Rock Band (video game) for XBox and PS3
Rock Band allows players to perform in virtual “bands” by providing up to four players with the ability to play three different peripherals modeled after music instruments (a guitar peripheral for lead guitar and bass guitar gameplay, a drum peripheral, and a microphone). These peripherals are used to simulate the playing of rock music by hitting scrolling notes on-screen. Players using the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles can interact through both online and offline multiplayer capabilities. In addition to the songs shipping on the game disc, potentially hundreds of new tracks will be made available as downloadable content. The European version will include localized content for the different countries in the region, both downloadable and on disc.
Reusing many gameplay elements from the Guitar Hero series, Rock Band players use peripherals modeled after musical instruments to simulate the performance of rock music. Players must play these instruments in time with musical “notes” as they scroll towards them on the screen. Rock Band expands upon the Guitar Hero series, in that it offers gameplay for drums and vocals, in addition to lead and bass guitars. The game features a single-player career mode for three of the instruments (lead guitar, drums, and voice) called “Solo Tour Mode”, as well as a band career mode for 2-4 local players called “Band World Tour”. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game support both local and online players for multiplayer modes (except for Band World Tour), while the PlayStation 2 version only supports local play.
In the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, players can create and customize their own in-game character, complete with adjustable hair, body physique, clothing, tattoos, onstage movements, and instruments. Each character is permanently locked into a specific instrument. Using cash earned within the game, the player may purchase items at the in-game “Rock Shop”, with which they can customize their rock star. Players can also use an art maker to create custom face paint, tattoos, clothing designs, instrument artwork, and band logos.
On-screen, Game Informer describes the game as a combination of the Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution gameplay elements. Rock Band has three tracks of vertically scrolling colored music notes, one section each for lead guitar, drums, and bass. The colored notes on-screen correspond to buttons on the guitar and drum peripherals. Along the top of the screen is the vocals display, which scrolls horizontally, similar to Karaoke Revolution. The lyrics display beneath green bars, which represent the pitch of the individual vocal elements. If any instrument is not being played, its interface will not appear on-screen. The remainder of the screen is used to display the band’s virtual characters as they perform in concert.
During cooperative play as a band, all players earn points towards a common score, though score multipliers and “Overdrive” (the equivalent of Guitar Hero’s “Star Power”) are tracked separately for each player. The bass guitar player can raise his/her multiplier to 5-6x (as opposed to the traditional 4x) and achieve “Bass Groove” because as noted by a GameSpot preview, “bass can get a little dry sometimes.” Overdrive is collected during select portions of a song by successfully playing all white notes within that section (and for guitarists, by also using the guitar controller’s whammy bar to extract Overdrive from white sustained notes). Once the meter is filled halfway, players can deploy their Overdrive, resulting in the “Band Meter” (which tracks how well each player is doing) changing more dramatically. This allows players to strategically use Overdrive to raise the Band Meter and pass portions of a song they otherwise might have failed. In solo play, deploying Overdrive will double the player’s score multiplier. However, in band play, activating Overdrive instead increases the band’s score multiplier by two. Additionally, players can now deploy Overdrive independently of each other (previous Guitar Hero games required players in Co-Operative mode to deploy Star Power simultaneously), as well as collect additional Overdrive while it is deployed and draining (previous Guitar Hero games hid additional Star Power sections while Star Power was activated).
Each band member can choose the difficulty at which they play (spanning Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert). If a player does not play well enough and falls to the bottom of the Band Meter, they will fail out of the song and their instrument will be muted from the audio mix. However, any active player can activate their Overdrive to bring failed players back into the song, “saving” the band member. However, a band member can only be saved twice; after the third failure, they cannot be brought back for that song. A failed player will continuously drag the band’s Band Meter down until he/she is saved. If the player is not saved before the Band Meter reaches the bottom (or the song ends), the band will fail the song. Special portions of songs are labeled as “Unison Phrases”, which reward the band with a score and Overdrive bonus if each player can play their parts perfectly during the phrase. Select songs will end with a special “Big Rock Ending”, which gives the players a chance to improvise and earn extra points. If each player successfully plays the final notes of the song following the freestyle portion of the “Big Rock Ending”, the band will earn all of the “Big Rock Ending” points. Otherwise, the bonus is lost.
The soundtrack for Rock Band features 58 playable tracks on the game disc; 45 of these are featured tracks in the main setlist, while the other 13 tracks are “bonus songs” by independent or lesser-known bands, as well as bands made up of Harmonix employees. In total, 51 of the 58 songs are master recordings. Featured tracks include “Dani California” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult, “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, “Here It Goes Again” by OK Go, “Highway Star” by Deep Purple, “Learn to Fly” by Foo Fighters, “Suffragette City” by David Bowie, “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi, and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who. Localized content differences between the regional releases of the game, both on-disc and through downloadable content, have been announced but not specified.
On October 25, 2007, Harmonix and MTV announced RockBand.com would be transformed into an extensive community website at the game’s launch, and that it would extend the features of the game, much like Bungie.net does with the Halo series. The community website was absent at the game’s launch in order to fix bugs and complete features, but was deployed on December 19, 2007. The site allows for leaderboards, customizable band profile pages with stats, a classified area for bands to find additional members, band blogs, online forums, band photo shoots, and other sharing features. Additionally, the website will allow bands to interact with their in-game characters in a variety of ways. Players can pose their avatars, create fake album art for their band, and order T-shirts and bumper stickers based on these creations. Players will also be able to purchase figurines based on their in-game characters.