Lots of IGN readers tend to stick to the pages of the systems they own. That means if you're rocking a PlayStation 2 as your sole source of videogame entertainment, you might have missed Rock Band: Special Edition's November launch on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.
In short, the game is awesome.
Thanks to Harmonix and Pi Studios -- co-developer of Call of Duty 3 -- the title has made the jump to the PlayStation 2. Can the unbridled group fun of rocking a guitar, drums and a mic make a smooth transition to Sony's tried-and-true machine? The answer is yes, but it's not a perfect performance.
If you really have missed the Rock Band boat, I'll do my best to bring you up to speed, but if you're looking for in-depth stuff on each instrument, I highly recommend
November's six-page opus because these are the same instruments -- mic, guitar and drums -- as the PS3 model. Now, take everything you know about playing in Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution and apply that to the instruments I just mentioned. Colored notes -- they're rectangles in Rock Band and not the traditional circles from Guitar Hero -- fall from the top of the screen and you need to push the corresponding button on your guitar controller -- which doubles as a bass and lead guitar -- while strumming to nail the note. The drums are similar -- notes fall and you hit the corresponding colored pad or stomp the kick pedal. Singers are relegated to the top of the screen in Rock Band multiplayer (bottom of the screen in single player) and croon the words as they come from the right. Green bars are stretched above each syllable or word itself letting you know how long you should be singing them and the vertical placement of the line lets you know how high or low your tone should be.
Those are the basics, but there are intricacies to each tool. The wireless guitar has an effect lever to give your music an echo or one of several other options; circles will pop up during vocal performances that require your singer to hit the mic like a cowbell or tambourine; if a bassist goes for a long time without missing a note, he or she will enter into "Bass Grove" and be awarded an amped up score multiplier; and each instrument has a different way to deploy Overdrive -- Rock Band's take on Star Power.
You'll need to build Overdrive by hitting special notes -- they're glowing white for drummers as well as guitarists and yellow for singers -- the Overdrive juice will be stored in a meter on your HUD, and when a guitarist tilts his or her guitar up, a drummer hits a green note at the end of a solo or a singer says something while in a gold section of a song, the power is deployed and a score multiplier pops up next to your total score. If multiple members of the band deploy at the same time, the multiplier goes up.
Whew. I think I've instilled the basics in your brain. Oh. There's also the possibility you and your band can get a Unison Bonus. The unison logo will pop up on screen and if everyone -- minus the singer -- nails their part, you get a boost of points. Same thing can be said for the Ending Bonus.
Now, the PS2 version of Rock Band is an interesting "copy" of its current-gen brethren. For the most part, every black and white menu background and song overlay is there, but once you dig deep into the title, the "have nots" begin to crop up. All of the 58 songs you'd find on the PS3's Rock Band disc are there from the likes of the Ramones, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Weezer, but the option for downloadable content is gone. Tug of War (two players alternate performing sections of a song in a quest to have the mode meter on their side of the fence) and Score Duel (a straight-up playoff) multiplayer options are there, but unlike the other consoles, they're offline only. You can create a band name in Band World Tour, but you can't create or choose which character represents which instrument.
Band World Tour is actually the one part of Rock Band PS2 that is completely different from the other iterations. On the PS3, you and up to three friends create band members, a band name, a band quote and more before unleashing the quartet on -- literally -- a world tour. You go from city to city choosing which gigs you want to play at, earn fans, make money to spend on clothes and unlock perks like busses and jets.
None of that happens in the PS2 version of the game.
Instead of the crazy-deep tour, PS2 bands get the traditional -- think Guitar Hero -- set of songs you need to play through before you open the next set of songs and repeat the process. All the while, a cumulative score -- along with your score and star count on each song -- is recorded on your career track list. If you start a solo career on a given instrument (sorry, no bass), you're given the same formula.
Do these subtractions equate to a crappy Band World Tour? No, just a lessened one. See, the draw of Rock Band isn't linked solely to globetrotting and unlocking roadies and PR firms -- although that stuff is awesome. Rock Band succeeds because it's infinitely fun to play with your friends. Watching someone nail the high part of "Creep" or saving a vocalist who stumbles and fails in "Enter Sandman" not only makes you feel like you're accomplishing something in a game, it makes you feel like you're part of a band.
It gives you a taste of that everyman dream -- being part of a drunken, dysfunctional musical family!
Now, a big question when people talk about Rock Band and Guitar Hero is the perhipials. The drums are responsive -- but have quite the learning curve -- and the mic is nice, but the Stratocaster guitar stinks. The strum bar doesn't click like Guitar Hero, the neck buttons are harder to get a good read on, and the thing either ignores your Overdrive request or goes off when you're standing completely still. The good news? Your wired guitars from Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero II work. The bad news? We couldn't get our wireless Guitar Hero III controller to work.
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