As I walked into the “Rock Band 2″ demo room, the first thing that came to mind was “ROCKIN’!” Harmonix had flashing lights (that changed colors) on the sides of the rooms. The walls were covered with rock star silhouettes and covering the back wall was the entire set list of “Rock Band 1 & 2″ songs.
“Rock Band” was the first game to introduce the band experience to gamers all over the world. “Rock Band 2″ is about perfecting that experience. Right off the bat, the presenter jumped into Quickplay mode to show the changes that have been made to streamline the process of setting up a session.
The Quickplay menu was modeled after the “Rock Band” store, which means you can scroll through your list of songs with much ease. The search filter has also been expanded, giving players have more options to select their songs. The greatest addition to the Quickplay mode is the ability to create a set list. No longer does your band have to go back to the track selection menu after finishing every song to select another one.
One feature that fans have been clamoring for ever since “Rock Band” first came on the scene is now going to happen in “Rock Band 2″. Band World Tour mode is online. That’s right, you can create a band with your buddies from Boston, New York, or anywhere else in the world and rock out online as a band. You can also start a Solo World Tour experience if your friends aren’t around or available.
A new mode that Harmonix considers the flagship feature of “Rock Band 2″ is “Battle of the Bands.” Essentially, it’s a worldwide competition between groups. These competitions will be updated on a daily basis and allow players to compare scores between their friends and the best of the best — all in real-time. Downloadable content will also be added to Battle of the Bands to keep things fresh. A neat touch is that if your score is ever beaten, you will receive a notification indicating so.
The wireless guitar and drum set have also been improved upon. With the obvious enhancements of fine-tuning the strum bar and adding velocity-sensitivity to the softer, quieter drum pads, the guitar now contains an automatic calibration feature and metal reinforcements have been added to the foot pedal, along with expansion slots for cymbals (sold separately).
Serious drummers can also upgrade to a premium Ion drum set that costs $299. Before you moan and groan about the price, know that not only do you have the option of playing the yellow, green and blue pads as cymbals but the kit converts into a real electronic drum set.
From my brief time with “Rock Band 2″, it looks like the fledgling series will still be able to provide the definitive band experience. It is scheduled to be released first for the Xbox 360 this September. The PS3 and Wii version will follow towards the end of the year.