When I got an Xbox 360 last year, it was for one reason: Guitar Hero III—yes, I could have played it on my Wii, but that would have taken downloadable content out of the equation. It was a good decision, as it turned out. The last rhythm game I’d played and enjoyed, honestly, was Harmonix’s excellent Frequency on the PlayStation 2, and despite all of the hype and the positive reviews, the Guitar Hero series, to that point, had passed me by.
Now, I’m a “Raining Blood” away from five-starring every expert song in Guitar Hero III, I’ve played through expert careers on Guitar Hero III, Guitar Hero II, Rock Band, Guitar Hero: On Tour and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, I’ve talked smack in the online iterations of these games, and I’ve even created a Rock Band avatar with a mullet and a tattoo featuring the name of this illustrious website across his chest. Does that make me an addict? I think it might.
Electronic Arts’ Rock Band 2
Dispute the comparative quality of the various games in the series all you want, but there’s no denying the almost unexplainable pull that pounding out virtuosic solos on plastic guitars (and drums, not to mention microphones for those who can hold a tune) seems to have on people. As such, there’s nothing that sticks out in this actually-pretty-decent release week quite like Rock Band 2 does.
Despite the above-and-beyond innovation of last year’s Rock Band, and also despite the apparent philosophy of “anything you can do I can do better” that the upcoming Guitar Hero: World Tour seems to be exhibiting toward its Harmonix-developed rival, the approach of Rock Band 2 seems to be that of refinement rather than overhaul. Harmonix has developed a dedicated fanbase of Rock Band players, as evidenced by a bustling forum and the ever-important gauge of general internet favor, and Rock Band 2 was developed with that community of devoted players in mind. An 80+ song setlist, the ability to import all but three of the original Rock Band‘s tracks, compatibility with the first Rock Band‘s DLC, and the ability to play band vs. band matches with any mix of local and online teammates and adversaries are only a few of the many tweaks and touch-ups that Rock Band has received on this go ‘round. Sunday can’t get here fast enough.
Electronic Arts’ NHL 09
Elsewhere, 2K and EA are releasing their competing hockey games this week, and if you love sports games, any kinds of sports games, you should be picking one and buying it. In a social sense, there is very, very little that competes with video game hockey in terms of the amount of control you have over the outcome and the level of competition that comes out in the people who are taking part. Viva Piñata shows up on a Nintendo system with Pocket Paradise, which is sort of confusing in a good way, and Nintendo’s also offering up a portable mystery in the form of Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir, a potential sleeper hit in waiting. Oh! And there’s a PC exclusive: the video game tie-in for Righteous Kill. It’s never too early to get your virtual De Niro or Pacino on.
How about you? Will you be putting down Spore long enough to play anything this week? The full release list, and a trailer for Rock Band 2, is after the jump!