Rock Band 2 for Xbox 360 Review

So last year around this time we had the chance of a lifetime to review Rock Band. When we completed the review all we could say was WOW! It had everything you would want and more from a rhythm game. It opened up the genre to something new and exciting and took it places that Guitar Hero hadn’t attempted yet. So now a year later and Rock Band 2 has landed on our doorstep. We were excited to see if it lived up to the original and would it improve on some of its minor flaws.

Well one major improvement right away are the graphics. They still aren’t at the same level with Guitar Hero, however it is greatly improved. My eyes don’t actually see blurry images on my 720P Plasma anymore. Instead the graphics are much sharper and fluid. Previously I couldn’t play the game without glasses and I would get a strained headache afterwards, thats all changed. Another nice improvement is the cut screens and ‘Music Video’ graphics. Some of them are so mesmerizing that you actually focus on it, rather than hitting your notes. I still wish the targets that need to be hit were a bit bigger, but I guess you can’t have everything.

We didn’t get a chance to test out the game with the new instruments but nonetheless, it seemed just fine. This time around you really feel like you are playing along with the band as you hit the notes. Songs like “Hungry Like a Wolf” are especially fun to play because it feels like you are really playing along with the band. Each note you hit you actually feel, like you are strumming on a ‘real’ guitar. It is just a real pleasure to play and tap your foot and have a good ole time.

Playing the Game:
So has Rock Band 2 lived up to the hype? One word – YES!
When you first turn on the game you are greeted with an intro screen of another band playing away on top of car driving dangerously – similarly to the first game. Once you hit the green fret button you are greeted with a menu screen that is familiar looking. The options you have this time around are Quick Play, Tour, Training, Options, Extras, and Music Store. Quick play is pretty obvious and similar to the previous version, you get to choose a song that you want to play on the fly, if you just want to do a quick jam session. The best part is all the songs you may have purchased through the X-Box Live marketplace when you had Rock Band 1 are transferred over. So no need to worry that you blew hundreds of dollars on music that you would never see or play again. You can even transfer over the entire song list from the 1st game too for a nominal fee of $5. Which is practically nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Training is the same as before but with enhancements for the drums especially if you are having difficulty hitting the pedal and the drum pad at the same time. The trainer portion of the training section will certainly enhance your skills. Options, Music Store, and Extras are really more of the same as before too.
The real meat and potatoes of the game is obviously the tour selection. From here you can play a local tour or X-box Live tour. You can customize your character all over again just like before from his/her head to his/her toes.
Another nice feature once you start playing is that your name will hover over your character when your band is getting ready to play. That is when the fun starts, the song list is amazing. I never dreamed of playing ‘Go Your Own Way’ or ‘You Oughta Know.’ It felt like I was living a dream come true!
Some other nice enhancements are that you can now hire staff to handle different aspects of making a successful band. I hired my mom to be my manager and wash my clothes. Some kids to put out flyers for me and some other guys to get me in to bigger venues –  I didn’t hire the tattoo artist though. The more fans you get, the more staff you will be able to hire. It just adds another new dimension to the game.

At the time of this review I had all ready unlocked about 50% of the 100 songs available to play. By the end of the year with downloads every week available via X-Box live you will have 500 hundred songs to play. Two things that still annoy me is that male lead singers at times still sing female songs with a female voice and vice Versa. The other is that you still can earn pittins in some venues when it came to completing a gig even with 5 stars! I mean $25 bucks still doesn’t get you anywhere, even in a game.

The X-box Live features takes the game to a whole different level by letting you play with friends anywhere around the world. Go head to head with other bands in daily Battle of the Bands Tournaments and experience an Online World Tour too.

I loved Rock Band and I love Rock Band 2 even more. It’s not a brand new game but it improves on where it was lacking before. You will play songs from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and now. If you have kids playing or adults with no rhythm in your band, the no-fail mode will keep them in the game without screwing the whole band.
Once the whole kit is released in October we will personally be able to see how quiet the new and improved drums are and if the guitar’s strum bar is still squishy. But I have no doubt that it’s much improved as this game was released not to disappoint but to continue to rock your world. If you don’t have patience to wait for the kit, you can currently buy the guitar and drums separately. Rock Band 2 is available now for X-Box 360, PS3 for $59.99 and Wii for $49.99. Rock Band 2 Special Edition Bonus Bundle that includes the drum, guitar, mic, and game will retail for $189.99 and be available Oct 19th.

The Good: Still a great party game that everyone will enjoy. Terrific enhancements that make the graphics and play even better. Song list is terrific.

The Bad: Would still like the menu system to be a bit more linear but I guess I will have to wait for Rock Band 3.

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