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The first three are basically huge umbrella companies with hundreds of smaller labels under each, covering so many major acts that to list them all here would probably fill the rest of the website. Potential highlights include The Beatles, Smashing Pumpkins, Blur, Aerosmith, The Who, Guns N’ Roses, Weezer, AC/DC, Weezer and literally countless others that deserve to make it into the game. But with only a few tunes officially revealed, we’ll just have to dream about what could be for the time being. The latter two of the labels are interesting for different reasons. Hollywood mainly houses nasty teen pop, but the odd potential gem like Sparta makes their involvement fascinating. Rhino’s input, meanwhile, will likely be due to its affinity with older catalog titles and re-releases, which is promising for those of us who still maintain the view that the old ones are the best.
And for those of you that haven’t been happy with Guitar Hero’s cast of pre-designed shredmasters, how about we present to you the opportunity to create your own hard-rocking avatar? Rock Band promises a suitably rich character creation tool with which to design and modify your own rock persona. This, coupled with the ability to form bands with other players, will no doubt lead to uniformed troupes and ramshackle groups in more or less equal numbers. We all know that image is important in the cut-throat world of rock, so try and make sure you’re not playing as Phil Collins before you hit the road.
Obviously, the core mechanics of Rock Band will follow largely in the footsteps of the Guitar Hero franchise, but when you’re bringing players together and asking them to create tunes collectively, we’d hope that things would take a slightly new slant.
The new guitar peripheral will include “new features never before seen in a guitar controller.” The guitar will feature two sets of Fret buttons (one especially for solos) and a five-way effects switch just like the real guitar. Interestingly EA has splashed out on licensing Boss effects pedals, which could be slightly more than just a bit of visual flair to make you feel like a guitar hero - we came up with the idea of using a dance mat to simulate various guitar stomp boxes (for controlling effects like distortion, delay and reverb). So there’s every chance that could be Rock Band’s way of raising a middle finger to Activision and Neversoft, to whom the Guitar Hero series has now been entrusted.
But it’s this concept of on-the-fly effects that really sticks with us, potentially allowing for each virtual band to give their own take on a tune. How it would work with the game’s officially licensed tracks, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. We’re sure we’ll see for ourselves either way in the next couple of months.
Amid the saliva-drenched anticipation, there is but one slight concern buzzing around our collective heads, however, and it concerns Rock Band’s online features. With games like Virtua Fighter 5 and even previous Guitar Hero games where timing is so crucial to gameplay, developers have until now steered clear of online modes. The tiniest connection hiccup in either game could see you get punished or drop a great note streak respectively, so to hear that Rock Band is going to support four players online is shocking. Have the guys at Harmonix figured out some way to make the game work around the ever-present dangers of lag? Will this oh-so-promising mode even work at all when the game ships? The truth is that we’re just going to have to wait and see.