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AC/DC Live: Rock Band

Schoolboy error.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Amazingly, there are bigger problems with reviewing this than the fact that all the AC/DC-related gags have been worn thin by pieces on other rhythm-action games. That's just what happens when about half your song output is about hailing the wonder that is ROCK. (The other half being about hailing the wonder that is sexual congress).

The problem is that the whole thing is somewhat slight - and the question is how much does that matter? It's a standalone version of Rock Band which is being sold for about 25 quid, but only contains the eighteen tracks of AC/DC's Live at Donington album. It's effectively a Track Pack - in fact, it's being marketed as such in the US. You're able to import all the music into your Rock Band library with an included code. In fact, if you do own the game, you probably want to do that immediately, as the software is openly crippled compared to even basic Rock Band 1.

There's no ability to access the Rock Band shop or play any of your other downloadable content - which, perhaps, is understandable in that they didn't want to the game to be a cheap solus pack for those who are only into DLC. What's less understandable is the lack of a character editor, meaning you're stuck playing with whatever random, amusingly-clad cretins the game chooses to generate.

Which is a problem with AC/DC. If you're specifically buying into the fantasy of being AC/DC, you want to be the exact amusingly-clad cretins that are AC/DC. Or, at least, have the option to be them. If I'm not wearing a schoolboy's outfit, the guitar solos - no matter how enormous - are somewhat lacking. Same goes for the stage shows. Being a punk-metal Midlands kid in the early 90s, I listened to tales of wonder from older kids who'd seen AC/DC live, with podiums and fireworks and bloody cannons. Cannons! AC/DC are a band with cannons in their songs! While a dedicated cannon-based peripheral is probably too much to ask, you'd want something to embellish the dream of school-trousered Rock-Godism in game. But no. It's just stripped down Rock Band with AC/DC songs.

These people do not understand the true nature of ROCK. They've all washed today and everything. Bloody kids.

And I really do mean stripped down. As well as the previously mentioned absences, there's no online play and no real tour mode. Rather than zipping around the world to different destinations, it's basically slowly ascending the set-list, one song at a time, whether you're playing solo or as a group - so if you get stuck, you're stuck. One good point is that there's no real need to bother. Outside of the game modes, all the eighteen are available in Quickplay.

But just to marry that with a bad one, it appears this was built on Rock Band rather than Rock Band 2, so problems that had been consumed by the great beast of history come climbing bloodily out of its maw, like being unable to continue playing a previously started tour game without at least a couple of members. Perhaps most weirdly, for a game that promises to let you play a whole set, there's no locatable option to just play all eighteen songs in order. Or, in fact, any multiple-song set at all.

The tour mode being in the set-list creates another problem too. While I'm sure it rocked Donington, AC/DC weren't exactly thinking about little things like difficulty curves when they were planning it out. That means that you have these random spikes when a tricky song makes its appearance. I suspect "Thunderstruck" will be a relatively brutal opener for a newcomer, for example. The hardest song, "Let There Be Rock" - the only one that tripped me up playing through first time on my usual weakling Hard - comes a couple of tracks before the end. The closing "Highway to Hell" and "For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)" are a welcome relief after the seemingly endless "Let There Be Rock". Or, "Let There Be Hand Cramp", as I prefer to think of it.