The long wait is over. Rock Band 2 is mine! I've had it less than a week, and I thought I would share my initial impressions. As a beginning note, my Rock Band 1 disc got a small crack in it about 5 weeks ago. Enough that I didn't want to play it, so for a month I was Rockbandless. So getting Rock Band 2 wasn't just upgrading it was coming back after a month's wait. This will likely color my impressions.
First basic song gameplay. It's pretty much the same. You have notes scrolling down the screen, and you hit the appropriate button, or drumpad, or pitch and you get points. The more points you get the higher your star score is. Pretty simple; it worked for Guitar Hero (which Harmonix the people behind Rock Band invented, before being bought by a rival company), it worked for Rock Band 1 – why change it.
Other gameplay. Nifty Nifty improvements – In RB1 playing solo, you just had a list of songs to beat, in linear fashion. This followed the structure of Guitar Hero as well. However in group play, you had a world tour. You had cities you could play it, and venues within that city. Each song or set of songs within each venue was a gig that you earned fans for playing, as well as stars, as mentioned before. Now this gameplay is there is RB2 for solo play. Now the old linear play is gone... which is a bit of a shame, it made for a great practice list. Other things you can do are challenges, and there are 9 tiers of them (IIRC). You beat a challenge at a lower level, and it unlocks one or more at a higher level. You play completely through a chain of challenges and you win something nifty, like special instruments or special outfits. These challenges change with time. If you download 3 songs from an album you get a “X album” challenge added. These are the two biggest gameplay changes, and for the better.
Now free-play changes to an extent – in RB1 you had access to all the normal songs; there were 14 (again IIRC) that were Boston/Harmonix bands that you could unlock. In RB2, you only start with about 20 songs in free play. The rest have to be unlocked in World Tour or in Challenges. There is one set of challenges (Marathon Challenge) that playing straight through that unlocks all 84 songs.
Speaking of free play, the list of songs has changed a look. There are more ways to sort the music and it scrolls faster. This is necessary. RB 1 had 58 songs, RB 2 has 84 on disc and another 20 that will be coming for free. But wait, there's more! You can put in your RB1 disc, update the game, and pay 5 bucks for and export feature, that rips all but three of your Rock Band games to your hard drive. Yes, the entire game content is exportable to RB 2. The three missing songs were due to licensing problems. So if you have Rock Band, and you buy rock Band 2 you have 139 songs right out of the gate. But wait, there is still more. Harmonix has released downloadable songs every week since Rock Band came out. So if you have been playing RB you likely have some DLC (short for Downloadable Content). Myself, I had 91 (I didn't realize it was that much). So at the point I have RB2, I had 230 songs in the game.
And all of this extra music is integrated seamlessly into the game. It changes challenges (see above), any of it can show up on random setlists in Tour mode. They can be picked on normal choose your own sets while Touring.
Lastly there were a lot of minor tweaking – enhancements to the character creation area (not much but some), what your band multiplier is during multiple overdrives is easier to see, a drum trainer, and extra options like a No Fail Mode.
All in all it is a major improvement, not in any one area, but a whole.
And now back to strapping on a guitar and rockin' the world.
Games played since last post
Rock Band 2 (360)