IGN Review of Rock Band 2
It's been a rough year for the Wii. While the system has seen unprecedented success with general consumers, aside from a few gems it has largely failed to provide compelling software over the past 12 months. Wouldn't it be nice if we could end 2008 with a truly great game? Something that isn't a rushed port or a licensed mini-game collection? Something that can stand toe-to-toe with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rock Band 2. When the first Rock Band hit the Wii last summer, it was a shell of its former 360 and PS3 self. Major features like World Tour mode, character customization, and downloadable content had been gutted. Well, the band has been in the studio remastering Rock Band for Wii, and the sequel more than makes up for the original's problems.
The Wii version of Rock Band 2 is feature identical to the PS3 and 360 versions. World Tour mode is here for both local and online play. The full character editor is here (except for the tattoo creator, but only sailors and ex-cons have tattoos anyway). Your band is now rendered in real-time during a performance, rather than appearing in generic video. And the online music store will go live "very shortly" after the game's release, according to Harmonix.
That takes care of all the features that were missing from the original Rock Band, but there are other new modes we never even knew we wanted.
You can now test your skills against other groups online in Battle of the Bands. While not a head-to-head competition, this mode gives bands a chance to beat everyone else's scores in specific challenges. New tests are posted each day. Today, for instance, there is a Hippie Battle with a setlist featuring the Grateful Dead and Steely Dan. Before picking up the gauntlet you can see where your friends stand in the rankings and check out the overall high scores. It really gives you a sense of being part of the Rock Band community.
There are also local challenges tailored to specific instruments, and extensive online leaderboards that track everything from best solos to high scores to biggest fan base. There's a lot to do, so you'll be annoying your neighbors long into the night with the clickety clack of your guitar strums and the tappity tap of your drum sticks. And it will be awesome.
The interface is much more user-friendly this time around. Now your created characters can play any instrument and bands don't require any particular members to be involved. People can just drop in and out as they please -- as the rock gods intended. World Tour mode's presentation is really slick. From a bird's-eye view of the globe it feels like you're touring around with your own band through different gigs and cities, and I prefer this progression to Guitar Hero's. But if you just want to play a few tracks of your choice, you can now create your own setlist in Quickplay so you don't have to pick a new song after each performance.
Taking your band online is relatively painless: in-game friend codes are still needed, but that is to be expected on the Wii by now. Once friend codes have been exchanged, you can send invites to online friends within the game. There wasn't any lag when we tested it. Up to four different Wii consoles can take part in a song, with each system providing a different instrument.
The game is basically a lower-resolution version of the 360 and PS3 editions, but it still looks nice on Wii. It has the same great art style and better animation than Guitar Hero (except for the drummers -- don't know what's going on there). There are some framerate issues, though, and your band members' motions can sometimes get a bit jerky.
The game's difficulty is balanced better than the first Rock Band. Guitar parts are more challenging and, for the experienced players, more fun to play now. But good news for casual gamers: songs can be switched to "no fail mode" so people can play without worrying about failing out during some insane solo. You can't progress through World Tour with this mode enabled, but it's nice to have the option for those that just want a pick-up-and-play experience.
The following point has been the source of much confusion, so I want to make this very clear: Guitar Hero instruments DO work with Rock Band 2. Both Guitar Hero III and Guitar Hero: World Tour. This makes the Rock Band sequel even more attractive, because if you already have instruments you're happy with you can pick up the standalone disc and you're all set. If you do go with the Special Edition you'll find the Rock Band guitar still isn't ideal, but I prefer the Rock Band drums to those that come with Guitar Hero World Tour.
The new Rock Band 2 drum kit is now velocity-sensitive, so you can add that extra bit of feeling to your fills. Its kick pedal has been reinforced and is now sturdier, and the pads are quieter. The guitar has a new wood grain look, but the frets and strum bar still feel spongy and aren't as satisfying as the Guitar Hero peripheral.
Rock Band 2 ships with a really good mix of 84 songs on disc and the music store will go online soon after launch. When that happens, an initial 30 tracks will be available to purchase plus you'll be able to download 20 free songs. Content will be added weekly thereafter. Eventually, according to Harmonix, the entire Rock Band back catalog will be available for Wii, which, if the company comes through, is fantastic. Songs you purchase will be mixed into sets during your World Tour, always keeping things fresh. Since the store isn't online yet, we can't tell you for sure how well it works. If there is any problem, we'll update our review. But Harmonix has delivered on its other promises, so we have high hopes for the music store. We do know that, much like Guitar Hero, songs can be downloaded to an SD card and streamed off the card itself.
©2008-12-17, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved