The tracklist is, as ever, vitally important. Both games have key tracks – Fleetwood Mac’s ”Go Your Own Way”, Smashing Pumpkins’ ”Today”, Foo Fighters’ ”Everlong”, Bon Jovi’s ”Livin’ on a Prayer” – in common, but RB2 goes further into leftfield and indie material and has tracks like AC/DC’s ”Let There Be Rock”, The Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s ”Give it Away” and Pearl Jam’s ”Alive” to recommend it. And if you get tired of the 80 songs provided on disc and the 20 you can download gratis, you can download the same range of complete albums and additional tracks that are already available for Rock Star (any tracks existing Rock Band owners have already been downloaded will be included automatically and there is a facility available to export the songs from the original Rock Band disk).
Barring DLC – currently stronger for Rock Band – it’s hard for me to choose between the games in terms of song choice. But if you want to make up your own mind, all I’d say is this: GHWT probably has more for fans of hard rock, guitar wizardry and metal, but Rock Band 2 has the edgier and arguably more interesting selection.
And there’s still a lot left to cover. How about a special drum trainer mode, designed to get would-be Neil Pearts and John Bonhams up to speed? How about the new daily and weekly Battle of the Bands events, where you can compete with the bands of friends and strangers online over specific setlists in various venues? Or the new Tour Challenges, which give you setlists, escalating in difficulty and designed to sort out the ham fisted from the true guitar gods? Rock Band 2 isn’t a staggering move on from the original, but Harmonix has made additions and tweaks where they were needed most, and made a bigger, more brilliant and more accessible game as a result.
But that still doesn’t answer the big question. Should those with an Xbox 360 go for Rock Band 2 or Guitar Hero: World Tour? Well, while Rock Band has improved as a single player game and Guitar Hero has grown as a multiplayer one, I’d still stand by my conviction that you play World Tour if you want to play alone, but Rock Band 2 if you want to play in a group.
If you want to rock out and shred like Vai, Van Halen and Satriani, GH offers a more score-focused game and a greater challenge. If you want to get closer to the real band experience, Rock Band 2 has it down. Of course, GHWT now enables you to make your own music, but to my mind Rock Band 2’s stronger online modes and authentic feel make up for that. In other words, it depends on what you’re looking for. Buy either game and you’ll have a great time playing it, but in the end this choice has to be personal. If I had to plump for just one of these titles, I’d be splashing out my cash on Rock Band 2.
Better online modes and a stronger single-player game make Rock Band 2 a marked improvement on the already fantastic original. It’s a matter of taste whether it’s a better game than GHWT, but for my money it offers a richer and more varied band experience.