Tag: Harmonix

RockBand Bandmate Arrived!

I was pleased when the FedEx man dropped off an unexpected package yesterday.   After all, I may not remember everything I’ve bought, but I certainly like getting packages.

I looked at the return address: ZCorp. Which I know, from my wife’s employment at Harmonix, is the company who prints the Bandmates, which I’d ordered more than 4 weeks ago.

I had already seen some of them in person, because they sent samples of tons of them to Harmonix, which Christine brought home. (There’s two samples in my cube at work, if anyone wants to see one in person, before buying.)

I am happy to report that the quality on the “real” bandmate is much superior to the samples we’d had.   The real one is amazing.   I took some really close up, high resolution shots, which can be seen here.

If you’re skeptical to drop $70 to get one of these things, here’s my word of advice:

Get your character exactly how you want in the game, and wait 2 weeks for it to update to the website.   Then order one.   These are the coolest collectible items you’ll own in a long time. (Unless you steal the original R2D2 from Lucas, in which cause, kudos.)

Guitar Hero World Tour – First Impressions

I think it may be because I’ve been playing another, similar, instrument based rhythm game for the last year, but I really don’t like Guitar Hero World Tour, so much.

I may be biased, since right out of the box, the snare pad on my drumkit doesn’t work right. It’s one of those “only register every other note” broken ones.   I’m still waiting to hear back from RedOctane’s support as to when I’ll get a new one.

The guitar’s decent.   It’s a lot like the GH3 controller, in its clickiness, and button feel.   Nothing too impressive.   I do, however, like the “mash here for StarPower activation” button.   Though it hurts like hell if you mash it too hard.

I think it’s the game play that I didn’t like that much.   Given, I’ll still play through it once, to get whatever achievements I can get. But I won’t have the desire to go back and play it every night, like the other game.

The game play is, well, confusing.   Lots of random things popping up on the screen that don’t make sense. In Guitar Hero, when you get a streak, it’d pop up and tell you.   In GHWT, stuff pops up, but you’re not really sure what for.   Just random “Score streak”, and “note streak” stuff popping up.   It’s tough to tell.

It’s also extremely tough to tell when your vocalist is about to fail.   When an instrument player is failing, you flash red on your note streak.   (Which we’re all used to from virtually every rhythm game there is.)   The vocalist doesn’t do that.   There’s a “health meter” sort of thing off to the left, for each instrument, but it’s tiny, and you don’t have enough time to stray your eyes over there, to check on yourself.

The graphics are cartoony, just like the other GH games.   It’s not as polished, or clean, as the other game.   The menus take too long to load, and if you’re playing with a group of people, it “saves” everyone’s content separately, which takes longer to get things done after sets/songs.   With just my wife and I playing, it took an average of 17 seconds to save our content after each set.   The other game takes less than 2 seconds.

My biggest pet peeve is the thing I was the most excited about: The Tool setlist.   I think any Tool fan was psyched about this.   Why am I pissed?   Because you have to pay money to play the setlist.   Not real money, but the money you’ve earned in the game.     So, my wife and I spent two hours playing setlists to earn enough money to play the Tool songs.   They were fun, but not $8,000 fun.

Now, let’s move onto the actual gameplay.   I’ll admit it, I’m pretty decent at guitar, even at the Expert level, on the majority of rhythm based games.   With that said, and reading my post on Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, I can say that the games have gotten easier.   At least in my first run through of about 15 songs or so. (I’ll post again once I’ve finished the entire game.)   Guitar Hero II was pretty tough. Guitar Hero III was even harder.   Guitar Hero: Aerosmith was a joke.   And so far, Guitar Hero World Tour, is a joke, too.

Speaking of jokes, the game play is a lot more forgiving than the other game.   I purposely played notes for an entire verse of “Vicarious” close to a second early (before the note crossed the line where you’re supposed to play it), and didn’t miss a single one.   If I tried that BS in the other game, I’d have failed.

Check back in a few more days, once I’ve had a chance to go through the support process to get a new drumkit, and had the chance to finish the game on guitar, for my final thoughts.


You’ll notice, in my first impression review, that I did not mention the other game by name.   My disclaimer here is that, as you know, my wife works for a competitor.   Therefore, I didn’t mention the game that GHWT’s competitor makes by name. But I think you all know what I’m talking about.   Read any other review on the internet for an accurate comparison between the two.   (PS, I think this is a bogus situation, and would love to write about how one game is far inferior to the other, but I don’t want to get my wife in any trouble.)

Wii Fit Update, Again

I woke up early this morning, and made myself get out of bed when the alarm went off, with the sole intention of doing my half hour Wii Fit workout, which according to the Wii Fit software, hadn’t been done in 24 days.

It also informed me that we’ve had it for 39 days, meaning I have only my half hour workout roughly a dozen or so times, including the couple days I took off, when I was “serious” about losing weight.

Needless to say, I’m not bringing lunch to work anymore, and I’m eating just as much fast food as I was before I started dieting.   However, the half a dozen cans of Coke I would drink during the day, and with meals, I’m no longer drinking.   I’ve been drinking water at my desk at work, and Coke Zero at home (and also when we go out to lunch, if they have Coke Zero, which most places don’t.)

So, when it came time to do my “body test” this morning, I was scared that it’d be like “you’re fat, stop being so fat, stupid American. With your cupcakes and ho-hos. Fat. Fat. Fat.”

To my surprise, quite the opposite.   Since 24 days ago, I’ve lost 5.6 pounds, and rougly 1 on the body mass fat index portion.

I haven’t changed my diet in any way, really, aside from not drinking Coke a zillion times a week anymore.

I suppose I’ve been working out a bit, if you can call Rock Band and Rock Band 2 drumming on Expert for a few hours a week, a workout.

I think the reason I never really try hard to lose weight is because I don’t see any immediate effect, and that discourages me.   However, this nearly 6 pounds down, and having Wii Fit tell me I’ve only got 12.5 more pounds to lose, to make my “goal”, is encouraging.

I’m going to get up early every day during the week, and do a half an hour work out. And try to squeeze it in on the weekends for an hour, and see what happens.   I’m optimistic at this point.

Rock Band 2 Release Party M&Ms

I didn’t bring my camera to the party, in fear that someone would mistake me for one of the hired photographers, but I did take some pictures of the “goodies” from the party, that we brought home.

Harmonix had M&Ms printed with the four icons from the game, and we brought a bunch home, so I could take pictures, because they were so cool.   Check them out (click to enlarge):

Rock Band 2 Release Party

I’m pretty psyched for tonight.   My buddy Justin, Christine and I are heading to the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston for the Rock Band 2 release party, being held by Harmonix.

Not sure what the night has in store for us, aside from food, drinks and live band karaoke.   It should be a good time.

Hopefully there’s some people taking pictures, since I didn’t bring my camera to the office with me, and don’t have time to go home and get it.

Rock Band 2 – The Greatest Game Ever Made

So, as you may know, my wife recently got a job working at Harmonix, the company that makes Rock Band (and now, Rock Band 2.)   That meant something awesome for me, a free copy of Rock Band 2.     Jealous? You should be.

The problem, however, is that I couldn’t wait for her to get her free copy, and went out Friday afternoon, and bought the game, the new guitar, and the new drums.   Sadly, the bundle won’t be out for another month or so, so it ended up costing me about $40 more than the bundle would have.   I don’t mind, I’m not cheap.

Anyway, I let Christine know, and she was pretty psyched. Even having worked there for a few weeks now, she still hadn’t gotten to play the game, since they’re all so insanely busy with getting things ready for the launch, and the new website they’re working on.

So, Friday night, we get home, throw together a quick dinner, and shove it down our pieholes.   Well, I shove mine down my piehole, and Christine eats at her usual pace. So, while she’s eating, I began feverishly ripping through boxes, and putting things together.

From the very beginning, opening the new wireless drum kit, I knew it was going to be much better than the Rock Band 1 drumkit.   (To be fair, I’m pretty sure I got a bad drumkit for the first game, because the majority of the hits didn’t register.     Although, according to a lot of people, they had the same problem, so maybe it was just a bad drumkit, who knows.)

I unpacked the kit, and immediately thought “hey, this isn’t a toy!”, while the first drumkit I took it out of the box and thought “wow, a toy. Great.”   The new kit is much sturdier, the pads are a little bit bigger (I didn’t measure the new ones compared to the old ones, because I’d already put the old one in the closet before Christine got home from work.)   They give you “real” drumsticks this time, made by Ludwig, but they were still pretty cheap, and I got a splinter after half a song.   I switched back to my trusty Vic Firth sticks.

I think my favorite part about the new drum kit, is that you can pick the entire thing up, and it doesn’t fall apart, nor does the kick pedal flop off and drop to the ground, stretching the wire that connects it to the kit.   It all stays together nicely, and is sturdy.

Playing the new kit, it’s obvious that the folks at Harmonix listened to everyone complain about the old drums.   They’re sturdier, quieter, and more accurate.   Oh, and the drum trainer on the game is awesome.   I’m still amazed at how more accurately the drums are.   I stare at the screen while playing, and hit a whole bunch of notes in succession, and the game registers all of them. That’s something I could never do with the old game/drums.

Aesthetically, the new guitar is much nicer. It’s got a great sunburst finish on it, which looks more classy.   It put together the same way I remember putting the other guitar together, for Rock Band 1.   The difference is that this new guitar is wireless.

No clickity clack of the fret keys on this new guitar, and so far, the strum bar hasn’t given out like our last one did.

Other than that, it’s pretty much the same as the previous guitar.   The frets look nicer, in the woodgrain, they look more realistic, and the colors for the buttons are on the sides of the neck, similar to fret markers on a real guitar, which is cool.

Little known fact, but awesome fact: If you plug in the old drum pedal to the little port on the side of the new guitar, you can activate Overdrive by stomping on the pedal, like a stompbox!

The game is infinitely better than Rock Band 1.   I was most impressed, right off the bat (and so was Christine), that the downloadable content just worked.   There was no voodoo, or magic needed. They were just there, and just worked.   We eventually paid the 5 bucks for a license to move the RB1 content into RB2, as well, and that was extremely simple.   And, totally worth $5.00 worth of Microsoft points.

While the actual gameplay is very similar to the original Rock Band, it’s the small things that were improved, that I’m the most impressed with.

  • When picking a setlist, you can now see the previous songs you’d selected in the top left corner of the screen.
  • The difficulty of the song you’re considering playing is now shown onscreen, where the previous game only showed you difficulty when you drilled down into a song’s details, before downloading it (I believe.)
  • The graphics that show your name/Xbox username when you start playing for the day, are much cooler.
  • The challenges are new, and very cool.
  • The drum trainer is awesome for those that don’t know what they’re doing. And for those that do, it’s just downright fun.
  • The online tournaments (I think that’s what they’re called), are pretty cool.   You get to play a short set, with various “Required instruments” (for some of them), and then compare your score, or star rating, to other bands on Xbox live (and presumably the Playstation Network, too.)   You get to see your ranking, and it tells you how much better you need to do, to be in the Top 100.
  • You can play any instrument you want with the same character. You don’t have to create a new person if you want to sing one day, and play the drums the next.   Your band player is uber-talented, and can play anything you want.
  • There’s now staff you can hire throughout the game, based on how many stars you have acquired.
  • You can play benefits, film videos, and get reviewed by critics. (At one point, we got reviewed, and the reviewer said we relied too much on Overdrive. So the next time he came to review us, they challenged us to play the set without using Overdrive. We agreed, and they didn’t even give us the opportunity to use Overdrive, because there were no Overdrive notes. Brilliant!)
  • Each band member maintains their own money.   I don’t know how this gets figured out, and didn’t realize it, until Christine and I went to spend money in the rock store.

All the great stuff in the game vastly outweigh the negative, of which, unfortunately, there are a few.

  • The solo tour is gone.   While I don’t care about this, (I mean really, the game is about playing with friends) others online are a bit unhappy.
  • The songs – there’s some great songs in the game, but it starts off really slowly.   A lot of the beginning songs are either pretty lame, or really obscure.     The “fix” for that, is to import your Rock Band tracks first, so those “random” setlists, and created setlists will at least have some songs you know, and like playing.

I’m sure there’s more good points, and more bad points, but it’s early, it’s Monday, and we haven’t gone through the entire game yet.

I’m absolutely, 100% glad I didn’t wait for the Harmonix folks to give my wife her copy, and that I went out and bought it.   It’s totally worth it, and is absolutely a huge improvement, and ton of fun.   I can’t wait to play again.   I’m going to gather up some of the guys from work and organize a Rock Band 2 party.

My suggestions, to improve even more (which is my wish list, and shouldn’t be taken as any indication that Harmonix is, or will be working on any of this, in the near future):

  • A possible 5th band member, which would be a second guitar player.   I know there’s songs in the game that have two guitars in them, but if you’ve got two guitars plugged in, you can only have a guitar player and a bass player.   A “lead” and “rhythm” would be awesome, and is something that Harmonix did back in the days when they made that other game.
  • While we’re on it, a few tracks with two drummers would be friggen awesome.   Some Allman Brothers, Adam and The Ants, Pink Floyd, Yes, ..and you will know us by the trail of dead, or The Outlaws.   A dual drummer version of Green Grass and High Tides? I can see it now!
  • The game shows your high score for a track, but how about a historical score keeper, so you can see how much you’ve improved at a song over time?
  • While we’re on scores, it’d be awesome at the end of a track, if you beat your high score, that you got some sort of notification about it.   Just a quick “You F’n rocked a new high score!” would suffice.
  • More Dream Theater – while I don’t think anyone will ever beat Panic Attack on Expert on any instrument, so what. Dream Theater rules.

I think that’s it for suggestions.   I love the game, and guarantee you will too.   Go buy it, you’ll thank me later.   I know, I know, it’s expensive.   Stop being a cheapass, and spend the money.   Seriously. Go. Now.   Rock Band 2 rules, thank you, again, Harmonix.   You’ve made a lifetime customer out of me. I’ll pretty much buy anything you put out, ever.   Even when the Rock Band Hanson version comes out.   (That’s a joke, there is no Hanson version. That’s not inside information, stop thinking you got the scoop.)

The Endless Setlist Finished

So, we carved out 5 hours of our Labor Day weekend to play the Endless Setlist for Rock Band.

What’s the endless setlist, you ask?   58 songs in a row.   I guessed it would take us about 6 hours to complete.   Luckily, it only took 4 hours 45 minutes.   I thought I was going to die.

It rocked though, we 5 starred 55 of the 58 songs, which was an accomplishment. Christine 100%’d 25 songs, which was kickass.

I was pretty pissed though, at the end.   There’s an accomplishment for XBox260 that’s “Platnium Artist”, which you get when you finish the Endless Setlist on Expert, which I did.   I didn’t get the award.   Apparently, you only get the award of the person playing the lowest difficulty in your band.   Since Christine was playing on Medium, I only got the medium award, which angered me.

Since Christine now works at Harmonix (starting on Monday), she’s going to have fix it, and give me my damned award!   Or, I could go back and carve out another 5 hours of my time, and do it again.   Or could i?