Rock Band PAL Review

After so many months of waiting, PAL regions finally get a copy of Rock Band for XBox 360. After about a month, I've finally gotten down to writing this. I had quite the load of compatibility questions when I bought it, and now that I have a copy, I can finally answer them. It was annoying having to dig for all the information anyway. As is already well known, Guitar Hero XBox 360 guitar controllers do work with Rock Band. Stuff you might have to dig around for? Rock Band PAL works with downloadable content (DLC) from the US. This is great news for people like me who somehow have US XBox Live accounts. Sadly, the PS3 Singstar mics do not work with Rock Band XBox 360. I'm not sure if this is an oversight or there is something stopping them from working on the XBox 360 - but they are not recognised as microphones, so I'm stuck using my XBox 360 headset in my relatively makeshift set up of 2 Guitar Hero Les Paul controllers, 1 Rock Band drum kit and er, a Plantronics headset.

While I did have my complaints about Guitar Hero 2's set list, my complaints about Rock Band's set list is minimal. Most of the songs are awesome on any instrument (barring the occasional difficult to sing parts of some songs - although I do suck at singing, so if I'm playing prepare to suffer :P) While the bonus songs are from relatively unknown bands, quite a number of them are good if you give them a chance.

Since both Guitar Hero 3 and Rock Band now have respectable track lists, I'm thinking either music companies are more open to the idea of licensing their tracks out to music games - or maybe both have done some degree of research on the music game fanbase. Not to mention, the European version of Rock Band has additional 9 songs which behave like DLC right on the disc.

Of course, in terms of content, the 67 songs on the disc are only the tip of the iceberg. DLC is where the real load of content is. Ever since it's release in the US, we've been seeing at least 3 new songs every week up for download. What does that mean? That means that (at the time of this article) there are 126 songs available for purchase, right now - with another 14 songs to be released on the June 24th (the remainder of the Pixies album Doolittle - Wave of Mutilation is already on the disc). If you were to buy everything, you would effectively have 207 songs to play.

Of course, like every sane person, I choose what I buy - and I've bought plenty (for someone who doesn't even touch the GH3 track packs), among them are the Metallica Pack, Boston Pack, Disturbed Pack, Scene Pack, Jimmy Buffett pack, and many of the singles on the list. The best part is that if you don't like the whole pack - you're free to buy just the songs you want. You just happen to get a slight discount if you do buy the whole pack.

While there's no telling what's coming next - there's a lot online if you're looking for new tracks to play.

There's no need to talk about the solo tour. In general, there's two reasons to go there. One - unlock tracks to be played everywhere else before your friends come over. Two - record high scores. The console based quickplay leaderboard (from Guitar Hero) is nonexistent in Rock Band and the only way to keep track is through the solo tour. Needless to say, Rock Band isn't concerned about how well you are doing compared to everyone else who plays the game on your console.

I won't talk about Band World Tour, simply because I haven't gotten much of a chance to play it. The party group I play with is currently more than content quickplaying for now. The small amount of time I've spent with it has shown it to be interesting - but I'm not too sure what about it makes it fun.

Of course, with a name like Rock Band, the multiplayer has to be awesome right? It is. Four people - two frantically pressing buttons, one whacking flat pieces of plastic with sticks and another straining their out-of-tune voice (probably just me, actually) to match note tracks that scroll onscreen is awesome.

There's only one problem with this ideal setup. These four people each will simply look at their own note tracks. Of course, there is a real need for everyone to perform well. Singing is very difficult when you lose the lead guitar to guide you, and keeping rhythm is difficult if your drummer is struggling. However, for the most part, you tend to be too busy looking at your own note track. So busy, you usually don't notice problems until your friend fails out and call out to you for a save.

Still playing 4 different and integral parts to the song is awesome. When someone misses a note, you know it. If your guitarist is not doing too well, the melody won't play (instead being replaced by your frantic friend's random button pressing). When the bassist is struggling, you hear the song becoming a little hollow. When your drummer has no sense of rhythm, you start to rely on the notes running on screen. If your singer is constantly out-of-tune, they eventually fail.

The graphics look a lot sharper than Guitar Hero 3, not to mention some fine touches here and there (the audience chipping in and certain stage animations) give you the feeling that Rock Band wants to immerse you in that world where your virtual performance is being held.

I'm certainly going to say it's a must-buy if you love music games. The expensive peripherals may be a setback, but the game is good.

Extra notes: Drumming is obviously the star feature of Rock Band, since very little in the way of drumming games has come from anywhere (except Japan). I personally think it's the best part of the game (evidenced by me hogging the drum controller most of the time). The controller unfortunately, does occasionally feel cheap, not to mention deciding how to sit and where to place the drum pedal is usually a difficult consideration. The biggest hurdle is achieving limb independence - after which nothing in Hard should pose a problem. Some songs in Expert will begin to show you the limitations of the controller - like the slightly flawed foot pedal mechanics, sensitivity to particularly fast drum rolls and so on.