When The Beatles: Rock Band was released last year, it was kind of a no-brainer to release a band centric music rhythm game based on the Fab Four. After all, except for a few people who bashed them on the gaming websites related to the Rock Band release, the band pretty much has a universal appeal, and even a mediocre Beatles fan like me bought it the first day it was available. I personally love it, even much more so when I play it with (and get by with a little help from) my friends.
So how to follow that, even when financially speaking, The Beatles: Rock Band kind of flopped? Well, Harmonix, the company who initially created Guitar Hero then transferred over to work with Electronic Arts to formulate the Rock Band franchise, set out to find a band that has some sort of appeal to a wide mass audience. The Guitar Hero franchise has had their band centric games-Aerosmith,Metallica, Van Halen-all bands that a wide variety of music listeners enjoy. When all was said and done, Harmonix found their centric band in the punk/pop rockers of Green Day.
Now, when I first heard this news, I was ecstatic-I am a fan of Green Day. No, no, no, let me rephrase-I: expletive: ing love Green Day. They are my favorite band, and to hear that they would have their own game in the vein of The Beatles: Rock Band had me pumped, and I followed every news story, piece of leaked footage, and photo piece available when they all showcased themselves.
It would be no surprise if I stated that I picked up the game day one as soon as Target opened. After giving it some ample play time
(enough to write a review listing all the positives and negatives), I can tell you honestly that if you are fan of the band, great! Go get it. If you’re not, and you hate Green Day, then this isn’t for you. But for a person who might be in between, I can recommend it, and it might just interest you in the music that Vocalist/Guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, Bassist Mike Dirnt, and Drummer Tre Cool provide to the masses.
Green Day: Rock Band plays like any other Rock Band game; the colored notes come down the note highway, and you must hold the correlating colored button and the strum bar on your peripheral at the same time to hit the note (this is specifically for guitar/bass). Drums have the same idea; just hit the drum pad of the correct color (or bass pedal) as the notes come down. Signing is extremely uncomplicated-just try to hit the notes.
Green Day: Rock Band has its trio perform in three venues. For the Dookie (circa 1994) era, Billie, Mike and Tre perform in an abandoned, broken down (fictional) warehouse, very similar to the
type of place the band would play in their early days. Then going into the American Idiot time frame, the boys play at Milton Keynes in England, the same arena where their Bullet in a Bible Live Concert was filmed. Finally, for the 21st Century Breakdown era, the band performs at the Fox Theatre in Oakland, California .
All these eras that I mentioned above have each track from each album that I spoke of, meaning all the songs from initial release). You may have to pay for 6 additional tracks for 21st Century Breakdown to complete that album due to the fact that they were originally Rock Band 2 downloadable content, but if you have the 6 tracks already, they will quietly import themselves into Green Day: Rock Band. Dookie, American Idiot, and 21st Century Breakdown can be played (first time whole albums can be played in a Rock Band.)
There are also some songs chosen from the band’s albums of smaller popularity, these being (the albums released between Dookie and American Idiot, respectively) Insomniac, Nimrod, and Warning.
Playing each song and getting a certain number of songs unlocks extra band goodies, mostly photographs of the band. As I’ve come to see, getting 3 stars on a song will earn you one unlockable, while hitting five will get you another.
Graphically speaking, Green Day: Rock Band isn’t amazing. While I own it for the Wii, I did play the XBOX 360 demo, which is shiny and easy on the eyes, but nothing groundbreaking. However, I will admit that the textures on the Wii look pretty solid for being a system with limited graphical power; I almost feel that the rawness of the graphics adds to the band’s punkness, if that makes any sense.
The avatars of the band look good-their mannerisms, facial expressions, and movement all echo those of the real band. While I wish Billie Joe would move around a little bit more like his real life counterpart (the dude is insane live), what is provided here works. I especially cracked a smile when Billie Joe, performing the solo acoustic opening for “F.O.D.” from Dookie, has a crazy Tre Cool performing zany body movements behind Billie, something that the real life Tre Cool (I feel) would do.
One glaring omission in the graphics department, however, should have been seen right at bug testing; the lack of guitar straps for the band. As Billie Joe struts on stage for any given song, his guitar just floats in midair. Same for Mike Dirnt. Tre Cool, however, is a drummer, so clearly, that’s not a problem. This is not a major gripe, however, it just looks kind of silly.
While I do applaud the creators bringing in all the tracks from Dookie and American Idiot (the albums that birthed and re-birthed Green Day to the mainstream, respectively), the love was unfortunately not shown for the in between albums; Insomniac, Nimrod and Warning feature songs that extend beyond the radio single status. Some additional singles should’ve been included (“Stuck with Me,” “Walking Contradiction,” “Waiting,” “Macy’s Day Parade”) while some lesser known tracks (“No Pride,” “Castaway,” “Stuart and the Avenue,” “J.A.R.,” Maria) should’ve been given the time to shine. Also, some songs on the disc could’ve been cut (I really don’t think ALL of 21st Century Breakdown should be included, as much as I enjoy the album) and some don’t make sense (Good Riddance (Time of your Life)? It’s only a guitar part. I love the song, but it doesn’t fit the Rock Band schematic at all. Truth be told though, I guess it wouldn’t be a Green Day game without it, but still…)
Another problem that I have with the game corresponds with my above complaint; Green Day: Rock Band apparently offers no DLC (downloadable content) past the point of purchase, so if you want more Green Day, you are unfortunately out of luck. The Beatles: Rock Band, offered this option-why not Green Day?
Also, the venue lack is disappointing. I would’ve liked to have seen something different between the warehouse and Milton Keynes. It would’ve given the game a little bit more oomph and variety. Oh well, can’t change it now.
Now, these are all pros and cons of the game coming from a hardcore Green Day fan, someone who listens to the band on more than a routine basis. What advice I can offer the general consumer as far as positives of the game is that, well, it’s entertaining. While the music game genre is slowly dying, Green Day: Rock Band (if you have an open mind about it) has a summarized history of a band that emerged in the ‘90s and stuck it out to become one of the biggest bands of the 2000’s, which, quite frankly, not many artists have the liberty of declaring. What’s remarkable about Green Day is that, even though I’ve heard many a citizen bash them, they still have a HUGE fan base, one that I have witnessed in action at a very recent Madison Square Garden concert. This is a band that’s been around since the late ‘80s, which is no small feat.
Also, if you have the right audience of friends, who just want go pre political Green Day and play Dookie, and whatever tracks from the albums released before American Idiot, you can do that too. It may not be worth spending 50 to 60 dollars over, but then again, buying the whole disc is cheaper than downloading each song in your respective downloadable content store.
Shamefully, Harmonix asks that you fork over 10 bucks if you want to export songs from Green Day: Rock Band into your regular Rock Band 1 and 2 library (for XBOX 360 and PS3), adding on top of that 12 dollars if you don’t have the 6 tracks from 21st Century Breakdown. Plus, there is a Green Day: Rock Band Plus version (not what I purchased, since I already had the six tracks, and it’s not available for Wii anyway) that is 10 dollars more than the regular release. It’s a lot of money to spend, and a lot to think about.
For me, though, as a fan, it’s a treat. I never have spent more time with a game of this variety than with Green Day: Rock Band. I started playing it evening of purchase and rolling through the songs as if I didn’t have to go to bed at a decent hour because I had work the next day. With a mic near my lips and my Guitar Hero guitar peripheral (yes, they work with this game), I was singing every note and playing every “string” as if I were Billie Joe Armstrong. I cannot wait to try out the drumming of the Amazing Tre Cool, and feel that the bass section might even be interesting due to Mr. Dirnt’s interesting bass lines.
With that in mind, you have to be cautious with this purchase. Band centric games are very difficult to wage a choice on, and I should know; I have Guitar Hero Van Halen but I never play it. Guitar Hero Aerosmith was traded in a long time ago. The Beatles: Rock Band sits proudly atop my Wii game collection due to my ridiculous alphabetizing of games, and just a few slots below it, a game based on my favorite band is getting its due. For a guy who just wants a good game, its one thing, but for a sincere fan, it works well, because I am “Having a Blast.” Ultimately, whether you like Green Day or hate them, you already know if you are going to be buying this game or not.
Me? I’m just having the “Time of my Life.**”
* “Having a Blast” is a song off the album Dookie. That was my attempt at a pun.
** Pun again. “Time of my Life.” is a song off the album Nimrod