These problems can be overcome, though. Less forgivable is the inability to switch your band leader to a different instrument. Others can just make a new character and play something else if they fancy a change of pace, but if you started the band and you're the singer, the singer you must remain. We understand that switching around isn't very rock n' roll, but we're playing a videogame, not posting demos to EMI and cursing NME for saying our gig was rubbish (and your gigs won't be rubbish - the grainy visuals, multiple camera angles and crowd singing along when you're nailing everything is a delight). Not being able to continue Band World Tour online is also disappointing - there are multiplayer modes for face-offs with single instruments, and a quick-play band mode, but progress can't be shared unless you're all in the same room.
More promising for Rock Band's long-term prospects is the music store, which acts as a shop-front for MTV's growing catalogue of downloadable songs. Maybe it's just us, but the quality ratio seems a bit low at the moment, despite the enormous volume (including two full albums - one from Judas Priest and one by The Cars), although the 54 licensed songs on the PAL disc and another 13 indie songs should last you a good while without too much repetition, and with downloadables offered at 160 Microsoft Points per track (GBP 1.36 / EUR 1.92 in real money) the asking price isn't too high.
Sadly though, that isn't something we were ever likely to say about the game overall. Even if you shop around, you're still unlikely to get any change from GBP 140, which is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a videogame and some plastic instruments, especially when the guitar is a poor substitute for the one you bought last year.
Assuming you can get by with the Xbox Live headset for vocals (although where's the fun in that?) and some Guitar Hero axes and just buy the drums and game, you're still going to pay upwards of 100 quid. People often ask us if we think price should be a factor in game reviews, and our answer's simple: it's worth mentioning if it's extraordinary. Rock Band is extraordinarily expensive.
As we put it when we reviewed the PS3 version on import last Christmas, it's the most ambitious music game ever, and in some ways that's more trouble than it's worth. Guitar Hero's success with a large, bespoke peripheral defied convention, but it didn't shatter it; getting people to buy a drum-set, new guitar, microphone and separate 40-quid game in the sort of numbers MTV and Harmonix want to be counting up to is still a task on the same scale as getting The Stone Roses back together. Or getting The Rolling Stones to go away. Asking us to spend all that money for a game that isn't that brilliant unless you've got two or more people in the same room is another thing entirely.
We do recommend Rock Band - it's outrageous, hilarious and memorable, and the best four-players-on-one-screen multiplayer game since GoldenEye - but you shouldn't buy it until you've thought long and hard about what else you could spend the money on. If you're talking about spending 100 quid on Xbox 360 games, there are plenty of three- or four-game combinations that represent stunning value by comparison, and as long as Rock Band's priced the way it is now, that's the yardstick by which it has to be measured. If after all that you're still ready to rock, we salute you.
8 / 10