Get some friends round for the day, and it’s hard to stop playing. Rock Band remains a fantasy version of the rock band lifestyle (I don’t know many bands that play some dive in London one week and are on a tour bus to Paris the next) but it feels more like you imagine the real thing. The illusion is only enhanced by the way the game throws in publicity photos during loading screens, with these photos reflecting your group’s current choice of clothing, instruments and hairstyles.
The one thing you will notice is repetition. With so many cities, venues and setlists and only so many songs being fed into the pipeline at once, you will end up playing the same songs several times during the course of a Rock Band session. However, it’s not really much of a problem. Not only does the repetition give everyone a chance to learn and master the song, but you can choose your difficulty level before each gig, meaning you can keep pushing yourself even in the early stages of your career.
Oh, Europhobes should also be aware that, while in foreign countries, you may have to play foreign-language songs. Still, we’re only talking a handful, and just think how your French or German might improve by a shot of Die Toten Hosen or Les Wampas.
What makes it all work, is the way that Rock Band makes the different instruments and group dynamics fit in with the established gameplay. Vocals are probably the easiest option. On easy and even medium difficulty levels, it’s a struggle to get the pitching, timing and phrasing so horribly wrong that the game will fail you – and goodness knows I’ve heard renderings of Iron Maiden’s ‘Run to the Hills’ that would make you cringe.
Bass is on most tracks a little easier than guitar. The drums are a whole new challenge. Keeping the beat steady on the four pads enough, but doing that while keeping the bass drum in sync is a real nightmare to begin with. If you ever thought playing drums was easy, Rock Band will make you think again. Forget battering your way through Dave Grohl’s titanic fills in Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’ for now; just maintaining the basic rhythm will be enough to start with.