Last year, Rock Band ended Guitar Hero’s monolithic plastic guitar domination. With its drums and vocals in addition to top notch wanna-be axe shredding, it upped the ante and started what is already shaping up to be the clash of two super power rhythm game franchises for years to come. But as good as the original Rock Band was there was always talk about the features it was missing, and because it was so damn good it only made us want those things more.
The good news is that all that greatly desired cleaning up and filling in is a large part of what Rock Band 2 has to offer. Much of that tidying focused on Tour mode, which has been both improved and expanded to become the real meat of the game. Where as previously you could only play Band World Tour mode locally and only with two or more band members, the new Tour mode is considerably more democratic. Playing alone at home? No problem. Tour mode now supports single player rocking out for all instruments. Better yet, you can go online and recruit a friend or three, or just open up your session to random interweb personages.
Once you’ve put the band back together, you’re ready to rock arenas around the world just like before, unlocking new venues and shows as you go. There are also Challenges to complete, which are sets of songs to play compiled by theme and difficulty, as well as the new Battle of the Bands mode. Battle of the Bands pits players from around the world against each other with an ever-changing list of sets, each one running for just a few days. One might require you have a drummer in your band, or everyone play on expert, and can be scored by stars, points, or note streaks. Your score goes on the leaderboard when you’re done and you can see how you stack up. For a game that was already incredibly addictive, it’s just one more way to suck you in for the dreaded “just one more song, then I have to go.”
Some other little niceties have been added, such as the ability for avatars to play all instruments rather than being married to just one, and the ability to customize your band logo to post online with your scores, but functionally this is still Rock Band with all the kick ass rock and roll rhythm game action we’ve come to expect in just a short time. There’s an argument to be made that this is more of a glorified expansion pack than a true sequel, and there’s no doubt the improvements are more evolutionary than revolutionary, but with all that’s offered here, and oh by the way an incredibly put together 84 master track song list, it’s hard for anyone to say no. If you’ve already got Rock Band all those songs can be loaded onto your hard drive to play in RB2, and all the DLC is compatible. It’s enough to make you want to rock and roll all night, and party every day…or something like that. Whether Guitar Hero World Tour brings the ruckus remains to be seen, but for now Rock Band is still the king.