3 Reviews

Rock Band

Good performance, shame about the musical differences

In this godforsaken age of the TV talent show, we can find hope in gaming. The obvious reason for this is that if you've fired up a game on your Wii just before Pop Idol starts, the buffoon in your house who wanted to watch it will be unable to use the TV because you got there first (them's the rules).

In a rather more roundabout way, mass take-up of games such as Rock Band and SingStar could bring about the demise of the talent show altogether. Think about it: rather than terrorising the nation via X-Factor, people who think they've got talent could get a copy of the game and let the software decide whether they can cut it or not. That should either lead them to seek out a record deal or knock their dreams on the head accordingly, meaning us long-suffering viewers are spared weeks of ear-blinding squawking.


So that's one reason why we're recommending Rock Band: it could potentially weed out legions of tone-deaf no-hopers before they set foot outside their homes and shuffle onto your idiot box. The other reason why you should consider getting a copy is because it's a damn fine game.

Drop the beat
Choosing to play guitar, bass, drums or take to the mic, you can strive for musical greatness alone or with up to three friends. As in Guitar Hero, coloured blobs scroll down the screen and you have to hit the corresponding note/beat as they pass. If you decide to take the vocal part, your targets scroll along the top, denoting the correct length and pitch required for melodic bliss.

So far, so familiar, and the single-player is as good as anything you'll enjoy in Guitar Hero. But where Rock Band really comes into its own is the multiplayer Band World Tour mode, because when four of you are hammering your controllers (and, er, mic) - well, there's nothing quite like it. You play co-operatively, with band members able to bring failed colleagues back into the game by playing well enough to compensate for their harmonic inadequacies.

Passin' me by
However, Band World Tour mode on Wii is a shadow of its PS3/360 self. Gone are all the customisation options and the free-roaming structure - Wii players are forced to tackle songs in a set order. This shouldn't dent your enjoyment too much, but it's just one example of the cutbacks you'll find on the Wii.

Online multiplayer, character creation tools and downloadable tracks are all missing too. In this respect it's massively disappointing - why should Wii owners only receive a tiny portion of the experience that other consoles have on offer? Still, wallowing in self-pity never got anybody anywhere and, if you're prepared to overlook the disparity between versions, you'll have a lot of fun with Rock Band.


Songs for Europe?
Perhaps the most important element of a game like this is the songs, and there's a healthy selection to start you off. Orange Crush by REM, Radiohead's Creep, Paranoid by Black Sabbath - there are over 60 classic and recent tunes here, some of which you've probably never heard of.

Once you're bored of the songs you'll have to buy a $30 (£15) Track Pack containing 20 new tunes, which seems a little pricey and very unfair when you consider that 360 and PS3 owners can choose from hundreds of new songs to download. Sigh...

Rich man's world
Which brings us right to the thorny issue of cost, and there's no denying that the Special Edition is a costly game. It only includes one guitar, so if you want a full four-player experience you'll need to buy another at $60 (£30). You can get the game on its lonesome for a mere $50 (£25), but once you've factored in the cost of the drums, guitars and mic, this package works out cheaper.

Ultimately, whether you buy this depends not only on how much you're prepared to spend on a game, but on whether you own a PS3 or 360. If you do have one of those consoles, we simply can't recommend the Wii version of Rock Band - there's just too much missing to warrant a purchase. However, for Wii-only gamers, this is still a terrific title, even with all the 'extras' taken out. Maybe we'll get lucky with the sequel...

The verdict

Taken on its own merits, this is a great multiplayer music game with plenty of replay value. It's just a pity other consoles get much more bang for their buck.

Nintendo Wii
Rhythm Action