Released late last year for the Xbox 360, and more recently for PS3, PS2 and Wii following the end of the exclusivity period, Rock Band 2 builds on the first fruits of the EA and Harmonix partnership to provide another rocking experience, the largest to date of any music game.
RB2 provides around 80 tracks off the disc to begin with, with some formats offering a further 20 tracks to download for free via a code on the back of the manual (which are also playable in Rock Band 1). All songs downloaded for Rock Band 1 are fully compatible with the game and, for a small one-off fee, you can even copy the majority of the songs from the RB1 disc to your hard drive (PS3/360 only) for use in the game. Depending on how frequent a downloader you are, you’re looking at potentially having over 200 songs available from the get-go, certainly not something to be sniffed at. If you have already invested in Guitar Hero: World Tour, however, you should note that a number of the tracks in that game are also featured here.
The actual game engine remains pretty much identical to the original. In Guitar and Drum modes, oblong notes pass down the screen, requiring you to strum or bang the corresponding button or pad on your controller. There is the potential to add cymbals to the drum kit for an added challenge, but this is purely optional. If you’re singing, you must try to match the pitch line moving across the screen as best possible. Failure to keep the pitch or match the notes will eventually lead to your downfall. Between 1 and 4 players can take part, with the most fun coming from having all instruments covered.
The biggest change (which is equally no change at all) comes in the game’s Tour Mode. In the original game, this mode was restricted to multiplayer only, leaving single players forced to play through a fairly bog-standard career mode. For Rock Band 2, the people with no friends or not enough spare cash to justify the expense of a full band set can finally go through the more enjoyable experience of playing individual tracks, along with multi-track sets put together at random, through their own choice, or based upon a theme. Gaining high scores and star ratings earns you fans, which in turn opens up more venues, gigs and songs.
Eventually, you’ll open up the Endless Setlist, a section that challenges you to play every song on the disc, one after the other. To finish the Endless Setlist is likely to take a player (or players) around seven hours, and that’s without factoring in any breaks (one achievement for the game challenges you to finish the setlist without pausing or failing). Ultimately, it’s one for the nimble fingered and wide-eyed, and extreme kudos should go to anyone who completes it in 4-player mode without wanting to kill his or her band-mates by the end.
New to the multiplayer mode, and also integrated into the Tour Section too, is Battle of the Bands, a slightly more elaborate version of the Score Duel game. In this, two bands face off across a series of songs, with the band earning the highest overall score declared the winner. Its integration into Tour Mode is somewhat flawed, as you can easily be paired against a band playing on a lower difficulty than you are, thus making it ridiculously easy to win, to the extent that your score on the first song might well trounce their cumulative score for the entire set. At the same time, you’ll also be competing for a place on a Leaderboard in Tour Mode, with players of all difficulty settings, giving an obvious advantage to those capable of playing on the higher settings.