Rock Band

It's a hard rock life.

I don't listen to a lot of rock music any more, my audio diet consists of 95 per cent hip-hop and a little bit of Girls Aloud. They only time I hear guitars is when MOP has sampled them and are bawling out really offensive lyrics over the top. But you know, if DJ Shadow can sample Metallica, I can sample a little bit of metal.

So there I am, drumming along to Weezer's Say It Ain't So. I mean, I liked Beverley Hills when DJ Muggs mashed it up with the Big Tymers but it's not like I'm sitting here wearing a cardigan, horned-rimmed glasses and one leg shorter than the other. But I am actually 'rocking out', as the youngsters would have it. I'll be worshipping Satan instead of strippers next.

Rock Band is, of course, exactly what you've been waiting for since Guitar Hero turned out to be - as every reviewer has stated since they got their hands on the plastic Gibson - AWESOME. It's also exactly what you were expecting. There's no surprises here, but who needs them when you've got Fender guitars, a microphone that doubles as a tambourine and a neat '80s-style electro drumkit? I don't even know the American chap who's singing to the right of me, or the the other fella's on guitar, but through the shared musical language of rock, we are like brothers in arms. I can't actually see the attraction of playing this online when we're all crowded into a sweaty rehearsal room to play together. It's like we've been jamming for hours, passing the jingo and cracking open another groupie. Games like this have made it acceptable for men to sing to each other, and that's something worth applauding.

For those about to rock

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At this early hands-on stage we're using prototype peripherals. I imagine holding a prototype machine gun would be quite exciting, but a prototype guitar isn't very thrilling, especially when one of the buttons falls off. But even on a unfinished Fender, the ease of use and beauty of the game is clear. As well as five fret buttons, there're another five at the base of the board for noodling guitar solos, which makes instant sense as soon as you see it. The guitar can also be tilted to activate Star Power - used to bring someone back into play if they fudge their instrument and get booted from the track.

The microphone might be the least glamorous instrument on offer, but if you're the frontman you'll probably be more concerned about your stage presence than anything else. The mic promises to pick up individual vowels and consonants because it's that sensitive, but with a bunch of pudgy games journalists pounding, hooting and pawing at the game, it's difficult to determine whether this really is the case.

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The drum kit is a personal favourite, being as it's the shit. Four coloured pads, one kick drum pedal, wooden sticks and instant thrills. I know it's a beautiful illusion of actually playing the drums because I'm tone death, I have the kind of timing where I walk on my wife with another man and I'm left handed. Yet I still felt like John Bonham. Confident players can stick it on the higher settings and know they're actually, really, honestly drumming along to the songs, but I'm happy with the illusion that I'm playing.

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