s more and more video game content is distributed through online portals rather than traditional retail outlets, we may be forced to view disc-based products as software platforms rather than games. Such is the case with Rock Band 2 — it's hard to look at a collection of menu tweaks and minor play upgrades as entertainment, though any fan of the franchise is bound to deem this a necessary purchase. Rock Band 2 successfully builds upon last year's smash hit, adding a number of improvements and more than eighty new tracks. While still not perfect, Harmonix delivers the best cooperative music experience we've seen so far.
Rock Band 2 certainly feels a lot like its predecessor...Rock Band 2 certainly feels a lot like its predecessor — choose your track, pick your bandmates and rock out to you heart's content. Subtle changes make this iteration a huge improvement over the original, but when viewing the fundamentals, little has changed. While focus has been diverted away from the soloist this time around, one player can have just as much fun in the band-centric career mode as four. As one trots the globe, they unlock a plethora of venues and tracks which vastly expound upon the original Rock Band's content.
Character creation has been vastly simplified since the original Rock Band. Gone are the days where one needed to create a separate character for each instrument they wished to play — in Rock Band 2, a single character can sing, play guitar, play drums and make smoothies. This is a huge improvement over the original, in which one would need to create at least three alter egos if they wished to fill any opening in their band's roster.
Star Power!!!Rock Band 2's library of songs is just as eclectic as its predecessor's. Bob Dylan stands alongside Sonic Youth and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in one of the most genre-crushing playlists ever assembled. While some may argue that there are still a few too many metal tracks, this title far exceeds any Guitar Hero release in that regard. Overall, this is one of the most varied set lists yet put forth in a rhythm/music game.
If any area disappointed slightly, it was Rock Band 2's hardware. I had issues out of the box with the original game's guitar peripheral, and this newest release was no different — my strum bar was permanently locked in the down position, a fault which required me to contact EA for warranty assistance. Yes, it's reassuring that customer service is so quick to act in the event of a hardware failure, but it does point out a few definite quality control issues. Red Octane never disappointed in this regard, and that manufacturer's defection into Activision's camp is most certainly hurting the house which Harmonix is trying to build.
Hardware woes aside, I still feel that this is the cooperative music game that fans should be putting their faith in. What Guitar Hero World Tour promises, the original Rock Band has already delivered. Five hundred songs are guaranteed by Christmas, and every song released thus far is compatible with Rock Band 2. By marketing their product more as a platform than a game, the folks at Harmonix have proven their support for their fans and the future of the industry. Overall, Rock Band 2 is the title of choice for the discerning music fan.