Rock Band 2 Updated Hands-On - Exclusive Single-Player and Multiplayer Details

We get our hands on Harmonix's Rock Band follow-up for an encore performance.

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Unless you've been locked in a cave for the past year or so, you've probably heard about Rock Band. The game capped Boston-based developer Harmonix's six-year journey to hip the Western gaming world to the allure of rhythm-based games. While Harmonix's efforts with the original Guitar Hero games may have cracked the door open in the States, Rock Band drove a tour bus through it and beckoned your friends over to make themselves at home. The game sold incredibly well last Christmas, especially considering its hefty price tag and music shop's worth of peripherals. Rather than rest on its laurels, however, the ambitious developer is prepping Rock Band 2, a proper sequel, to hit stores next month. How do you follow up a game like Rock Band? We decided to find out by digging into a new, work-in-progress version of the Xbox 360 game to take an exclusive hands-on look.

Rock Band returns for an all-new world tour.

If you've played the original game, you should be right at home with what Rock Band 2 has to offer. You'll still find the same basic top-level modes--Quickplay, Tour, and Training--along with extras and the music store. Quickplay offers four further options--Solo Quickplay, Band Quickplay, Tug of War, and Duel--that let you duke it out with frenemies far and wide. The game has been tweaked to offer more customization, so you'll be able to switch instruments on your custom characters and adjust song lists.

Probably one of the biggest additions to the Rock Band mix is in the Tour mode, which now lets you do offline and online touring. As before, you'll create a custom character to represent you in the game. However, this time out, there are a number of new options to customize your character's appearance courtesy of new tattoos and some refinements to the editor. Our favorite tweak is the ability to change the instrument your character plays; we lamented the lack of this option in the original game. Once you start playing with your virtual band you'll find that there's a lot more to do here, even though the mode still has the same, somewhat linear style of the original. As always, your basic goals are to play music in different venues, win fans and notoriety, open up new venues and modes of transportation, and take your music global. But the sequel adds a lot more to the mix. You'll find different set list challenges at each venue, as well as customizable set lists you can make for yourself. Most importantly, you'll find gigs to play that yield vehicles you can use to begin your trek round the world.

A new factor on your road to fame is crew staffing: You'll now be able to hire different staff to come along on your tour. Your first hire will be dear old Mom, whose unwavering support ensures she's always around to be hired. It's an interesting system, because your staff choices yield different bonuses to your group as you play, like more fans per gig. The trade-off is that some bonuses appear to also have drawbacks; for example, the same bonus may give you more money per gig but will also lower your number of fans. Our version of the game featured 14 potential hires, which ran the gamut from mom to a tattoo artist or a publicist.

This time around, you get even more ways to customize your character's appearance.

Besides extending your career in Rock Band 2's Tour mode, you'll find new band-centric challenges to test your skills. While in Tour mode you'll be able to make your way across the globe performing, or take a break and try the Challenge or Battle of the Bands submodes. The Tour Challenge mode features seven sets of locked challenges that you'll open up by clearing them. The first set, labeled Local Upstart, features six challenges that you'll have to work through. The challenges require one to four players depending on the focus; the vocal warm-ups challenge can be soloed by a singer, but the drum warm-ups require a larger group with a drummer, and so on. Each challenge gets progressively tougher and offers a fun, bite-size bit of action. Cooler still is that some challenges are generated based on the content on your hard drive, so you can expect album-specific challenges to pop up. Battle of the Bands will offer Harmonix-posted competitions for you to take part in and prove your skills. The mode seems destined to set folks up for an eternal cycle of defending your score--for instance, you'll be pinged when one of your records has been topped, encouraging you to go and set a new one.

In addition to the proper game modes, RB2 sports some very cool little touches that seem to reflect Harmonix's listening to the original game's vocal fan base. New tutorials have been added to the mix, the sexiest of the bunch being the drum trainer, which actually works as a proper introduction to real drumming. You'll be able to adjust the beats per minute and tempo to get a feel for how it all works in the game. Although you won't become a drum virtuoso after going through the trainer, if you go through the different tutorials, you should significantly reduce the amount of embarrassing flailing that happens when nondrummers try their hand at the game. A cool A/V touch is built right into the game's new guitar peripheral and radically improves the calibration process for the game on HDTVs. On top of all the technical bells and whistles made to smooth out the game experience, a new Jukebox mode lets you play along with your own music.

Your world famous band will be able to recruit all kinds of characters. Including your mom.

We tried the game online with Harmonix and were suitably impressed by how the system worked out. One of the nicest touches is the flexibility that's being built into the band creator. Unlike in the original game, now you'll be able to set up a band with alternates that you can swap as needed, ensuring you won't be held hostage if one of your main bandmates isn't online or if someone needs to be replaced for poor performance. The system seems to work out just fine, although we're still not fans of the work involved in trying to get a band together offline with everyone using profiles. The process isn't as smooth as we'd like it to be, but we do appreciate a new confirmation system that's been put in place to keep the one person who will inevitably keep hitting the Back button from bogging everything down by kicking the group out to the Start menu.

The visuals in Rock Band 2 haven't undergone too dramatic of a change from its predecessor. There's been the obligatory fine-tuning of what came before, which is what you'd expect. However, more thought has been put into camera angles, filters, and presentation aesthetics. The end result is more dynamic visuals that have a more artistic look to them, making it all closer to what you'd see in a music video.

Audio, understandably, is a big part of the Rock Band 2 experience, and Harmonix is bringing a lot to the table thanks to some neat new features. The game's on-disc soundtrack is a broad mix of tunes that span different eras in rock, but you'll also be able to import all your music from the original Rock Band. If all that weren't enough, Harmonix is planning to release 20 additional tracks (all free) in the fall. Aside from the in-game music, you'll hear many of the familiar sound effects in menus and a pleasing mix of ambient audio that changes to suit the crowd's mood as you play.

Are your fingers fast enough to make you famous the world over? Find out later this year.

Based on what we played, Rock Band 2 is definitely shaping up to be a worthy follow-up to the original game. While the game may not have quite the visceral impact the original did, there is an impressive array of features and refinements that should please fans. The addition of the online World Tour mode and the promise of new challenges well after release give RB2 a strong appeal. The backward compatibility with the original Rock Band's songs and hardware are cool as well. Odds are if you were into the original game, you've had this sucker preordered for a while now. Whether fans will get just the game or splurge for the new hardware too will be interesting to watch; although being able to use your old gear is great, the new peripherals are pretty slick. Rock Band 2 is hitting in shifts this fall, with the game being released on the Xbox 360 in September and on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and Wii in October.

Discussion

175 comments
jsgl
jsgl

im assuming you can use the rockband instruments for rockband 2?

FE_guy111596
FE_guy111596

AWESOME!!! CHARACTER CUSTOMIZATION!!! NO RIP OFF!!! WOOT WOOT!!!

xblane
xblane

Can't wait for an australian release :D

FAQsInNeed
FAQsInNeed

The Wii version will be very similiar to the PS3 and 360 counterparts. Go and read the review on IGN, the game doesn't disappoint.

alberthillo
alberthillo

Does anyone knows if Wii version will need 4 wii remotes, 1 for each instrument? Like GHWT, or how will it work

splendormk7
splendormk7

Wii version would be more interesting and tiring.. but it is clear we can have more have fun with wii controller

mario11guy
mario11guy

They did for the Wii... DarkspineSonic0

DarkspineSonic0
DarkspineSonic0

probably,. they woudn't leave out 1 of the key features just for 1 platform.

hyperwarrior321
hyperwarrior321

will rock band 2 for ps2 be able to customize characters. plz

jack_croft
jack_croft

Rockband rules, played number one in shop and it was awesome!!!!!!!!! The price has become irrelevent. I will go to the end of the earth to get this game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Agen_Kolan
Agen_Kolan

I'm really, really looking forward to this game. Especially the tracklist, has a little bit of eveything. Still no news of a Rhythm Guitar for this game, guess its not going to happen since the ps3 release is so close.

JOTJ
JOTJ

i cant wait for this, and ghwt

Moosebreath
Moosebreath

same with the wii version... i've been trying to look everywhere to figure that out... it's perhaps the deciding factor for whether i shell out for this game or not...

sicness202
sicness202

is this RB2 still cannot create our own character or what? Since RB in PS2 doesn't have create guitarist/band mode.. which to me its a big upset..

TonyKoeffler
TonyKoeffler

MiLDracuLA: Guitar Hero has many significant differences. One of the most notible differences is the fact that Guitar Hero has circles for its interface while Rock Band focuses around a more square look. Also, Guitar Hero has always been focused on guitar (till now) and also Guitar Hero tends to be a little more difficult especially in GHIII, while Rock Band focuses not on making it difficult, but on making more fun. if you have any more questions comment back to me on my profile TonyKoeffler

MiLDracuLA
MiLDracuLA

What's the significant difference between Rock Band and Guitar Hero? Excuse my lack of knowledge, I don't play a lot of rhythm games. And I suck at Guitar Hero lol

stan105
stan105

man u guys that are saying "rock band is copying guitar hero blah blah blah" seriously the guys who made guitar hero made rock band sheesh get your facts straight

Spongebob4Prez
Spongebob4Prez

hey does anyone know if theyre adding world tour or custom characters/guitars to the ps2 version?

woods0419
woods0419

Gee, another game that Gamespot fails to give a review the day before release! Unless they actually surprise the world with a review by the end of the day

TheWarrior_94
TheWarrior_94

I cant wait until this comes out. Anybody know a date for release in uk?

Mamikapapo
Mamikapapo

@nick45896 Sorry man, but monkeyluffy is right. Harmonix developed Guitar Hero, so Harmonix DIDN'T copy Guitar Hero. And if you want to argue about copying, you can say Harmonix actually copied Konami (GuitarFreaks, I believe, is the very first Guitar game). That's why Konami is suing both of them.

monkeyluffy
monkeyluffy

Umm harmonix developed guitar hero...so its there idea to begin with.

nick45896
nick45896

rockband copied the idea of guitar to play instruments and play the notes from guitar hero guitar hero didnt copy rockband rockband did so stop sayin that guuitar hero is copin them

djdna514
djdna514

i am looking forward to this. the fact that all the tracks are the original artists master tracks, and the refined world tour is made for 1 player, i'm def pumped. I feel bad GHWT is still stuck with cover bands and trashy song selections. Thats what happens when the guys that make tony hawk sequels are in charge. Thank you harmonix, but Journey better be available right from the start.... :P

PSPmaster1199
PSPmaster1199

Dang...I think I'm gonna get this over World Tour. I've never been a big fan of big business (Activision *cough*) and plus, Rock Band 2 seems to have better features. The breaking point, however, is the jukebox mode. I think that I'd have a better time just playing along with my favorite music than spending hours making a level for World Tour.

mp5xm8
mp5xm8

i love rockband!!!!

missonrs
missonrs

I'm buying this soley because I have like 50 songs for DLC. I like the neat improvements. But I still haven't heard anything on the shaky problem that you get during some of the song.

darkwolfs48
darkwolfs48

It really doesn't matter that it comes out a month later for PS3. The Rock Band 2 bundle for 360 doesn't come out until the PS3 game and bundle comes out. In other words the only people who should be buying Rock Band 2 for the 360 in september are the people who are upgrading from the original.

mosesdg2001
mosesdg2001

To TheWarrior_94 if you go to bestbuy.com or any of the stores they have them for pre-order. Don't know where you live but if you try those two options you'll be set for pre-ordering rock band 2.

MonkeyWrench127
MonkeyWrench127

@TheWarrior_94 Worries me too... I can pre-order World Tour, but Rock Band 2 (which is meant to be out sooner) hasn't even got a price yet! I really hope Harmonix and EA learnt from their mistakes with Rock Band and Europe...

krsna119
krsna119

to fireboltjjl, probably not since the wii has very weak online options, the wii does have expansion disks though.... I think

fireboltjjl
fireboltjjl

is there online multiplayer/dlc for wii?

TheWarrior_94
TheWarrior_94

For some reason I cant see this for pre-order anywhere online!! I am a really big fan of this game can anyone send me some links to buy rock band 2 solus in the uk? Thanks!!

robmephisto
robmephisto

This looks amazing. Game disc & guitar pack for me, that way I'll have the full band set. One thing...have we got a UK release date yet? I know they said it was a simultaneous release, and then they took it back...

dth_dlr
dth_dlr

this is looking good, cant wait

-Undlin-
-Undlin-

Seriously, Can't wait for this game, the first game got me a warning due to loud noise from my local council, let's see if the second can live up to it!

DanzigThrall
DanzigThrall

cant wait for this game wanna get ghwt as well but gotta see what my money issue will be around their release dates and all that

struggles51
struggles51

They need to have Vocal Harmonies incorporated. I'd say for the certain parts have 2 sets of lines, to sing with the option of one or the other.

Imagine09
Imagine09

i hope they dont sensor there song lyrics like the first game

Imagine09
Imagine09

gonna get this game strait up. RB2>GH:WT

woofie13
woofie13

why a month later for Sony? hopefully it's to get bluetooth guitars... I thought Harmonix was mostly funded by them since amplitude.

URSpaztic
URSpaztic

Razim14, u sure? I DONT WANT SPAM!!!! Anyway, I want an xbox 360 4 this game. Not worth it for the wii. It is not as capable as the the Xbox 360.

URSpaztic
URSpaztic

Razim14, u sure? I DONT WANT SPAM!!!! Anyway, I want an xbox 360 4 this game. Not worth it for the wii. It is not as capable as the the Xbox 360.

razim14
razim14

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