Rock Band 2 Hands-On

Throw up the horns and get ready to shred with the sequel to the incredibly popular rhythm game from Harmonix.

The folks at Harmonix are busy. When they aren't working away to create weekly downloadable content in support of last year's Rock Band, they've been coming up with new ways to keep you rocking on your home console. Prime among those projects is the upcoming Rock Band 2, the follow-up to one of the more memorable music games of recent years. At EA's recent pre-E3 event in Los Angeles, Harmonix showed off the follow-up to this incredibly popular game and gave some hints as to what to expect from the highly anticipated sequel.

From Motörhead to Elvis Costello--the song list in Rock Band 2 will be just as varied as in the original game.

For a while there, it seemed that online world-tour play might arrive as a patch for the original Rock Band; as it turns out, that feature will be one of the biggest features in the sequel, letting you join up with bandmates all over the world to fulfill your dreams of rock stardom. Online play sounds like great fun, and the folks at Harmonix have also made the smart decision to do away with band leaders in Rock Band 2. As a result, you can change your lineup at any time without having to break up the band as a result. Better yet, any character will be able to play any instrument as you go. Combine that with new gigs, challenges (more on those in a bit), as well as new cities and venues to play in, along with the ability to hire staff, and there will be a lot to do in Rock Band 2's World Tour mode.

Still, according to Harmonix, online World Tour wasn't the number-one feature requested by Rock Band fans. That distinction goes to "backward compatibility"--ensuring that all of the DLC since the first game's release will work seamlessly once the sequel rolls in. In that sense it's mission accomplished, because the game will feature full support for all of the downloadable content, and, naturally, the more than 80 songs that will be packed in with the disc version of Rock Band 2.

We know only a handful of the songs that have been announced so far in the sequel, but it's turning out to be as varied a list as in the first game. Here are the officially released songs:

"Ace of Spades" -- Motörhead
"Everlong" -- Foo Fighters
"Pinball Wizard" -- The Who
"Panic Attack" -- Dream Theater
"Any Way You Want It" -- Journey
"Chop Suey" -- System of a Down
"Kids in America" -- The Muffs
"Give It Away" -- Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Hello There" -- Cheap Trick
"Pump It Up" -- Elvis Costello

This is just 10 of the 80+ tunes that will make up the entire song list in Rock Band 2, one that, if the previous game (and its subsequent downloadable content) is any indication, will run the gamut across rock's decades and various subgenres. With hundreds of songs available to you from the get-go, the ability to create setlists for quick-play sessions is a crucial addition in Rock Band 2. In the last game, you could pick songs only one at a time; with the sequel, you'll be able to create setlists exactly how you see fit. It's perfect for the Rock Band fan who insists that every third song be a Rush tune, or that repeating Freezepop's "Sprode" 13 times in succession isn't just a good idea, it's a great idea.

When you aren't rocking out with your all-night custom quick-play sets in Rock Band 2, you'll be spending your time with the new game modes, including Tour Challenges and Battle of the Bands. The Tour Challenge will replace the Solo Tour from the original Rock Band and follow a nonlinear path, in which you unlock new challenge groupings as you go. Tour Challenge will be playable either solo or with up to three other bandmates, with any mix of local and online players.

Hook up with your bandmates across the world in online world tour, or take part in challenges throughout the game. How you play Rock Band 2 is up to you.

The challenges themselves will be built around a variety of play styles, and beating one challenge will unlock additional challenge paths for you to take. Instead of being a linear list of songs, the challenges are structured more as a progression web in which you can choose which path to take through the game. For instance, the bass path will let you focus on all of the best songs for the bass, while still giving you access to play the other songs found in Rock Band 2 as side challenges. In addition, Tour Challenge mode will also integrate DLC automatically when building challenges. You can also expect to play album-specific challenges, which should only grow as the list of full-length albums available as DLC continues to expand.

The other big challenge mode is Battle of the Bands, which will also be available for one to four players, in any mix of local and online play. Unlike the progression system of Tour Challenge, Battle of the Bands is a straight-up tournament that pits your band against groups from all over the world. Harmonix will be creating new daily battles for bands to take part in; some will even have unique entry requirements, or gameplay modifiers. When playing Battle of the Bands challenges, you'll see an onscreen score, along with a score that you need to beat (such as someone on your friends list who has also competed in this challenge).

In the ever-escalating hardware wars between Rock Band 2 and its competitors, the next instrument salvo from the Harmonix crew will introduce some cool features. On the guitar front, the Fender Stratocaster body designs are still intact, but the (nonfunctioning) model on hand at EA's pre-E3 event showed off a sunburst paint job that looked really sharp. Even better than the color scheme are some of the new guitar features: wireless out of the box, a sturdier strum bar, and an autocalibration system that will let you automatically synch your guitar to your television to minimize lag, without having to go through the tedious setup process of the original game (though you'll still be able to manually calibrate your setup if you like). Although it won't have any additional pads, the Rock Band 2 drum set will feature velocity-sensitive pads that will play "louder" in the game the harder you hit them. The pads themselves will be more muffled to cut down on the noisy clatter as you wail away, and will feature a better bounce, making them ostensibly easier to play.

We didn't get a chance to play the new instruments in a game setting or try out the new game modes at the pre-E3 event, but we did get a chance to try a few of the new songs. Journey's "Any Way You Want It" seemed to be a particularly popular choice of the people on-hand, and bodes well for future Rock Band 2 parties. With new challenge modes, online Band World Tour, complete DLC compatibility, new accessories and looks for your created rockers, a new drum trainer that will take you through the basic beats and fills every drummer should know, and new instruments on the way, Rock Band 2 appears to be in great shape to continue the momentum that began with last year's original. Expect to see much more of Rock Band 2 in the coming months, including coverage of the game during GameSpot's E3 coverage next week.

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Discussion

497 comments
soldier305
soldier305

rockband or guitar hero world tour???...either way you cant go wrong because both are awsome!!! i say get them both!!!!!

Garren666
Garren666

I'm really looking forward to this. I own the first one with all the instruments and I'm going to buy the big pack again A) for the second guitar and B) because the new drums sound awesome. GH3 has caused me to become completely disillusioned with the GH franchise so I'll be passing on GHWT. Plus "Panic Attack" and "Constant Motion" by Dream Theater is a good old "F*** YOU!" to the people who say RB is too easy.

EdHeadZ
EdHeadZ

I don't know if i should buy it. I'll wait and see some reviews come in.

aFtER_bUrN
aFtER_bUrN

Rockband the original killed guitar hero and all its gay crap like the songs and graphics and everything, rockband 2 is goanna be so much better than ghwt

gah468
gah468

i wonder how much it will cost? i plan the get rb tommarow but....

green11420
green11420

I'm getting RB2 game only and the GHWT set. It'll be a fun end of year. So much to play.

Assassin1344
Assassin1344

the guitar from rock band took a little getting used to but once i did i think it is so much better than the GH guitar and a lot more realistic. i cant stand those stupid raised buttons on GH.

danwarecritic
danwarecritic

My brother has the original Rock Band and when he's playing it he invites me to come play with me. Sometimes I accept, sometimes I don't. But when I do it's a memorable experience.

Kalki_Avatar
Kalki_Avatar

Harmonix has more experience with music simulation. It all comes down to being able to resist the song creator mode. If they say their going to fix the strum bar, I believe it. I'm going to keep my DLC, and get this game. I'll just play World Tour at my friends houses.

airayd
airayd

Agreed StJimmy. After using the rock band guitar I can't go back to the guitar hero version. It's total garbage and very childish.

StJimmy15
StJimmy15

dude! RB guitars are soo much better than GH controllers.. that is, if you're used to playing actual instruments. PS. RB killed GH. better look, better songs, better everything.

Fanible
Fanible

@otanikun Um... the original game had character and instrument customization - of COURSE this one is going to have it. It won't have mold manipulation, but RB1 was the first game to feature customized characters. Duh, of course it's gonna be back in the second.

otanikun
otanikun

Seems spiffy but I'm still not seeing character or instrument customization; it certainly looks promising but I think I'll stick with Guitar Hero World Tour, no being a playa hater here, but I stick with my guns yo.

otanikun
otanikun

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

existingfear47
existingfear47

the only reason i would buy rock band 2 is if i bought 50 DLCS at least, but considering i dont like to buy easy songs, waste my money for $2.00 a song, and use the crappy guitar, guitar hero 3 and 4 are just better

OpusMaximus
OpusMaximus

I agree that RB2 will prolly be the superior game, but I also agree that GH guitars are better than RB ones. Since i was overseas for the past 18 months and just got back, I'm gonna buy the new drumset, two GH guitars, and both rock band games at once and get lost in it for days!! :)

InnerHeaven_X
InnerHeaven_X

My favorite feature will be that all of my songs downloaded will seamlessly intergrate to rock band 2, this is a really big turn on because of the ever growing song list, and not just starting over again with 80 songs in guitar hero. Clearly one of the two games will succed and it will be rock band!

requul
requul

How many people bought DLC for rock band and how many people are going to forsake all the money they spent to get GH World Tour? I purchased 110 songs so far. @ $2.00 a song (versus 2.40 a song in GH) that is way too much for me to just forget about. If I buy rock band 2 (the disc) I take me song collection from 172 to 252 or more! Sweet! Have fun with your 80 Songs Guitar hero freaks.

requul
requul

Beside instrument quality, Rock Band 2 is Clearly superior. The DLC is better and cheaper. The game modes are more diverse. And most of all the previous instruments work. GH 3 guitars have "limited functionality" in GH World Tour. Totally lame.

RD1109
RD1109

I liked Rock Band and I liked Guitar Hero 3.... but I felt like the instruments in Rock Band were it's downfall... the guitar was horrible... but having Guitar Hero 3, I used that guitar. I fell that if they have better instruments that Rock Band 2 will be the better buy...

IIFoxmanII
IIFoxmanII

rock band 2 will turn out be better than gh world tour because rock band already has experience with the drums while gh doesn't. this music looks great in both games, but i think rock bands formula of gameplay will be much better.

RockOut9
RockOut9

Im a fan of both Rock Band and GH but when they come out with GH World Tour GH is gonna win

MChief8
MChief8

the best part of the rockband series that destroys guitar hero is the fact that your not playing a random **** of notes that aren't even in the song, your parralling the artists.

pipedawg
pipedawg

If rock band wants to blow guitar hero out of the water, I suggest they add the song Cassandra Gemini by The Mars Volta. That song is crazy hard for drums, guitar, bass, and vocals. And to top it off, it's a freakin' 32 minutes long!!! Good-bye Free Bird!

Slinky_Turtle
Slinky_Turtle

I'm glad that the producers of rock band are starting to get a good taste of music. As noted by Dream Theater, Motorhead, Journey, and System of Down. I was pretty tired of the last one's choice of bands such as the Fall Out **** @nashuwa Yes there will be three cymbals but whether they will have their own notes or coincide with the pads is yet to be relased to the public.

Final13
Final13

I hope the guitar is much better. In my opion the GHII one is still the best.

nashuwa
nashuwa

i didnt see anything about cymbals i heard that there was four pads and three cymbals

grambyte
grambyte

I might as well gief it a shot... Just didn't think it would like it uptil now, but at the moment I'm seriously doubting that.

Agulf
Agulf

What's the sniper from TF2 doing in rock band 2

casesomething
casesomething

Arokh_Valdrez: yes you will be able to import the original rock band setlist into rock band 2 to eliminate the need for disc switching. for free. also all old dlc will work. the original peripherals will work just fine but the new ones are better.

Lampooninating
Lampooninating

I really, really, REALLY hope this will come out for the Wii at the same time.

Arokh_Valdrez
Arokh_Valdrez

I just want to know a few things: 1) downloadable content is available, great! how about the original rock band setlist? will that be available as well? 2) will the original game's peripherals work with RB2? hopefully so, so i'm not forced to go buy another band set and waste more money other than that, the game looks great, including the backwards capability is a wonderful feature.

gpvs
gpvs

think it will be on the pc this time round?

Loosenut
Loosenut

I am interested to see how well the oin-line works. I am VERY HAPPY to read that the songs are 100% backwards compatable (i have bought a lot). I like the idea of a more muffled drum but, i bought a 2 year warranty on mine (returned once already since the yellow stopped working). So, i suppose that I will wait until the warranty is up and go get the new kit. Here is a question??? Will the new Guitar Hero Drum Kit work? I think it looks better eith the 2 crash symbols. Only time will tell.

gamah_killah
gamah_killah

Man, for a game with so much value and songs at such a price is definitely worth getting

HanSolo10
HanSolo10

I will probably buy the game and maybe the new wireless guitar since I only have the wired guitar that came in the original bundle for the first game and the new guitar will allow me to play with a complete band. I like the fact that the band leaders are gone and characters can play any instruments and join any online bands. I like the new drum set being velocity sensitive so it should feel like a real drum set. But I don't know if I will buy it because I have the original. What would I do with my existing drum set? That's the only problem because they're not thinking about all of the people that went out and spent a lot of money on the original bundles.

Senrab
Senrab

I would buy just the game. I may consider buying the new drum set if it really is a huge improvement over the original.

Senrab
Senrab

I would buy just the game. I may consider buying the new drum set if it really is a huge improvement over the original.

Senrab
Senrab

I would buy just the game. I may consider buying the new drum set if it really is a huge improvement over the original.

Cube_of_MooN
Cube_of_MooN

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

thisisasignin
thisisasignin

I wish people would put the band name before the song title. I bet its "proper" to put the title first, but I bet theres a better chance you can recognize the band before the name of the song.

CaptainLunchbox
CaptainLunchbox

No reason for a ****ing sequel! Just more money!!! They could keep just updating the track lists!

SuperMooseman
SuperMooseman

Some cool songs there, but it only just feels like the first Rock Band was being announced.

rharrigal
rharrigal

Am i the only one who does not want to spend 200 bucks again? maybe on the new game, but im keeping the old set