Rock Band (Xbox 360)

Some people will tell you that when you write a game review, the cost of the game shouldn’t have any influence on how the game is reviewed. However, in the case of Rock Band, the price tag is kind of a hard thing to ignore. When a game costs about three times as much as a new Xbox 360 game, it can’t just be pretty good, it has to be fantastic. After all, for the same amount of money you could buy Kane & Lynch, Crackdown, and Medal of Honor: Airborne. Or, you know, three games that don’t suck. I guess what I’m trying to say is that by my convoluted logic, Rock Band ought to be about as good as 3 games that don’t suck to be worth your money.

That’s a pretty high standard to live up to, but fortunately, Rock Band delivers. It’s a near-perfect execution of the game that we’ve all secretly wanted since the first time we watched a friend play Guitar Hero and sang along while he played. Hosting a “Rock Band Party” was the most fun I’ve had in a long time with a group of people when none of us had hockey sticks. Given our typically unspectacular choices this coming November, we should probably elect it president this fall. President Rock Band? Why not? It couldn’t be any worse than Hillary.

However, before we go any further with heaping praise on the game, let me address its biggest flaw. The guitar controller that comes packaged with the game is seriously lacking. The strum bar lacks the springiness of the Guitar Hero controller (which makes playing faster sections much harder), the buttons are a little hard to find, and the design is somewhat less than ergonomic. Still, it’s ultimately a matter of personal preference — if you favor a controller that doesn’t make clicking sounds and looks more like a real guitar, as opposed to the GH controller which is easier to use and won’t give you carpal tunnel syndrome, then by all means, enjoy your Rock Band controller. For the rest of us, it still makes for an adequate bass in multiplayer sessions.

Rock Band Tattoos
If you’re gonna be a REAL rocker, you gotta have some harsh tats.

It’s probably not too much of a stretch to assume that many people interested in Rock Band already have Guitar Hero and the controller, so for them, it’s not that big of a deal. But for those of you who don’t (like me; I had the PS2 version of GH), it’s kind of a pain to shell out close to $200 for Rock Band, and then another $60-70 for a second guitar. Even if you happen to love the guitar controller that comes with the game, you’re still going to have to buy, borrow or steal a second one to enjoy a 4-player rock session. Oh, and you’re going to need three friends, too. Nobody ever said this was going to be easy.

Still, it’s a lot of fun when it all comes together. The game is fun in all its various modes, but really shines when a group of people is playing together. This is one of those games where good, old-fashioned two (or more) people all playing on the same system is still better than playing online. This might be because unlike an online deathmatch or game of Madden, Rock Band is cooperative in nature. It’s more fun to have everyone there in person when you’re working together, as opposed to games where their success comes at your own expense.

What else is there to say? The guitar portion of the game is almost exactly like Guitar Hero, with just a few very minor changes to differentiate itself. Compared to the GH series, it’s a bit easier than the latest installments on similar difficulty settings. Singing is well done, and at easier levels is forgiving enough that even horrible crooners (such as myself) can get through the songs. Drumming is perhaps the hardest to get the hang of. For someone who has never played the drums before, coordinating each hand and a foot to do different things all at once can take a while to get used to. However, for someone with experience, it ends up feeling fairly natural. My friend Bill, who is a rather accomplished percussionist, picked it up right away. The only thing that gave him any difficulty was reading the display on screen, as apparently real-life drummers don’t read their music as a bunch of colored notes scrolling down a monitor.

Rock band throwin' horns
Hail, Satan!

If you can afford this game and have a few friends to play with, I cannot recommend it strongly enough. This is about the closest I’ve ever seen a game come to being pure fun in a box. And remember…vote Rock Band for President in ’08!

Brad Hates Games Written by:

BHG grew up in the frozen post-apocalyptic wasteland of Buffalo, NY (it’s like the old Soviet Union but more depressing), recently escaped to the (relatively) sunnier skies of Seattle, and does freelance work when writing for an unpopular blog about 20 year old video games fails to pay the bills.


  1. February 20, 2008

    Despite its “Sorry family, we’re eating Ramen for a couple weeks” pricetag, I still desire this game. Every time I see it in a shop I have to talk myself out of picking it up.

    See, as it turns out, all of my good gamer friends seem to live far away from me, so chances are next-to-nil that I’d ever be able to play the “band” portion of the game. However, having spent so many years dicking around in bands (as a singer/guitarist/bassist/drummer), it seems like Rock Band would have a hell of a lot of replay value for me if there’s a full-fledged single-player option. So, the question is…is there?

    • February 20, 2008

      There is a rather nice single player mode – with individual parts for singing, guitar and drums. It’s kind of like 3 games in one in that respect. Everything is done in a way similar to Guitar Hero, in terms of game progression, etc. Compared directly to GH, the guitar part of Rock Band is almost, but not quite, as much fun. I don’t know, Guitar Hero just “feels” a little more like actually playing the guitar, but not by much.

      The only problem with the single player isn’t really a problem per se – its just that the multi-player is so much fun, that once you’ve tried that, you’ll be spoiled won’t want to play the single player anymore.

      • February 20, 2008

        Sounds good to me!

        BTW, I keep hearing that the build quality of the guitars are 100% shite and are often returned. Is the drum kit the same way?

        • February 20, 2008

          I’ve heard of problem with the drums, but haven’t had any myself. So, I guess I would recommend researching it a bit more.

  2. VagrantSPace
    February 21, 2008

    My Rock Band “instruments” have been doing great and I have heard a lot about the problems. My guitar has started to have issues with initializing the Overdrive feature now, it is so annoying. I love Rock Band and I am thinking about shelling out the $100 for GH3 for the extra guitar and new songs to play. You guys played GH3?

  3. February 23, 2008

    I came so close to picking this game (Rock Band) up tonight, but just couldn’t do it. If either the game or the drum kit were about $20 cheaper, I would have been all over it. (I already have a GH guitar and about 3 USB mics from Karaoke Revolution.)

  4. VagrantSpace
    February 25, 2008

    UPDATE: Guitar Hero 3 freakin’ rocks and it is hard as shit. And also, the guitar is much better than the Rock Band guitar…CONFIRMED!

  5. Rhett
    March 3, 2008

    I got this puppy over a month ago. It rocks! I have almost daily visits from co-workers playing it. I have seen a few returns at WM but it is few and far between.

    I have had issues with the overdrive in my guitar though.

  6. zfunk007
    March 3, 2008

    You know, this is so unlike this site. Heaping praise on a game. So I’ll be the negative influence. I own Guitar Hero 3 (regretfully) and I find it pretty boring. I have never met a person that just says, “oh yeah, guitar hero, that game sucks!” I think I’m the only person on earth that basically does. My girlfriend plays it a lot more than me and is a lot better at it than me so that should say something.

    Now about Rock Band. Almost no game in my eyes is worth that much money. Maybe if you could get your neighbors to go in with you on it or something. But seriously, just start a band already. My whole problem with these guitar and band games is that they take songs I love and beat them to death until I never want to hear them again. No thanks, I’ll take real games thank you.

    • Kalinsias
      March 5, 2008

      You know, this is so unlike this site. Heaping praise on a game.

      Okay, maybe now is a good time to chime in about what this site is. Well, to me, at least. I don’t dislike games. In fact, I love gaming. The reason I am jaded is that, after nearly 30 years in the hobby, I’ve seen it all. Sometimes, that isn’t a hindrance to enjoying a game – I enjoy FPS games even though there’s little innovation there from game to game.

      Maybe RPGs are a better example of my jaded-ness. Brad and I are of a like mind when it comes to the FF games storylines. They were much better in the 16-bit era, as a whole. At some point, Sakaguchi and co. began smoking some serious weed. Or trying to force things. Not really sure which, but the games became notable only for their great graphics and animations. Which is another way of saying they became utterly shallow. If the 16-bit games, which did not have the memory space for a 10-minute summon animation, had the storylines of the later games, FF would not be behemoth (Ha!) that it is today. Seeing a new FF game come out, get perfect scores from the mags and then realize upon playing it that it is just as shallow, with just as f#cked up a story as the previous disappointments, is what leaves me jaded.

      Rest assured, if I hated – or even mildly disliked – games, then I wouldn’t spend one minute of even a single day at a gaming website, much less contribute to one.

      • March 5, 2008

        Ah yes…the old “Jaded Gamer” stigma.

        Back before the site had a proper domain name (TJG is actually a bit older than the October 1st, 2001 birthday I’ve assigned to it), my intent was to play the part of the jaded ol’ bastard — ripping on games unmercifully just for the hell of it. I had just come off of the bullshit parade that was and was in one hell of a nasty mood. However, that didn’t last long and I got all “serious”…taking on staffers and dropping the “mean old man” act. The name of the site? Well, it just kinda stuck. (Especially since it wasn’t entirely invalid — as one DOES tend to get jaded with a hobby they’ve been doing for well over two decades.)

        The bad part of the site’s name, though, is that we’ve always had sort of a credibility issue with it. I’m sure that a lot of publishers have ignored us because of the name (thinking we just rip on everything willy-nilly), and on more than one occasion whenever we’d share opinions on a game that weren’t favorable, off-site discussions would always contain something like, “Well what do you expect from a site called The Jaded Gamer?” The fact that we’re all gaming veterans sharing honest opinions often gets lost in the assumption that we’re just followers of the cult of SeanBaby.

        By the name alone, I think newcomers expect to see us slam game after game for no good reason. Sure, we don’t use a 7-10 rating system like some of the corporate sites do (I’m lookin’ at you, Gamespot), but I’d say that a great amount of our opinions on games have been favorable. In fact, one could even say that on a few occasions we’ve been much nicer to a title than we should have been.

  7. Rhett
    March 6, 2008

    This is Regarding Kalinsias’ comments on RPG’s and gaming in general.

    You know, I was listening to the commentary on Star Trek 2 and 6, (yeah yeah, have fun with that statement.) But I was listening to Nick Meyer and he said that a lot of problems with movies today is they are all about eye candy and no substance. He said he feels more creative and he believes a movie is better when the director and writer are given a tight budget.

    To paraphrase his point he was getting to. He said instead of being given a blank canvass with a million colors you are stuck with a theme and a limited color pallatte and are made to work with what you have. Basically being limited on what you can do can make something a lot better than going balls to the walls with effects and and bankable actors.

    The same can be said about games, in my opinion. Sure, some of the eye candy stuff is fun but it also needs substance and story.

    • March 6, 2008

      The same can be said about games, in my opinion. Sure, some of the eye candy stuff is fun but it also needs substance and story.

      Exactly. Although with many games, story isn’t so much an issue as the real problem is with a lack of substantial gameplay. Case in point? “Blu-ray not big enough for MGS4”.

      (There’s no way MGS4 needs more than 50gb of storage for the actual game. I’m sure it’s the shit-ton of high-def cinemas that’s taking up all of the space.)

      • Rhett
        March 7, 2008

        Very true, I would say in my sleep depravity I misspoke. From what I’ve been reading as a whle online gamers are getting pissed off at cut scenes and miss actually playing a fun game. Story isn’t so much the problem as long as you can immerse yourself and interat with the game.

        AND speaking of interaction. Am I the only one that thinks the button mashing cut scenes (ala Resident Evil 4 on the Wii) are a cheap way of keeping interest in lame cut scenes that no one would watch more than once if given the option?

        ‘Squatch, interesting read on MGS4, but that brings up another question/ IF PS# stuff is encoded to be free-region why the fuck was Lik-Sang sued to death? They make something region free and then punish suppliers for taking advantage of it? Sony i ran by a bunch of fucktards!

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