Green Day: Rock Band Hands-On

We hit the stage with Billie Joe, Mike, and Tre in our hands-on look at the latest Rock Band game starring the seminal East Bay pop-punk band.

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Bust out the low-slung bass and the thick black eyeliner, because Harmonix's next rhythm game--Green Day: Rock Band--is due for release in just a couple of months. The game, which follows the career of the seminal East Bay pop-punk band, is the latest band-centric release from Harmonix and the first disc-based release from the music game behemoth since 2009's The Beatles: Rock Band. Stepping into the shoes of Billie Joe, Mike, and Tre proved to be a fun experience, as we found out when Harmonix dropped by earlier today with a work-in-progress build of the game.

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Though the game will feature 47 tracks from the band's entire career, the linchpins of the Green Day Rock Band game are three of its most famous albums: American Idiot (2004), 21st Century Breakdown (2009), and 1994's Dookie, which, according to project lead Chris Foster, was by far the most requested Green Day album to appear in the Rock Band series. Those three albums will appear in their entirety in the game, as well as a number of hits and deep cuts from the rest of Green Day's discography.

So far, six tracks from 21st Century Breakdown have already been released as DLC for Rock Band. The remaining 12 tracks will be on the Green Day: Rock Band disc, and if you've downloaded any of the six DLC tracks, they will be automatically imported into your game along with new venue visuals, full vocal harmonies, and mo-cap performances. Players will be able to export the tunes from Green Day: Rock Band for use in other Rock Band games but will need to pay a fee ($10) to do so.

American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown loom particularly large in Green Day's history and in the game: both are concept albums of sorts, with a central narrative, and both are meant to be listened to from start to finish. Along with Dookie, Harmonix felt the two albums deserved their own showcases and, as a result, built the game's three separate venues around each album. Songs from American Idiot take place in Milton Keynes' National Bowl, the site of the band's concert film Bullet in a Bible. Songs from last year's 21st Century Breakdown (as well as the other songs in the game) will take place in Oakland's Fox Theatre. Finally, a more intimate fictional locale, known as The Warehouse, is used to showcase Dookie.

In addition to single- and multiplayer quick play, you'll be able to play in the game's career mode. The game's roster of songs is organized via set lists that feature a similar learning curve to what you've come to expect in games like this--some of the sets are even organized thematically. There will also be challenges to play through, similar to those found in The Beatles: Rock Band. Challenges include things like playing a certain number of songs and earning a cumulative star total at the end, or playing one of the complete albums from start to finish (along with a similar star total). Beating challenges will unlock new content, such as archived band photos, video interviews, and rare concert footage.

Not exactly punk, not exactly pop: Green Day is coming to Rock Band.
Not exactly punk, not exactly pop: Green Day is coming to Rock Band.

Harmonix producers told us that the difficulty of the challenges in Green Day: Rock Band have been toned down from those found in The Beatles: Rock Band, if only that the star totals you need to earn are slightly lessened. The game makes use of the two- and three-part harmonies that were first found in the Beatles game, including for Green Day DLC songs you import into the game. The band's chunky rhythms and poppy tunes make for a fun experience on any of the instruments and even singing--highlights from our time with the game included the mid-tempo melody of "When I Come Around" and the frenetic anthem "East Jesus Nowhere." That's just a sliver of Green Day's huge songbook too, which bodes well for Green Day fans looking to experience at least a tiny bit of what it's like to be one of the 21st century's biggest bands. Green Day: Rock Band is due for release on June 8.

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