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After losing rights to the Guitar Hero Franchise to Neversoft, Harmonix is not out of the music/rhythm game scene. They have released a new take on the genre with Rock Band. It has everything the Guitar Hero franchise has and more. When I say more I mean separate careers for vocals and most importantly, drums. Also you have the ability to get with friends and create your own imaginary band as you start small and end playing in stadiums and getting a private jet to fly around in. That kind of thing is what sets this apart from Guitar hero.
Starting with the actual game play, it differs from Guitar Hero in a few ways. If you are somebody who really likes to whore starpower for the highest possible score you can get like me, then the most important change is the way starpower, or "overdrive" works. Unlike in Guitar hero you can still acquire overdrive phrases while you are already in overdrive. This means you won't have to worry about missing any phrases due to activating at the wrong time. I definitely like this system better the Guitar Hero's.
Another change that may take a little while to get used to is the shape of the buttons. Most people would probably not care in the least but for some reason the change from circle to rectangle notes are becoming a big deal to some people. If you ask me it makes more sense then circle notes because the buttons the Stratocaster are shaped like rectangles while the Les Paul's are shaped like ovals while their notes are circles. Regardless this shouldn't be a problem unless you really don't react well to change.
The controls themselves are pretty solid. The Stratocaster has it's good and bad points. The worst thing about it being how close the select button is to the strum bar. I know they probably did this to make it easier for people who want to activate overdrive that way instead of tilting the controller but all it does is cause me to accidentally activate overdrive in bad places which really gets annoying. People who activate with the button are a minority and therefore I really don't think it should have been changed.
One minor change to the controller that is quite noticeable is that the strum bar does not click whenever you move it up or down. This can really be a good or bad thing. It's all a matter of how you react to change. I thought it was for the better. I found it much easier to alt strum this way, I don't really know the exact reason but if you compare the side by side I'm sure you could see what I mean when I say that.
Another new addition are the solo button at the bottom of the fret board. Guess what, they are completely useless. What they are supposed to do is allow you to play hard parts of the song without needing to strum. Here's the problem, the "hard" parts of songs are most likely going to be hammer-ons which you don't need to strum anyways so what is the point? I do however use them to max my score on big rock endings (it's where at the end of certain songs you just button mash for bonus points). Other then that, never use them and never will.
The drums I found to be pretty solid. They are a lot more like real drums then the guitar in this game is to a real guitar so if you do have drum experience, expect on getting a head start for this. There are four notes and one bass pedal in the set. Though I have not had any problems with the kick pedal(maybe because I play drums on medium) but I do know that many have and it is a serious problem. If you play on expert you should expect the pedal snapping in half sooner or later, and since the warranty only last 60 days and you needed to have kept the receipt don't expect a replacement. If it does break there are many tutorials on the internet to help fix it or buy a custom made, more durable pedal.
Online in this game is really nothing special. There is a band quickplay which is where you are automatically matched up with other band mates to play as song as a complete band. You can also get some of your friends on Xbox Live to play with you but to my disappointment, you can't do a band world tour online. All you can do is play a few songs for fun.
There are score duels which are pretty strait forward. You play against an opponent on the same song and see who gets the highest score. I like how there is a ranked mode unlike guitar hero and you can compare your rank with others on Xbox Live. The bad part about ranked matches is that you don't get to pick the songs. That means you will have to play songs from early tiers which take absolutely no skill, they are just a test of who messes up the least which is not what you want. But hey, I'd rather have ranked and unranked then just one.
Don't forget about the other online game type, Tug of War. This is possibly the stupidest idea for a ranked online game. It is the exact same thing as score duel except one person will always have a chance for a higher score. That is because you trade off parts of the song. It is the stupidest thing ever because it doesn't offer anything different from score duel. It's just a one sided score duel. Sure it may be fun as a quick thing to play with a friend but for RANKED online multiplayer it's just a horrible idea.
Rock bands strongest point is probably it's replayability. That is for many reasons. I have gotten really into getting my career score up by maxing out my scores on all the songs on the main setlist to try and get high on the leaderboards as well as beat my friends scores. The main reason for good replayability is definitely the downloadable content, or DLC. There is usually 3 to 5 new songs added to the marketplace, usually at 160 Microsoft points each, weekly. That mean in a few months you have almost another full length setlist. The selection for DLC right now is already staggeringly wide in range. You have it all from the Grateful Dead to Metallica to Sonic Youth, and it only grows bigger every week. You should definitely check out the marketplace for some songs by your preferred band because chances are, they might already have it.
When you add everything in this game together, what you get is an experience that you just can't get in any game from the Guitar Hero series. It's not all about one person, having a band is a collaborative effort that you share with you band mates. You get to experience a lot of the things a real band might face virtually. Even for people who don't have a band you have three great solo careers with an awesome setlist. If you were a fan of the Guitar Hero series you will not a doubt love this game because it has every aspect of guitar hero and more. No doubt the best game I've got since I got the next gen consoles.