Rock Band 2 doesn't improve much in the series, but a superb tracklist keeps it relevant even in the face of sequels.
Cons: Not much in the way of significant changes; Several minor issues still plague the game; Little purpose aside from track list now that RB3 is out
There are many times I may lament the idea of "more of the same." Old things can get boring after a while, particularly when newer improved versions of many games await you. Nonetheless, even after spending countless nights on the first Rock Band I spent probably twice as much on the second game. No, it wasn't terribly different (that would come in RB3), but it had several minor improvements and an amazing track list, and for that second reason, even in the face of a superior sequel, I can still recommend this game heartily.
With 84 songs on disc (plus 20, less interesting downloadable ones if you get a new copy of the game), Rock Band 2 is pretty heavy on content, and yet much to my surprise, it features far less filler than most rhythm games. In fact, out of those 84 songs, I'd as far to say that I would only remove 3 of those songs if given the chance. With classics such as Aqualung and Pinball Wizard, fun indie tracks such as Float On, and some seriously hard songs (see: Panic Attack), and so on, there's a little something for everybody with the slightest interest in rock in this game. Every song (save for So What'cha Want, which is neither fun, nor popular) has some purpose in the game.
After a patch over a year after the game's release, Rock Band 2 also features a broader DLC list than its predecessor. Besides the couple thousand regular songs available to play for all entries of the game, Rock Band 2 also allows indie bands and bands with self-initiative to get on the service via Rock Band Network. This portion of the store is already flooded with content and is a brilliant move that has the potential to really personalize your song collection.
Everything else is the same as Rock Band 1. As with the first game, you play one of four instruments and hit scrolling notes in time with music. Aside from improved "talky part" detection on vocals and the addition of hammer-on/pull-off chords on guitar, there is nothing new here. Likewise, graphically it's hard to spot any noticeable differences, save for a few additional animations and venues, although the game still looks nice as ever.
So in a way, you can't be faulted for seeing Rock Band 2 as little more than a (fantastic) song pack. Certainly many of the issues from the first game, particularly where career organization is concerned (still too much repetition of songs, even with DLC) still persist, so there are plenty of things that were ignored in this iteration. And yet there are still just enough features to warrant this as a worthy update to RB1. For instance, navigating your songs is much easier in this installment, with the ability to sort by various criteria and skip sections. Band members can be used for all instruments as well (although going back to switch band members in a party environment can still be cumbersome). And hyperspeed, a modifier which scrolled the notes faster in Guitar Hero, is back in the form of breakneck speed (though on the flipside your track is still slowed down if your friends are playing a lower difficulty than you).
The game only barely upgrades enough to warrant the label of a sequel, but nonetheless, particularly with its incredible track list, I would have easily recommended Rock Band 2 two years ago when it first came out. And now, with Rock Band 3 (a sequel that makes major updates) out, I can still recommend Rock Band 2, if just to export the songs to the sequel. The combined sum is more of the same…