Harmonix’s Rock Band 2 is out less than a year after its predecessor, is this a good thing or a sign of something bad? Luckily for MTV Games, EA and Harmonix it’s nothing but good things. With the addition of an online World Tour mode, a drum trainer, a ‘no fail’ option, and more, Rock Band 2 easily beats its predecessor.
Visually, there’s little difference between Rock Band and Rock Band 2, but Harmonix has added some new camera shots as well as making the camera feel more dynamic when your band is rocking out on stage. There are also some new animations and some great new filter effects that enhance your bands performance. As a music game, Rock Band 2 is all about the music and the gameplay. Tracks are more difficult with each song rated by individual instrument difficulty, making it easier to identify which songs offer this increased challenge. If you’re having difficulty finishing a song you can always use the new no fail option, which lets you play any song on any difficulty level without failing. This is great for beginners, or those that are just musically challenged.
Rock Band 2 also features new modes as well, with the Battle of the Bands being the most interesting. This community focused feature challenges you and your band, or solo challenges if you want to do it alone, to perform certain songs or setlists and achieve a high score. Your performance is rated and ranked on a leaderboard against your friends and the entire community. The challenges can change at any time, allowing for constant tweaking and giving you a variety of gameplay. The Battle of the Bands challenge really brings out the community aspect of the game, and brings people back week to week to make sure their name stays in the spotlights.
Another new feature this year is the ability to play your world tour online. This is great for people who can’t not find enough friends to come over and form the band of their dreams. It’s just another enhancement on bringing the community closer. Speaking of the world tour, you can still play it solo, which means you don’t have to play a particular group of songs on a set difficulty to unlock the next tier. This is a great feature if you’re only interested in playing one instrument, or want to play all of them at different stages.
One great addition is the drum trainer mode, which teaches aspiring drummers several common beats and also how to stay on beat while playing the fill sections found in the songs. One of the biggest complaints hear previously was how hard it was to play the drums if you’re unfamiliar with them, with the new trainer mode Harmonix makes it easy to learn and master them. Helping you up your game, and make you into a star.
The music, the biggest aspect of the game, can be considered more rounded out this time around. Songs range from Bob Dylan’s Tangled up in Blue, to Modest Mouse’s Float On, to Metallica’s Battery. Harmonix went with the “something for everyone” approach and it works. What’s even better is that all 84 of the songs this time are from master copy’s, no more cover songs. Harmonix is also gracious enough to include a code in every game that will give every buyer the option to download an additional 20 songs in the near future. Another great feature is the ability to import almost all of the tracks from Rock Band onto your hard drive to be played with Rock Band two. For five dollars you can turn Rock Band into DLC. This means that all of your tracks from the first game are integrated into the second without a hitch. Add to that seamless integration with all DLC tracks you may have purchased and you could easily be over a few hundred songs.
Harmonix really hit it out of the park with Rock Band 2. Great new modes, a varied track list, new on-line features and more and you have a great social experience and the beginnings of a true platform for content delivery that could make Rock Band 3 even better. If you’re into music games then this is a must buy.