Rocking Out

by Steve Bowler on November 29, 2007 · 1 comment

in co-op,multiplayer

Rock Band has moved into my #1 “must have” slot this past week. A co-worker started bringing it into the office at lunch, and we played it in one of the conference rooms on a 12 foot wide 1080p screen.

Holy Jebus.

This game seriously captures the feel of being in a band. I mean, I wouldn’t know, I’ve only seen shows from one side of the stage. If there was a game called Concert Band and you could play the BBflat Tuba I’d be set. But there’s not. There’s only this mind-blowing title that lets me pretend I’m a Rock God with a few freinds/co-workers for a time.

The most important take-away from the game for me is how little “game” there actually is. Yes, you have to hit the buttons at the right time. Yes, there are score multipliers. Sure, people can battle for high scores. But in a real band, you have to play the notes at the right time anyway, bands play better when their morale is up, and bands consistently battle/argue over who’s better. The fact is, Rock Band doesn’t even need game elements. It’s already a band simulator with difficulty settings to allow for different points of entry for differently skilled users.  Hell, even the act of failing and being saved by someone else’s perfect performance is less game and more team-building.  It seems like every aspect of the game is designed around the idea of “playing with friends” whereas Guitar Hero 3 is “playing against friends.”  It’s an important distinction.

I haven’t tried singing yet; I’m a bit shy unless I’m in my car on the interstate, but I think I’m ready.  I gave drums on Medium a go and immediately fell in love.  Despite the fact that right off the bat I pulled the noob error of somehow hitting the X logo with the stick and pulling up the message/friends blade (PARTY FOUL) right in the middle of a song, it felt amazing.  Every time I’ve ever sat down at a real drum kit in the past I’ve done the requisite “test out every drum head once” and then immediately set out to prove that despite 8 years of playing a musical instrument, I apparently had no rhythm.  And yet with Rock Band you feel like you just sat in for Neil Peart.

You know you’ve hit your design vision when the people (who are already masters of rhythm games in their own right) are cheering you on, honestly carried and moved by your fret-shredding solo, as if you were on stage at a show. I actually had a buddy of mine who’s better than I am at Guitar Hero* tell me that he nearly threw his panties at me after getting a 94% on Lead Guitar on Expert.

Honestly, the only way to improve the 4 player Rock Band experience is to have an audience.  Put this shit in bars.  Now.  Karaoke is dead.

Long Live Rock Band.

*(I merely play and sometimes don’t even survive on Expert, he 5 stars Expert)

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