Hi, before I begin with the review, let me introduce myself. I'm currently a student in the UK, going into his second year of studying Literature and Writing. This summer I thought I'd keep my hand in writing by talking about the games I was playing. This is the first review I wrote, and as I'm hoping to perhaps enter the industry as some kind of writer in the future, I thought I'd put some of my stuff out there to build up a portfolio of work. As such I'd be very grateful for any advise and constructive criticism you guys can offer. I'm hoping to continue to post my work on these forums, which includes both reviews and articles.
Green Day Rock Band
A treat for fans of Green Day and the rhythm game genre as a whole, but there's very little here which couldn't have been done with downloadable songs, or a track pack.
I'm quite weary of band-centric games. Not only does it scream 'cash-cow' but also because it's essentially your token rhythm game with a much more limited scope. Let's get to the point: if you like Green Day, and you enjoy music rhythm games, then you'll probably like this. Outside these niches the game really doesn't supply enough of anything else to persuade others to join the plastic rock party.
Harmonix's first attempt at a band-centric music game - Beatles Rock Band - was something that stood out. It took a band with a huge following, and a huge catalogue and made up for the lack of variety by going balls-out on the presentation. Beatles Rock Band was an excellent interactive tribute to the fantastic four.
Green Day Rock Band is something slightly underwhelming in comparison. It's obvious that the same care and attention hasn't been given to Green Day as was given to The Beatles, and if this is because Harmonix believes Green Day aren't as worthy of their own game as The Beatles were, then it's hard to see this as anything but a cash-in.
The menus and loading screens are inspired by the bands artistic direction - graffiti, grime, radio static and falling bombs - but when it comes to the actual performances, there's nothing but the standard motion-capture of Billie, Tre' and Mike doing their thing on stage, which seems like a missed opportunity given the narrative of some of their albums. There are only three venues on offer - The Warehouse, Milton Keynes and The Fox Theatre - Oakland. Out of these three, Milton Keynes - venue for their Bullet In a Bible DVD - offers the best spectacle, with pyrotechnics and crowd interaction bringing the songs to life more so than the other two venues.
The game gives you the entirety of Dookie, American Idiot, and the rest of 21st Centruy Breakdown that wasn't already released to the Rock Band platform via downloadable content. It's a nice mix of music, with their earlier, more energetic and frenetic material offering a good variety against the slower, more melodic tracks of 21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot. In addition to the full albums, there are some of the more popular tracks from Insomniac, Nimrod and Warning, basically ensuring that all but perhaps a few of your favourite Green Day tracks are on the disc.
The point of band-centric rhythm games (apart from the obligatory money spinning) has been to provide fans with a digital library of media that they can plonk along to a fake set of drums, or tap along to on an over-sized guitar toy thing. Likewise, Green Day Rock Band offers you a variety of pictures and performance videos, as well as back stage footage, in addition to the band's music. It's something to tickle the interest of the hardcore Green Day fan, but doesn't do much to embellish the game experience.
When it comes to actually playing along to Green Day's library, the gameplay id all there and accounted for. It's the standard rhythm game affair: notes come tumbling down the highway and you have to strum the guitar or hit the drum pad in time to the notes hitting the bar at the foot of the track. The gameplay is immediately recognizable to anyone who has played any Rock Band or Guitar Hero game and it works as well here as it's ever done, with such added features as vocal harmonies, a countdown into the track after you pause and no-fail mode being availalble immediately before you begin playing. Something you'll presumably be wondering is just how much fun you'll have playing along to the songs, and to be honest it's probably directly proportionate to how much you enjoy Green Day as a band.
The guitar has little in the way of variety, with the easier songs requiring no more than plucking a few notes, and the hardest tracks being all about quick strumming and fast chord-changes, but you don't go to Amsterdam for the food, and you sure as hell don't listen to Green Day for sexy guitar licks. Likewise the bass parts are mostly simple, though the harder tracks have a nice bit of movement in them to keep you at least mildly entertained should you be beaten to the guitar part by your friends.
The vocals too are dependent on how well and how much you enjoy the songs, but are especially fun should you decide to do like Billie-Joe and attempt them at the same time as the guitar. For someone who ranks American Idiot among his favourite albums (possibly due to nostalgia more than anything else...) singing into the microphone while playing on guitar was a lot of fun because the lyrics were already there in my head.
But if you're a difficulty-whore and have so far been unimpressed by what I've described as mostly easy gameplay, then you'll be pleased to hear that the drums are a good challenge. Tre's parts aren't overly technical, but the beats contain enough movement to keep them fresh, and the fills are fast, passionate and often very difficult. None of it is likely to fail a veteran player, but plenty of the drum charts will present just enough of a challenge for you to enjoy.
So Green Day Rock Band is a functional game that does quite well for itself if you're a fan of the band. The tracks will make a good addition to your wider Rock Band library should you opt to pay a little extra to export them to your hard-drive, and they'll no doubt entertain when you play with friends. The problem is that this really doesn't feel like a cohesive experience. The songs are there, yes, but not doing anything more ambitious with them - especially seeing as two of the featured albums are 'rock operas' - is really missing an opportunity, and makes the entire game just feel like a glorified track pack, rather than a full, stand-alone experience.
Visuals: 3/5 - Good art direction in the menus, but not doing more with the poignant artistic direction of the band is a big letdown.
Sound: 5/5 - For fans of the band this will be the best soundtrack possible and Green Day's library has a nice amount of contrast.
Gameplay: 3/5 - The rhythm game formula is here and well, but the charts often don't present enough variety to make it fun for too long, with only the drums being worthy of mention.
Overall: 72/100 - Green Day's music, while not perfectly suited to the rhythm game genre, is nicely varied over the course of their albums. Yet with only three venues and no greater artistic interpretation of their music, this package really doesn't offer enough value for money to anyone other than hardcore Green Day fans, or avid followers of the Rock Band platform.