The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Harmonix’s follow-up to The Beatles: Rock Band is another
single-band title, this time featuring the long-running Bay Area pop
punks Green Day. The choice makes sense. Green Day has a
cross-generational appeal and has maintained a high level of popularity
for going on 20 years now. It’s great from a marketing perspective – a
younger skewing, yet still classic-rock friendly band that has enough
well-known material to fill a disc. Harmonix worked hard to deliver a
full Green Day experience – the sheer amount of unlockable video
footage, old photos, and Green Day memorabilia is amazing; it’s a new
standard for single-artist music games.
That said, I’m not sure
I’m on board. For me, this is the least compelling Rock Band game to
date. While I enjoy Green Day, there’s a difference between a good song
and a good Rock Band song. A great many amazing tunes just aren’t that
fun to play. Green Day’s stock in trade is power chords, delivered in
clipped, repetitive eighth and sixteenth notes. Billie Joe might be a
great frontman, but he’s no master guitarist. The bass and drum tracks
are more interesting than guitar, but playing this many Green Day songs
in a row gets boring. To be honest, I felt some of the same things
about The Beatles: Rock Band, but the breadth, depth, and quality of
the Beatles’ songwriting gave me fascinating musical touches to notice
and focus on. Here, the repetitiveness of the material is a slog. This
is especially true of the first tier of songs, which are pulled
entirely from the classic Dookie, a fondly remembered but
musically one-dimensional album. You’ll notice the band members using
the same strumming phrasing or rhythmic tricks over and over again – or
stealing them outright, like when “Warning” lifts the riff from
“Picture Book” by the Kinks.
The game hits its peak in the second
tier of songs, performed at the Milton Keynes arena. Here you’ll play
some well-chosen tracks off the band’s middle period albums as well as
the entirety of the blockbuster American Idiot. The tunes are more diverse, especially some of the epic song-suites off of American Idiot
like “Jesus of Suburbia,” which is the best song in the game, throwing
new parts and melodies at you on a minute-to-minute basis. The final
tier consists of the less satisfying 20th Century Breakdown
album, which adds a new layer of pomp and (thankfully) more complex
studio-musician lead playing. As a quick aside, I’m still boggled by
the decision to include the a capella “Song of the Century” on the
tracklist – couldn’t this spot have gone to a more worthy full-band
If, like me, you’ve cooled on the music genre in recent
months, I don’t think Green Day is the band to reignite your love
affair with Rock Band. In the future, maybe Harmonix could attempt a
single band title based around a more complex – and more fun to play –
band like Muse or Rush. This title has all the craft that Harmonix
usually puts into its games, I just wish there were more songs I wanted
to play more than once.
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.