Rocking Out to Rock Band

gaming, xbox comments edit

My copy of Rock Band arrived yesterday and it well and truly does rock.  The thing I was excited for was the drum kit; I’ve always fancied myself a drummer, and I finally get to test that out.

Turns out, I’m not all that bad.

A breakdown by instrument…

*Guitar **I’ve played my fair share of *Guitar Hero 2 and Guitar Hero 3, so I knew what to expect out of the guitar experience.  You can play lead or bass, your choice.  The actual playing experience with the guitar is roughly the same, so I won’t go too far into it.  That said, I did notice the difficulty level was significantly lower than GH3, and possibly slightly lower than GH2.  That’s not a bad thing - it just makes you feel cooler.

I can’t say much about the controller it ships with, though, because mine arrived broken (the directional pad on it is stuck so it constantly thinks the “down” arrow is being pushed - throws a wrench in the works, let me tell you).  Fortunately their support is really good and you can very quickly get an RMA and a replacement through their automated online system - no need for massive escalation or trouble.  Ordered my replacement this morning.

*Microphone (Vocals/Tambourine) **I haven’t played *SingStar but I gather the vocals portion here is the same as that.  It’s a little harder than I expected and it does require you to really know the words and the tune - including all the little fluctuations the singer makes while singing.  In some cases you can get by with volume over accuracy (which isn’t far from real life, right?) but generally you do need to know the song pretty well.

For example, I sing along to Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” in the car, but it turns out I really only know about half the song… and thinking back, I do sort of hum my way through a lot in the car.  That said, I was able to get 100% (on Easy level) for The Clash song “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”  So it’s not impossible, just sort of hard.

During musical solos, you can tap the mic in time with some “beats” that appear and play the tambourine.  This sort of reminds me of the clapping that you have to do in Donkey Konga.

Drums This is what I was waiting for.  It’s a heck of a setup and isn’t really small sitting in your living room, but it’s hella fun.  There are “notes” on the screen for hitting each of the four drum pads (just like Guitar Hero) and the kick drum is signified by a hard line that crosses all of the four note positions at once.  It takes a little getting used to, but once you figure it out, you’re in.  I’m working through Easy difficulty right now because I tried Medium and… well, there’s too much going on and I haven’t quite got drums down yet.

In some cases, though, I can’t figure out whether my drum controller is faulty or if I’m just a sucky drummer.  I swear I hit the right pad at the right time, it just says I didn’t.  Other times, everything’s fine.  I can get like 98% in some cases, I just miss a couple.  I would think if the controller was faulty it would be… more predictable. Again, the 60 day warranty might be good here.  Drums are definitely less forgiving than the guitar - with the guitar, you can “pretty much” get the note and it’ll count it; with drums, you either get it dead on or you don’t get credit.  I think that’s more likely what I’m running into.

That said, I really hope someone comes out with some after-market drums for this game.  I like the drums, but I’d like some of it to be a little more adjustable.  I’m 6’2” and I feel sort of cramped by the kit due to the placement of the kick drum pedal.  Maybe I just need to try some different positioning.

*The Game **The game itself is pretty good.  Far better set list than *Guitar Hero 3 had.  I also really like the way the campaign is set up as a “world tour” where you start in small venues and gather money and fans - it feels more tangible than the arbitrary progression you get in Guitar Hero.  You also have a really nice character creation system that allows you to personalize your character including face, hair, clothes… very cool.  There were only three points of confusion I had:

Point of Confusion 1:  Bands are attached to an Xbox Live profile and to a Rock Band character.  When you create a band, the person who’s creating the band gets the band saved to their Xbox Live profile. Further, as you select (or create) your character in the band, that specific character has to play in the band for the entire life of the band - they’re the band leader.  This is very important because…

Point of Confusion 2:  Characters can’t change instruments.  Once you create a character for a particular instrument (guitar/drums/mic), they can’t switch.  Jenn and I created a band where I was playing drums and she was playing guitar.  She wanted to try the drums out, so we tried to get it so her character was playing drums and mine was on guitar.  No dice - both of us were only allowed to create new characters.  And since my profile was the one with the band leader, and the band leader was playing drums, we either had to play under the other person’s profile or create a new band.  We created a new band.  (The third option, really, was to back out and do a “quick play” where you can form a band impromptu with anyone playing any instrument - no leader required.)

Point of Confusion 3: Once the instruments are attached to the Xbox 360, you can’t change their position.  So, say I attach the instruments and the drums are player 1, the guitar is player 2, and the mic is player 3.  By default, my console signs me in when it turns on, so I’m signed in as player 1 and I’m stuck on drums.  The easy way to fix this - connect all of the controllers to the Xbox, turn it on, and sign everyone out.  Everyone pick up the control they want to play with and sign in from there.  During the game if you want to change instruments, you can sign out and sign back in without exiting the game, so just do that - sign out on your current instrument and sign in on the one you want to switch to.  It sounds like a no-brainer when I say it here, but trust me, this was a huge problem for us to figure out.

Again, by-and-large, it’s an awesome game.  I’m also super happy [so far] with the ease of customer support.

Hey, since I’ve got the day off, I should probably go do a little rockin’ right now.