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published Tuesday, Jul 20th

Green Day: Rock Band Review (Xbox 360)

There are plenty of band-specific Rock Band titles on the market, but until now, the only fully-fleshed game was the psychedelic sound of the 60’s with The Beatles. The latest addition to Harmonix’s franchise is Green Day centric, providing coverage from their rise to fame with Dookie to their cult following of 21st Century Breakdown.

Unlike other track-only band based games, Green Day: Rock Band is fully priced, with 47 songs from their last six albums. However, there are no bundled peripherals, just a disc and a code to add the tracks to the libraries of Rock Band, Rock Band 2, and eventually Rock Band 3.

The premise is pretty basic; as you would expect it is just Rock Band with a Green Day theme. Quick Play is exactly what it says on the tin; where all songs are unlocked and are available for any instrument at any difficulty. Career mode is split into three locations and dates that actually appeared on tour with the band: The Warehouse in 1994, Milton Keynes in 2005, and The Fox Theater Oakland 2009. Each can be played locally (multiplayer or not) with any arrangement of instruments, or online where the instrument selected is teamed with other players on Xbox Live. The atmosphere of these three specific gigs makes all the difference to the game.

The staging areas are the same for each set-list that are unlocked as you play, but the caricatures of the band members on stage may have different instruments and animated movements depending on the style of the song. For example, on the solo acoustic song Time of Your Life Billie Joe stands affront the stage with an acoustic guitar as there are no other parts; the feeling actually puts a smile on your face as you play the game.

There are only two ‘versions’ of the trio though, one colourful Dookie era outfits, and one of the deeply dark transformation of American Idiot. This awareness gives impressions to the player when watching the scrolling keys that are dropping down the screen, making strumming the guitar, singing down the microphone, or banging the drums a lot more engaging. It would have been nice to see some of the earlier performances, instead of just mixing the albums into each gig, if only because they contain the most memorable songs of the band in my youth, and also my absolute favourite songs in the career of the band.

As for actually playing the game, the same Rock Band application applies; from a No Fail mode brought in from Rock Band 2, through to Expert. Each difficulty increases the variety of coloured notes and the amount of them on screen at once. At the end of each track a score is given and an appropriate star rating is applied to your performance of the song. These are then equated to ‘Cred’ which unlock Awards. Challenges are also present and consist of completing a number of songs in a row or finishing set-lists with a certain amount of stars. Completing these will earn their own selected pieces of extra content including interviews and photos as part of the Awards feature.

Practice modes are included for guitar tutorials, practice for specific songs, and a drum trainer for a drum tutorial with freestyle play, and Tre’s Hits – where it will teach you Tre’s favourite drum beats at a selected speed.

Overall Green Day: Rock Band is a neat package. There is plenty on disc to keep hardcore fans entertained for hours, especially with the four different instruments to play through. With that in mind, there are over 180 different tracks, excluding difficulty changes. Do the maths and that is around 9 hours of content.

For those that don’t like the genre of music altogether, it is fair to say that there is nothing for you here. It isn’t flawed, but as with all Rock Band titles, if you don’t enjoy the music then you are not going to enjoy the music game. But, even for those who are not particularly crazy about Green Day, and might remember the songs from childhood, Rock Band keeps things fresh and interesting with the translated music on-screen, and creates a thoroughly enjoyable experience.


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published Tuesday, Jun 22nd

Green Day: Rock Band Review (PS3)

Last year the Rock Band franchise tried its hand at a band-specific game with The Beatles: Rock Band, and it’s safe to say it certainly delivered the goods. However, they also managed to set their bar a bit high by choosing one of the most influential groups of all time for their first attempt. While some may see Green Day as a big step down musically from the Liverpudlian rockers, have Harmonix managed to once again work with the band’s strengths to produce another hit game, or will it simply paste new songs and characters over the Rock Band previous template?


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published Thursday, Nov 20th

Guitar Hero: World Tour Review

Guitar Hero is a franchise where it’s nearly impossible to look at the game without comparing it to its younger, hipper cousin that it really wishes wasn’t part of the family: Rock Band. However this review will attempt to minimise any comparison made between the two action/music-rhythm games until a feature coming later this year will pick a winner for your valuable pennies this Christmas. And valuable indeed, with the full instrument pack weighing in at £150, Santa may need some FedEx assistance this year for gamers. The instrument pack features the game (EA: Take note), a USB microphone, wireless guitar and wireless drums, which you’ll really need to get the full Guitar Hero: World Tour experience.

The inclusion of drums in Guitar Hero is without doubt the biggest new feature of this year’s game and with improved quality promised over its competitors the results have been… Guitar Hero Drumsdisappointing. The look and feel of the drum kit is excellent: 2 raised cymbals and 3 large pads have helped fill the gap between fun and realism. However the foot pedal has nothing to attach itself to and can be easily moved into awkward positions during songs. But the biggest let down with drumming? Star Power, which is activated by hitting both cymbals simultaneously. While this may sound relatively straightforward, hitting both symbols in unison without missing the previous and following notes of a fast chart is unnecessarily challenging. In addition to this, our drum kit didn’t recognise several attempts of activating star power, not only keeping our score down for longer than expected, but also killing our combo multiplier, making it near-impossible to activate star power during extremely fast drumming portions – when we needed it most.

Playing guitar in GH:WT is truly where the game excels, thanks to its bigger, yet quieter guitar. Improvements to this year’s model include a touch-sensitive pad, a palm sized button for activating star power and the Xbox Guide/PS Home button being combined with the analogue stick to provide a cleaner, more realistic looking guitar. The touch sensitive pad is great for insane solos, however the frets are smaller and it’s easy to disorientate yourself as there’s no indent on the middle fret, forcing you to constantly look down to check your finger placement. Minor nag aside, this is the best Guitar Hero guitar ever manufactured as the strumming is quieter than ever, with a sense of strumming feedback still in place. The guitar note charts are easier to play than Guitar Hero 3, thankfully, although some sections are flat out impossible to play without the touch pad, meaning a purchase of at least the guitar edition is essential for guitar enthusiasts. Not all note charts are entirely accurate either, almost as if Neversoft are attempting to make songs more difficult than they are on real guitar.

So far, not bad: The drumming experience can be frustrating but is made up for with an excellent guitar build. Singing in Guitar Hero was hardly going to be a deal breaker for the majority of fans, but an important factor nonetheless. Unfortunately, vocals are a disappointment thanks to inaccurate pitch charting and a lack of feedback to the singer on how well he/she is performing. But still, when singing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”, will you really be that bothered?

In order to maximise the fun out of Guitar Hero, you’ll want to play the full experience with a singer, a drummer and a lead and bass guitarist. Simply put, this is the greatest Guitar Hero multiplayer experience if you have similarly skilled players in your band. Sadly, there are two minor niggles that completely destroy the party element of the game, especially for plastic peripheral noobies. The first problem is a pretty serious flaw: If someone fails their part of the song on any instrument, the whole band goes down with them; there’s absolutely no way to save a failed band member. Secondly, it’s next to impossible to tell if a band member is performing poorly as the only way to tell is by looking at said persons section of the screen, something incredibly difficult to pull off on higher difficulty levels. Better hope your band members have high communication.

It must be said that there are several positives with the game’s presentation and design, such as the ability to create setlists to play in solo or band quickplay modes, making for a better flowing experience. Also, character creation in GH:WT is surprisingly detailed, with customised possibilities for almost everything from instruments and band logos down to individual tattoo’s for created rockers.

Another new feature in Guitar Hero: World Tour is the Music Studio, which lets players create their own tracks using a controller or compatible guitar or drum kit. While the concept is fantastic, the majority of gamers will be put off by either the complexity, poor audio (read: MIDI) quality of the programme or the complete lack of vocals support. Fortunately there are some gems out there on GHTunes (The free in-game service to upload and download songs made in Music Studio) but with a 3 minute/1200 note limit on songs, don’t be expecting the next Arctic Monkeys to be producing songs on Guitar Hero.

Speaking of music, the game comes with the most on-disk songs ever shipped for a Guitar Hero game, 86 to be precise, and features the most diverse range of artists ever seen on a music video game. Michael Jackson, Metallica, Coldplay, Muse, Sting, Willie Nelson and Lenny Kravitz are some of the artists you should expect to play in the game. At the end of the day the soundtrack won’t please everyone, and there are a fair few duffers to play on each instrument, but the promise of continuous DLC should help gamers tailor their soundtrack to their needs over time.

Overall, one word to sum up Guitar Hero: World Tour would be disappointment. An impressive setlist and decent instruments prevent this game from bombing due to its linear career mode, multiplayer disappointments and lackluster song creation options. This should have been an awesome party game that anyone can pick up and play, but simple design flaws have prevented newcomers to be left frustrated and denied the one thing this game should be all about: Fun.