Reviewing "Rock Band" for the Wii after getting a peak at the upcoming "Rock Band 2" at the E3 Media & Business Summit is a bit unfair.
It’s sort of like taking a swig of Diet Coke after downing a regular Coke. Hey, you still get a jolt from the caffeine but the experience pales in comparison to the "real thing."
However, "Rock Band" is here now and we who love the Wii won’t have any other choice for a while. So here goes.
The Wii edition follows the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions by seven months — an eternity for those who’ve been watching their friends banging on "next-gen" drums since November.
The T-rated game — created by Harmonix for MTV Games and published by Electronic Arts — comes with a guitar, drum kit and mic. The guitar is wireless but the drums and mic plug into a USB adapter, which then attaches to the Wii’s USB port. If you decide you want to add a bass player to your group, you’ll have to buy another "Rock Band" guitar because "Guitar Hero" axes won’t work.
Despite hardware differences, game play is basically the same for guitarists in "GH" and "RB." Notes stream down the screen and you press fret buttons and the strum bar to match the rhythm.
The buttons and strum bar are a bit stiffer than those on "GH." This drove my son Tim nuts, but his brother Kyle preferred it. More gamers must agree with Tim because Harmonix reps said the buttons will be "mooshier" in "Rock Band 2."
Singers will also find the game familiar. Lyrics flow across the screen on a musical scale. Matching the pitch and length of the lyrics is all your really need to do — so don’t worry if you can’t remember the words to Flyleaf’s "I’m So Sick." Believe me, it’s a very forgiving system on the easier settings.
Of course it’s the drum kit that makes "Rock Band" one of the coolest games on the market. It’s the element that truly delivers that "band" vibe. If you have a decent drummer in your group, you can feel the energy build as you work together. Of course, if you have someone who lacks any sense of rhythm, the results can be a bit disjointed — but still fun.
In the multiplayer career mode, you play through 10 levels that slowly escalate in difficulty. Players can drop out, drop in or change their difficulty settings and instruments between songs.
The game also offers a single-player mode for each of the instruments and competitive multi-player modes.
I thought the 63-title song list was terrific — with master tracks ranging from Bon Jovi to the Killers. However, my sons noticed a pronounced switch to rock classics — aka "old stuff" — in the second half of the game. The Wii does offer five tracks that aren’t offered in other versions, including "Roxanne" by the Police and "Dirty Little Secret" by the All-American Rejects.
Those who’ve played the game on Xbox 360 or PS3 will notice some pronounced differences.
As could be expected, the graphics are less impressive — but few players really pay any attention to that animated band in the background.
There’s no character customization. You just jump in and start playing.
There’s no way to download additional songs — a huge gap that Harmonix is filling by offering additional discs. The first 20-song "Track Pack" contains a good variety of material.
However, you can be sure that none of these differences detracts from the fun of pounding thunderously on those drums.
Platform: WiiOn the Web: www.rockband.com