Sunday, February 17, 2008

Enter: Rock Band

There's a weekly nerd meeting that Mrs. Addicted and I attend. At these meetings we indulge in all manner of nerdery, mostly video gaming, some movies, TV shows and the like. Ever since Rock Band was finally delivered to the place where our host had it pre-ordered, it's been the game of choice for our group. It had all the difficulty of Guitar Hero, but with an actual chance to interact with your fellow gamers. Okay, it really just lets more than two people play at once, and you're really playing near more than with, but let's not split hairs, here.

Before Rock Band launched, I may have (even in an earlier post) said that I was skeptical as to whether any game with a $200 price tag would sell.

I was wrong.

In fact, it was Rock Band that made me realize that I wasn't really having fun playing the last few sets in Expert mode on Guitar Hero.

It helps if you have a nerd coven that can split the cost of a video game eight ways, I might not've had a chance to play it otherwise, and I'm sure that the rest of the group is forever grateful for the opportunity to hear me attempt to sing not only Iron Maiden's love ballad Run To The Hills, but even to sing Rush's country/western classic Tom Sawyer.

I'd describe it in detail, but in an effort to retain my flagging readership, I'll just say I have a theatre voice. I performed on stage in musical theatre for several years a while ago, and if you think (like I did) that a theatre voice and actual training would translate well to Rock Band, you are sorely mistaken. In our meetings they give me a guitar and leave me on it for several very good reasons, two of which are mentioned above.

Rock Band is one of the first games that actually can help you learn a transferrable skill. Guitar Hero requires more than a little suspension of disbelief when it comes to helping what Mrs. Addict would call basement-dwelling CHUD to believe they're rock stars. Rock Band has a drum kit that is many times over more sadistic than it looks at first glance. Medium difficulty is the litmus test for weeding out the truly dedicated to the "instrument", and if you can manage some of the stuff that I've seen on Hard and Expert difficulties, then I'd recommend getting a kit for real, because you're not that far off, in my opinion.

On top of it all, it's fun. It's very cool to have four of your friends thrashing away on different instruments and to see the four different sections of the screen all going at once. It's fun to be able to trade instruments and see the same song completely differently.

My favourite mechanic has got to be the one thing that would make Expert difficulty on Guitar Hero do-able and a lot less of a chore. Star power builds up for each instrument the same as in GH, but if one of you fails out on your instrument, the entire song doesn't stop. Someone with enough star power can activate it and bring that player back into the song, and in that way it keeps one person with a brutal solo from being able to bring down the band. You can actually fail twice in a song and be saved by other band members, which is a very useful thing, keeping the entire band from having to do GHIII-esque work to get past certain areas.

In all, wanting to learn the drum part alone has tempted Mrs. Addicted and I to pick up a 360 should room present itself for one in our budget in the coming months. I'll keep you posted on that, but don't count on a post for it until closer to the end of the year.

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