Video Game Review: Rock Band 2

By Glenn 

If you're like me, you can appreciate the creativity and enjoyment video games provide but also be leery of their murderous tendencies. I've seen too many friends killed after a marathon session of Madden 2008 or Wii Homocide. That's why I was so excited recently when my roommate brought Rock Band 2 into my life. Finally a game that's fun, intellectually challenging and isn't too embarrassing to be listed on an online dating profile. Here is my review.

Seeing the cover immediately sets the stage for what kind of game this will be, even though the computer simulated band looks unappealing - more like Mudvayne than Animal Collective or Weezer. Unlike Guitar Hero which is a game best suited for the bastard children of Tom Morello, Slash and Bob Dylan, Rock Band is a game for the whole family. As long as your family doesn't grow beyond four, which coincidentally is how big my family was growing up. There's a spot for guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals. That's the same set-up many classic bands had, the Who and 'N Sync. On Guitar Hero you aren't allowed to play songs if they weren't written by Phil Spector.

Just because a song exists doesn't mean the greedy label or band that owns it will allow you to play it on RB. Some songs don't translate well to Rock Band form and other songs are too pure for it. No matter how many angry letters I've written to Harmonix Music Systems, they still haven't released a Rock Band version of "Oh Yeah" by Yello.

The mix that does exist is an odd assortment of grunge, metal, hip hop, death metal, post-death metal, progressive death metal, indie rock and "world music." I've played PDA by Interpol and Drain You by Nirvana at least 400 times in the past month, partially because they're songs I love and partially because they're immediately available once you start playing the game. Once you play tour mode (or more likely, use the cheat code to unlock all songs), you'll also have "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads and "Tangled Up in Blue" by Bob Dylan to work with. "Teenage Riot," besides being my personal theme, is also a fantastic song to play on RB. I can now complete it on Hard but if you put it on expert I will scream and run to my bedroom - just like I did as a teenager.

The difficulties range from Easy to Expert. Easy on guitar quickly gets as boring as a PBS newscast, but if you put "Alive" by Pearl Jam beyond Medium, you are going to get very frustrated and probably fail at the song. I use the term fail literally, not as an internet catchphrase. On the drums, I've had a lot of problems even on Medium. Being paralyzed from the waist down doesn't help, but I've had to come to terms with the fact I don't have as good of rhythm as I used to think. But that's what's so great about Rock Band. Until you play it you might think you have exactly what it takes to be a real musician. You assume because you can play air bass to every single Candlebox song and the acoustics in your padded cell make your voice sound as beautiful as Dylan's that you are a musical god. Once you actually try to play "Far Behind" or sing "Desolation Row" on Rock Band (currently unavailable), however, you realize that you don't have any musical talent and should just stick to AM radio while driving.

Rock Band 2 is the most fun I've had on a video game since Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball for the SNES. That game was great because I figured out a strategy to win every game. Additionally since there was no license from the player's union, all of the people had fake names so I printed out the entire 1994 MLB roster and renamed every player based on their yearly statistics. I can talk more about this later, but only go into the Ken Griffey back story to accurately illustrate how fun Rock Band 2 is. You literally play instruments along with the songs that you hear through your television's speakers. The only drawback is the limited catalog, but you can always buy more songs to play with your significant other or friends. I bought Ten by Pearl Jam so I could sing sons like "Black" and "Jeremy" while playing impossible guitar solos on "Even Flow" and "Alive." I also used the Playstation machine to legally obtain three Nirvana songs for $5.49. The proof is below.

Thanks for reading, and please email me if you would like me to play Rock Band 2 at your next wedding, bar mitzvah or Friday prayer service. I'll play guitar or drums to anything, but I only sing songs I know. And no Decemberists.


  1. "Rock Band is a game for the whole family. As long as your family doesn't grow beyond four, which coincidentally is how big my family was growing up. There's a spot for guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals."

    what position did sue fill?? i honestly can't think of a single thing i'd like to see more in the entire world than sue doing vocals to "tangled up in blue," with the possible exception of bob dylan doing vocals to "tangled up in blue" circa 1975.

  2. I'll take over video game reviews from here on out.

  3. Gary, get Facebook for the love of god!

  4. Come on, Maddie. Gary did vocals. Sue obviously played drums.

  5. This was really great. When I get stressed from here out I am just going to picture Glenn playing Rockband 2 (in my imagination it will be in a very similar fashion to the way Glenn dances).

  6. If you play your cards right, we might actually be able to do Even Flow together.

  7. I have Rock Band 2, everybody come on over!