2007 has certainly been a great year for the musically inclined generation of gamers. With the release of Guitar Hero III, it’s an undeniable fact that the era of ‘social and party gaming’ is well and truly alive and kicking. Well, that era is about to pushed up one helluva notch with the release of the new EA IP ‘Rock Band’. And I can tell you now, if Guitar Hero is right up your alley, you’re going to LOVE Rock Band.
Of course, comparisons between the two games have been popping up all over the place recently. The NTSC version has been released in the States so people are playing the game even as I write this (I was jamming out at EA only yesterday on their NTSC compatible Xbox 360). Unfortunately, for us keen rockers; the PAL version probably won’t be available for a wee while yet. We can’t really confirm a date but we can probably say that tentatively we’re looking at a release date somewhere in the first quarter of 2008.
As I entered the ‘Rock Out’ room (that’s what I’ve decided to call it, but I think Jemma and Keri will probably refer to it as the Boardroom) the setup for Rock Band was certainly a little intimidating. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a keen Guitar Hero fan, but to see two guitars, a drum kit and a microphone all laid out in one spot is a little different to playing with one guitar. Not to worry though, even if you’re a beginner to the musical side of gaming, Rock Band will have you jamming out in no time at all. Like everything else, all it takes is a little practice.
Playing with three other people is definitely the most enjoyable thing about Rock Band. You really do feel like you’re part of something rather than just happily strumming along to your favourite tune or battling it out online with another opponent. Although I didn’t get a chance to bang around on the drums, (yeah, I was a little chicken, I admit it), the guitars do have a similar feel to the guitar used in Guitar Hero and I didn’t really notice any difference in the way the game played.
The songs that you play are split into four different areas (depending on whether or not you have four people) which are Bass Guitar, Guitar, Drums and Vocals. The interface is very similar to Guitar Hero with corresponding colours to match the buttons on your guitars and of course, the colour coordinated drums. Setting up a gig to play is also really straight forward. The difficultly levels in the game are the same as Guitar Hero as well.
Vocals are handled in a similar vein to SingStar with lyrics projected on screen that you can sing along to just like you would if you singing Karaoke. There are also challenges to gain bonus points like at the end of a song where you’re expected to rock out with all your might to gain group bonus points. I thought this was pretty cool. As for the song selection (my personal tastes aside), the song list that I saw really catered to all tastes in rock music. And just like in Guitar Hero, the songs are set out in various levels of difficulty. We decided to try our hand at the hardest song on the list which was Iron Maiden’s ‘Run To The Hills’ and we really did rock that mother out! Seriously… we did!
Bottom line is if you’re familiar with Guitar Hero you should find it relatively easy to play the guitar portion of Rock Band. The drum kit is a different beastie altogether though so I’ve made a note to list this down as my next challenge when I next visit the Rock Out room at EA.
If you’re into fun in any capacity, you should do yourself a favour and mark this game down on your list of must-have’s for 2008. I am seriously contemplating buying a copy before release because it’s that good. We’re looking forward to covering the game properly upon release but I guess until then, I’ll just have to get my fix every now and then from the lovely gals at EA.
Thanks to Keri and Jemma from EA for organising the time with Rock Band! You now have one more addicted fan to add to the list.