After a rocky start with Rock Band 1, Harmonix has returned to the scene with the definitive band simulation game for Wii.
Last summer, Rock Band made its Nintendo debut. Unfortunately, it was not well-received by critics. A number of concerns were cited, such as its lack of online play and downloadable content, both of which were available on the competing Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms. Thankfully, both items have been addressed by developer Harmonix in this second edition of Rock Band, putting the Wii version on par with its competing versions for the first time.
Indeed, Rock Band 2 on the Wii is as feature-rich as its 360 and PS3 editions. Regardless of the Wii’s supposed hardware limitations, Harmonix has managed to include online band touring, downloadable content with SD card streaming, and all of the other available modes. Having played the Xbox 360 version of the game, I can verify that the only difference between the two lies in their graphical presentation.
The centerpiece of the game is Tour mode, allowing up to four people to perform together either locally or online. Players can perform as a guitarist, bassist, drummer, or vocalists on a large array of songs spanning five decades. During the tour, your virtual band will perform at a variety of clubs, playing either single songs or sets of songs. Unfortunately, as a result, you will be required to play a number of tracks multiple times. As time goes on this becomes frustrating, especially when you are forced to replay songs that aren't of particular interest.
Online play is implemented well on the Wii and works without a hitch. Players can hop into an incomplete band or allow friends or strangers to complete their empty lineup. Because players are immediately connected to the Nintendo WiFi Connection upon loading the game, finding people to play with is quick and easy and requires no traversal of extra menus. Additionally, purchasing and playing extra songs is also simple and works without a hitch. Loading songs from the SD card to play takes roughly the same amount of time as loading from a disc, which is also nice to see.
Progression through the tour will (slowly) unlock all of the available tracks in the game, allowing their use within Quick Play mode, where you will spend most of your time. Rock Band caters to all audiences by allowing players to each choose the appropriate difficulty setting for their instrument of choice, letting amateurs jam with experts. Note charts also never feel over-charted in order to create a false challenge, regardless of the difficulty level at which you’re playing.
One complaint I had with the first Rock Band was a lack of challenging guitar tracks, and Rock Band 2 undoubtedly addresses this issue. With selections like Metallica's "Battery," Dream Theater's "Panic Attack," and Megadeth's "Peace Sells," Rock Band 2 offers some of the most demanding guitar riffs of the series.
Aside from the main tour and quick play modes of the game, players have access to a variety of other modes such as band duels, practice mode, and even a drum trainer mode allowing players to learn basic drum beats and fills or just mess around with a variety of kits.
Players with HDTVs will find calibration to be a breeze in Rock Band 2 thanks to the brand new equipment supplied in the full band package. The included guitar allows players to auto-sync by simply holding the guitar approximately three feet from the television. No longer will players need to perform the tedious test found in prior editions of the game, or tweak the calibration to achieve that perfect synchronization.
On a similar note, the included peripherals are an excellent upgrade from the prior version of the game. Both the guitar and drum set are wireless, and easily connect to the Wii through the wireless USB adapter set included in the package. The drum kit now features pad silencers built right into each of the pads, as well an overhauled, sturdier kick pedal. Additionally, three expansion ports have been included in order to accommodate the cymbal expansion provided by MadCatz, which was developed to give the kit a more authentic feel.
With its large number of modes, weekly DLC that is accessible via the SD Card, online play, better instruments, a variety of modes, diverse soundtrack, and excellently charted songs, Rock Band 2 is the definitive band game for Wii. Anyone with Rock Band 1 instruments should pick this one up without question, and those who have yet to invest should consider Rock Band 2 before any other band game currently on the market.