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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tons of details emerge about Rock Band 2

In the past few days lots of confirmed (and some not quite confirmed but it's looking good) info has come out about Rock Band 2, Harmonix and MTV Games' follow-up to last year's smash hit music game Rock Band.

According to a press release by Harmonix, Rock Band 2 is going to be completely backward compatible with the peripherals and downloaded songs from Rock Band. Which is good news for people like those of us in the Knight household who have been purchasing dozens of new tracks through Xbox Live Marketplace (speaking of which, Lisa and I have gotten pretty good at Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville").

And speaking of instruments, Ars Technica has word that Rock Band 2 is going to boast much improved hardware, like a wireless drum set (with metal-reinforced pedal) and a far better guitar - also wireless - than the one that came packaged with Rock Band. I've been using the controller from Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock since my birthday: hopefully the strum bar on the Rock Band 2 guitar has been made sturdier than the original. I'm hearing mixed word about whether the microphone will be wireless but most likely it'll still connect via USB cable (so don't go too wild, unless you want to tear apart your entertainment center :-) There's also going to be a Drum Trainer mode that is being touted as something that can teach a person how to play the real thing.

The most-requested feature since Rock Band came out has been a World Tour mode that lets you play with friends in remote locations. Folks, Harmonix listened and Harmonix responded: Rock Band 2 will feature Online World Tour that lets you form a band with friends no matter how far away (so long as they're on Earth 'course) and challenge other groups to a virtual battle of the bands.

Here's a cool feature: player-created characters will now be able to play on more than just one kind of instrument. And... word is that you will be able to both play an instrument and sing at the same time! Time to get a mike stand (provided Harmonix doesn't pack one in the Rock Band 2 box, which it wouldn't surprise me if they did). There will also be pre-packaged characters, for those who want to jump in the game right out of the box... although as much fun as we have with our on-screen avatars in The Knight Shift (yeah that's the name of our band) I'm betting the desire to stay with the pre-configs will be fleeting. There will also be a lot more clothing, accessories, hairstyles and tattoos that you can deck your 'toon out with. Stuff.tv is also reporting that you'll be able to print up posters and other goodies of your band characters through the Rock Band website.

And then there are the songs. In addition to all the downloadable tracks from Rock Band (and I'm hearing that future tracks will be compatible with both Rock Band and Rock Band 2, not to mention the rumor going around that Harmonix is going to offer the entire tracklist from the original Rock Band disc as a free download) there will be more than 80 tracks - all master recordings - on the Rock Band 2 disc. The ones confirmed so far include "Give It Away" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Pump It Up" by Elvis Costello (a performer that a lot of Rock Band players have wanted to be represented), "Anyway You Want It" by Journey, and a bunch others. And Harmonix is saying that plenty more tracks will be on the way via download.

Can't wait to get this! Rock Band is the most-played game at our place, and every time we have guests visiting the guitars and drums inevitably get brought out for a jam session, sometimes lasting for hours! I think that Harmonix is definitely evolving the Rock Band brand in the right direction: not so much as a "franchise" but more of a platform on which to keep building and getting better. Hopefully by the time we have kids old enough, Rock Band 7 will be out :-)