
  • planet5421 - April 15, 2009 9:41 p.m.

    how would this work on the psp? the instruments were the main trademark for rock band and without them itd be really weird
  • stonr_playr - April 19, 2009 11:01 p.m.

    yo ummm i have to say DEREQ that it is a sick idea a lot of ppl cnt afford ps2 n RB sets so if u have a PSP thi game will b PREMO may not b as hard but if ur bitchina about not playing the instruments GO FUCKING PLAY ROCK BAND FOOL!!! this is for on the road!! n its a great idead THANK YOU HARMONIX, I Can't Wait For It 2 Come Out!
  • jballboy88 - April 16, 2009 12:50 a.m.

    wow this is really a lot better then i thought!!!! this seems funner than normal rock band (albeit totally different)
  • twishart - April 15, 2009 11:58 p.m.

    The depiction of video games in tv and movies - where the player just beats the hell out of the controller - is so incredibly frustrating. The only time I've EVER done anything like that to a controller is after getting knocked down in Punch Out. There are people who actually think THAT'S how a video game is played?
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - April 15, 2009 9:59 p.m.

    How would it work on PSP? The first paragraph explains how and why. Good stuff, I'm tellin' ya.
  • The_Lurcher - April 15, 2009 9:40 p.m.

    looks incredible. the drums on NIN - Perfect drug will be fucking awesome if they get it right. Actualy i think that these songs are better than most of the songs in rockband and guitar hero world tour but thats my opinion.
  • garnsr - April 15, 2009 9:30 p.m.

    I tried playing Frequency again a year or so ago, and found that I wasn't nearly as good as I was when I picked it up when i first got my PS2. It got me into Freezepop, though.
  • DasavageJ - April 15, 2009 8:49 p.m.

    wow glad I didn't say first you would of had me by 6 seconds lol.
  • DasavageJ - April 15, 2009 8:48 p.m.

    AWESOME, I might just buy this pack because my last PSP borke nearly a year ago along with my first PS3 (very bad day, read about it in Killzone 2 comments). Any way I'm debating getting a new PSP and iTouch or waiting till this Summer's E3 to see if the PSP2 is really on the horizon. and by the way nice preview GR thanks for the track list
  • gorillaman23 - April 15, 2009 8:48 p.m.

    Looks pretty cool! I'd get it if I had a PSP.

Showing 1-19 of 19 comments

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