Rock Band Unplugged Hands-On

Harmonix is taking Rock Band to the PSP, but it's not as strange of a journey as you might think.

It's not often that it happens, but occasionally you'll see a massively successful band at the peak of fame take time off from playing stadium concerts to treat their fans to a more intimate performance in a smaller venue. Sure, they might play some of their new songs, but it's in those smaller clubs that the band can trace their roots and show a legion of fans what the early days were like. Harmonix is in a similar situation with Rock Band Unplugged. This PSP adaptation of the popular rhythm franchise bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Amplitude, the company's 2003 PlayStation 2 rhythm game that earned critical acclaim but didn't quite light the genre aflame like its later game, Guitar Hero, would ultimately do.

Amplitude was a predecessor to the Guitar Hero/Rock Band style of gameplay in an era before plastic guitar controllers became the norm. The core of the game was similar in the way that players were given the task of pressing buttons in sync with a series of icons cascading down the screen to match the timing of a song and create the effect of playing an instrument. And though that base formula sounds awfully familiar at this point, one important gameplay feature from Amplitude that never made the transition to the next wave of rhythm games was the idea of switching instruments in midsong--something Unplugged relies very heavily upon.

That's where Rock Band Unplugged feels like Amplitude the most. With the absence of music peripherals, you use four buttons on the face of the PSP--by default, left and up on the directional pad along with triangle and circle--to match the red, yellow, blue, and green notes that make up each instrument's track. But by pressing either of the shoulder buttons, you can switch between instrument tracks at will. One second you'll be mimicking Roger Daltrey's vocal track on The Who's "Pinball Wizard," but the next moment you might be drumming as Keith Moon or strumming guitar as Pete Townshend depending on your own preference. But as a way of guiding you between the best parts of each song, the game will limit switching selections to one or two other tracks at once.

The challenge that exists with this style of play is the difficulty present in any form of multitasking. The familiar Rock Band fail meter is shown on the left of the screen to tell you which instruments are doing well and which aren't. Playing tracks while keeping a constant eye on which one needs to be played after the current guitar riff or drum fill is over is described by Harmonix as "plate-spinning"--a sort of rewarding chaos that keeps you juggling different tasks. A pair of separate gameplay modes exists to modify how you manage the tracks; Warm-Up Mode lets you choose between tracks but lets only the one you're currently playing affect the band meter, and Band Survival Mode shows notes for every instrument at once to really crank up the challenge level.

Though Unplugged feels very much like a spiritual successor to Amplitude, the game carries the Rock Band branding for a reason. Aside from the fact that the overall look and presentation of the game feel distinctly similar to its console counterparts, you'll have the option to create your own customized band and then take them on the road in World Tour mode. There are 24 venues to choose from along the way, and you can earn cash to buy new instruments and clothing while building your posse by hiring staff members.

Unplugged maintains the same Rock Band aesthetics even in portable format.

If you're still scraping by with a 32-megabyte memory stick for your PSP, Unplugged's in-game music store--another Rock Band hallmark that's transitioned over to PSP--will probably make you consider upgrading. At launch, 10 songs will be available, and more songs will show up on a semiregular basis to cull some of the more popular numbers from the weekly console releases. The store uses your existing PlayStation Network ID, so it should be a fairly hassle-free process to get things set up if you've already done any purchasing on your PSP or PlayStation 3. (This DLC will complement an initial tracklist on the game that includes a few PSP-exclusive songs viewable here.)

Rock Band Unplugged is currently scheduled for release on June 9. Keep an eye out for future tracklist information leading up to our complete review when the game is released.

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Discussion

154 comments
mitchellt
mitchellt

i cant wait till this is out its gonna be amazing

robertodaura
robertodaura

i just started playing it yesterday, i have never played a rock band game or guitar hero, but to be honest i have enjoy this game!..... but for me is kind dificult..... so i have only played it on easy, hopefully i will get use and play better :)

kufal009
kufal009

i played the game, and it was enjoyable game but i think that my MS is not fast as the high speed, some of the songs are log maybe becuz of my slow MS, but it so cool to play

LifeLeecher
LifeLeecher

The game is pretty awesome,it's hard to get the hang of it but if u get trough the first city it turns easy.Don't ask where i got it :P

25JoShUa25
25JoShUa25

and i hope it will be better than DJMAX.....

25JoShUa25
25JoShUa25

I can't wait to play this game!!!!if only the release date is much earlier.....T_T

gryphyth
gryphyth

Basic gameplay sounds a lot like DJ Max Portable series, however seems like Unplugged has some neat touches like switching instruments. Going to be interesting to see how it goes without the peripherals. Think I'll stick with DJ Max for the time being, need the cash for a lot of other great PSP titles to come!

RPGNERD1
RPGNERD1

That will be AWESOME!!!!!

cjog
cjog

wow...... i never thought this would happen

Madoo666
Madoo666

Going be awsome!! ~~wolfox

PS2to-the-end
PS2to-the-end

i remember april 1st of last year. they fooled us all by saying Rock Band was coming to the psp, and "eyestrain lawsuits ahead." but now its really comming out! lol

evanextreme
evanextreme

Yah, I dont have a PSP, I have a DSi but all my friends have both. Even if i had a psp, I would be pissed off about NO MULTIPLAYER yah, you heard me. NONE whatsoever due to hermonixes rock band "Epiphany" It would be better on the DS, because you have the Guitar Grip, or Buttons for guitar, touch-screen for drums, and the microphone for, well, what else? but hermonix has made their choice, and activision is making more money. (GUITAR HERO LIVES ON!!!!)

SMAultramarine
SMAultramarine

@nini200. I understand what you're talking about and to be honest I agree. It is a bit misleading to everybody that this won't follow the same style as the previous Rock Bands and instead goes back to Amplitude (unless you have been reading the review or our argument of course!). That might be the only reason why this game wouldn't work, I'm guessing it will still sell well but that might not exactly be the point (The Rock Band brand has already grossed 1 billion dollars in North American Sales with DLC and the first 2 games alone.). I guess it's a case of waiting to see what happenes. I want to apologize too, most of these comments were done when a bit angry which didn't help. I'm sorry for saying that you can't question something. I was out of line and I'm sorry.

nini200
nini200

@SMAultramarine I think we got off to a wrong start somewhere and I'm going to apologize for that, at least on my part. My point is that if the game retains the name Rock Band, then it is under the same scrutiny and criticism of the other Rock Band games (Which have semi Band instruments). If this game was titled "Amplitude: Rock Band Edition" then it wouldn't be misleading to customers due to the fact that the fans of Amplitude would know what type of gameplay to expect. It's like making Parappa the Rapper but using Singstar's gameplay, it's misleading. And I say again, Sure, Rock Band is modeled after Amplitude/Frequency, but the reason Rock Band took off in the first place is due to the fact that it had more instruments to play than Guitar Hero, if it hadn't had some sort of edge on Guitar Hero, everyone would have seen it as yet another Guitar Hero clone just like they did for Rock Revolution & Ultimate Band. Your entire statement number 4 explains my point of this game. Rock Band's instruments were a novelty that gave it an edge on Guitar Hero. It also, as you explained, allowed everybody to play (Which this game does not). It was also made to have a unique control scheme due to the many ways to play the different instruments that are playable with the game. I do understand your side and you have a point with the style of game this is, I just don't think you understand my point clearly. And Congrats on coming in 3rd place but you can never tell me what I can and can't question.

hameh93
hameh93

I'll get it actually seems cool but I am getting Patapon 2 before anything!

SMAultramarine
SMAultramarine

@nini200. 1. This is my last comment, I've taken up too much space on this page as it is and, by the looks of the thumbs up/down ratings of our arguments, no one agrees with you anyway. 2. Rock Band took off because it allowed EVERYBODY to play rather than Air-guitar nuts and music game fans (Singstar/Lips anyone?). It also STILL beats Guitar Hero despite Guitar Hero: World Tour, which has the same instruments. 3. It only has the Rock Band name because it is made by the Harmonix/MTV partnership and is just another addition to the brand. Just because it is called Rock Band doesn't mean that it has to have peripherals. If it was being made like that it would be a lot different and would probably have been on DS rather than PSP if anything. 4. The DS version of Guitar Hero had to have a peripheral because it gave a novelty factor as well as being at a point when only the guitar peripheral existed. The DS is also renowned for having unique control styles and UI's with their games (because of the double screen). 5. The most important thing to point out is that it is not trying to be the same as the other two Rock Band games, it is a return to the old style of Harmonix's games. 6. The other reason this is only on PSP and not DS is because the original Frequency and Amplitude games were only available on PS2 so I think it would be safe to assume that is directly aimed at the old Frequency/Amplitude crowd. The entire approach of this game is to be Amplitude - Rock Band edition, and it should be treated as such. In the current market of music games, where nearly every single one of them requires a peripheral that only helps to make it more expensive, this regains it's novelty factor that it would not have had if it was done after Amplitude instead of Guitar Hero. I do like to simulate being in a band/air guitaring as well as appreciate the genre. It's that love for this sort of game that means that I came 3rd in the WCG 2008 UK finals for Guitar Hero 3 so never question my interest in playing the instruments like a real rock star.

xbox360555
xbox360555

This is going to be awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

okmijnuhb6
okmijnuhb6

I cannot believe I'm saying this, but I think the DS one is going to be better.

Futil1ty
Futil1ty

OMG THESE SONGS BETTER COME OUT AS DLC FOR REGULAR RB

Unheard-Volume
Unheard-Volume

hmmmm....hope it makes the transition succefully!

homsta
homsta

Anyways, I love the DJ Max games and this one looks like it will be similiar. If you haven't played a DJ Max portable game for the PSP, definitely check it out. They are AWESOME!

homsta
homsta

Anybody remember a couple years back on April fools when they had as a gag Rock Band on PSP. Hilarious.

nini200
nini200

@SMAultramarine You really just don't get it. Let me flip the script and break this down for you: Frequency and Amplitude were popular BEFORE semi-playing instument games were even out and what they brought to the table was completely new. So with your logic on that alone, You are wrong. The entire reason Rock Band was made was because they were trying to simulate players being in an actual what, "ROCK BAND". Seeing how there is no peripheral for this game, IT WILL FAIL due to the FACT that it is NOT what the series was made popular for. Rock Band took off because they had more instruments than Guitar Hero, that is the Only reason. I played plenty of great music games before semi-instrumental playing was implemented, so I understand your side, but you don't seem to understand that there are NO peripherals for this game, meaning what made the series popular for consoles (Strumming, Whammying, Drumming, Sliding, Hammering and other ways to actually "PLAY" the instruments) can NOT be done in this game due to NOT having any peripherals, which all leads to THIS GAME'S FAILURE. Why do you think the DS version of Guitar Hero came out WITH the peripheral? Because they knew what I'm trying to get you to realize and didn't want a failing game like this is going to be. You can't make a game where semi-instruments is MOST of the reason the game is fun then take the semi-instruments away meaning taking most of the fun away. That's asking to fail like this game is going to do. They need a peripheral of some kind so you can still simulate being in a "ROCK BAND" while on the road, which is what most people (besides you obviously) want.

LordBaphomet
LordBaphomet

Seriously, how many of these games ARE they going to make? There's no end!

otanikun
otanikun

The way the gameplay seems to be unfolding is something that really isn't pulling me into this title; going back and forth between the different parts that's supposed to be broken up for different peripherals is kind of a drag. Until a demo is provided I suppose I can't say anything too overly critical, but I hope this works for them, like the DS version of Guitar Hero did for Activision.

code_punk
code_punk

I have to agree with SMAultramarine on this one. Harmonix created Guitar Hero as "the next step" after Amplitude was quite successful. Music games since the beginning have been more about following the rhythm and fast hand-eye reflexes than imitating the experience of playing an actual instrument. There's already many successful button-pressing music games on the market, most of which don't have a rock focus...this game looks to fill that gap, and as long as the difficulty provides a challenge, I'm sure it will be very successful.

SMAultramarine
SMAultramarine

@nini200. Right, I'm going to break this down for you. If Harmonix's Amplitude and Frequency games didn't work and attract at least a pretty decent crowd (to make a sequel at least) THERE WOULD BE NO GUITAR HERO. Fact. This game will work because it has already worked. Has anyone forgotten Beats for the PSN? Same face button pressing on the PSP idea, just didn't have the style of this. And for anyone that still needs to decide whether this game will work - If you started playing music games because of a cheap plastic instrument, you will not like this. If you started playing music games before it was the 'it' thing to do, you will like this. Oh and nini200, Amplitude and Frequency weren't made popular by using plastic instruments, but they were popular anyway.

hassy94
hassy94

"Saying people are ignorant just because they don't agree with you does not make you correct." He's not saying because people don't agree with him. It's because no one will even give it a chance because of the fact there are no instruments, causing them to be ignorant and not even see if it's still good.

PS3Champ
PS3Champ

There shouldn't be any music games for portable systems. It just doesn't work without the instruments. Plus, if you look at the set list in this video, there were like 10 Rock Band 2 songs! What's with that!?

Elite_Baller
Elite_Baller

Ackward. this in my opinion, isn't rock band because there are no instruments. its just to me a button mashing game. this will be similar to playing guitar hero on a mobile phone only with more instruments. no enthusiasm. no energy. no fun.

doublem2
doublem2

This is just the next version of Frequency / Amplitude, but on the PSP and with "Rock Band branding." nini200 nailed it. Guitar Hero raised the bar by adding a peripheral - especially by doing it right on the DS. This game will have a hard time, but without Guitar Hero on the PSP at least it doesn't have direct competition.

ps3spiderman
ps3spiderman

i own both amplitude and its prequel frequency and from the looks of things im gonna take to this game like a duck to water. Rock on Harmonix, rock on

Strategygamer22
Strategygamer22

I loved the idea of Frequency and Amplitude, but the tracklists were pathetic. I'm excited that Harmonix is making another game with less of a techno focus.

Newraven01
Newraven01

I'm not sure how this game is going to do profit-wise, but I do know that it looks like it could present a challenge. Switching between instruments to keep them all alive at the same time will definitely be harder than playing regular rockband.

nini200
nini200

@Sweendrix Do you honestly think Nintendo would put a song on a game that's on it's competitor's console? Especially from one of it's major IP's? That one made my day. @gnbfd Frequency and Amplitude may be similar to this type of gameplay but Frequency and Amplitude were NOT made popular by simulating real instruments. Rock Band on the other hand, the entire reason it caught on was due to the fact that it had more instruments than Guitar Hero, other than that, it would've been another cash-in like this game is. I like Um Jammer Lammy and the Parappa series because their gameplay based on precise button pressing, yet their selling point wasn't based on simulating instruments like Rock Band's was, making this game a failure in the making. Saying people are ignorant just because they don't agree with you does not make you correct.

Gallahadd
Gallahadd

Wish they would have had this multi-tasking stuff in RB 1 or 2... I think pressing buttons won't give anyone that realistic experience of performing a song... It's just going to be like listening to music while pressing buttons to keep listening to it... rather get an ipod...

gnbfd
gnbfd

Everyone who is hating on this game go buy Amplitude and Frequency now. I just got them in the mail today and they are AMAZING! They were Harmonix's first games and they play exactly like this. I don't understand how so many people could hate something so awesome. Ignorance I guess...

NND1
NND1

I am glad I got rid of My X.Mas PSP

k16campbell
k16campbell

I agree with nini200, it is going to fail so badly...

HeadExploder
HeadExploder

' Sweendrix Posted Apr 17, 2009 6:18 am GMT -12 Looks pretty awesome...I wish they would include this Zelda remix...this vid is 5/5 Zelda Remix below... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpJMSaVipQU ' wow dude... you posted a link to a video that you supposedly made, suggesting it be put in the game and saying its 5/5? we call people like you 'tools'.

nini200
nini200

@SMAultramarine No, the ONLY reason this is even coming out on the PSP (A system for which this type of game isn't made for, at least without a peripheral of some sort like the DS Guitar Hero has) is because they are trying to compete with the DS. They saw that the DS had Guitar Hero so PSP wanted to get Rock Band to try and keep up, but the way they're implementing this game is going to fail big time. These type of games were made popular for branching off and making you actually have to Semi-Play the instruments (Which this doesn't have). I mean, you can't strum, basically there is No Whammy, it would be surprising if they have Star Power, and it's basically like you're hammering every note of every song. No matter how you look at it, this game will fail.

Supreme4dmira1
Supreme4dmira1

That looks really tough actually. Although I'll stick to the console games. I mean what is the point of a hand held party game?

Mewt2021
Mewt2021

This game would be good, if it had more new tracks. Any fan of Rock Band has probably play every song on this set list besides the 9 new ones. Sure the game-play is like amplitude or frequency (whichever you prefer to reference) but if you've heard it all before then its gonna have a been there done that feel. They should have released more new tracks with the game. 9 tracks, some of which I've played on previous music games, just isn't enough to make me shell out 30-40 bucks when I can wait a little bit and spend less then 20 to just download the 9 songs for my 360

jasopan
jasopan

Looks OKAYYYYYYY,controles are god damn awkward though

SMAultramarine
SMAultramarine

@ MegaXtreme. Yes, that was the point of Rock Band but Harmonix did not just make games with plastic guitars. It just so happened that that made them very successful but that was not how they started. I'll say again, this is a game that goes back to before the first Guitar Hero. It is in every way a tribute to everyone who has played music games that use face buttons instead of a random peripherals. It is the sort of thing you would like if you have played (or maybe at least heard of) Amplitude, Frequency, PaRappa the Rappa, Guitaroo Man and DJ Max. @ Darukani. It will probably be like the other instruments with a note for each word or syllable of the lyrics.

MegaXtreme
MegaXtreme

Epic fail. I'm sorry, but without some sort of peripheral, how can you mimic playing in a band? That's the point of Rock Band in the first place, isn't it? This version seems to fail in realizing that and will not garner a purchase from me, just like 95% of the entirety of the PSP's catalog of uninspired titles. At least On Tour for the DS allows you to make it feel like you're playing a guitar, but pressing buttons in time gets boring after about 2 minutes. It did while I was playing Guitar Hero III in the PS3. I didn't have a guitar controller, I played like one song, and shut it off. It sucked. This game will fail like every other PSP game before it.