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Comic for: November 22nd, 2007
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Rockband: "Getting Into Rockband"
Posted: Thursday November 22nd, 2007 by

My copy of Rockband arrived yesterday and I tore into the box with much vigor. What seemed like 3 hours later I was still tearing into the box but the vigor was all gone. As a guy who took a course in package design on the way to getting his BFA, I feel comfortable telling you that, in my opinion, the person or persons responsible for designing how the various items were packed into the Rockband box should be fired. Or worse... they should be made to go to people's houses and unpack Rockband for them.

So, after wrestling with the various boxes, ridiculous amounts of tape, twist ties, and instruction leaflets (each taped into their own little baggies), I was finally able to lay eyes on the much anticipated, at least in this house, Fender Stratocaster controller. Initial impression, good. That impression waned. Where I like the new larger size guitar, the plastic of the guitar's neck just feels cheap. And where I adore the new, easier-to-grab, non-clicking strum bar, the clicking fret buttons drive me insane. Now, I don't mind the buttons being flush with the fretboard. That's pretty cool in my opinion. But, I can't help feeling that I would like to have a bit more of an indicator nub on the yellow button so that I can work my hands back into position. I also love the look of the body, but there are problems here as well. In its top most position the effects pickup switch hits my pinky while I'm strumming and really gets in the way when I'm trying to use the whammy bar. Finally, I think I've been babied by GH3's Les Paul. It's wireless. Rockband's Fender is not. And where the mic cable seems to be a mile long, the cord for the guitar feels entirely too short.

On to the drum kit. This unit is nifty, but a few changes would have made it AWESOME. For my money, a cup to hold the drumsticks would have made a huge impact on my "putting it away" impression. I also would really have liked to seen some forward thinking on the item where the drum kit served as the usb hub. I love the "floating" pad design of the drum heads. But, when I sat at the drums, I really wanted them to surround me some more. If I could just move the pedal (which seems a little too tight) forward a bit, I could accomplish that feeling. Please note: I am NOT a drummer. So folks with real kits are probably mocking me as they read this.

As far as the game itself goes, the UI navigation is NOT great. As a matter of fact it's pretty much shamed by the ease-of-use of GH3's UI. The songs are nice, but seem to have been over simplified at least while playing the guitar. I had to turn off easy because I was nodding off. And Medium didn't catch my attention over much. I'm thinking I might have to move to Hard just to see some challenge in the game play. Before you say "Well, Woody it's because you're too good at the other guitar games" I assure you this is not the case. I am mediocre at best. I have a bad case of fumble fingers. I just don't process the notes fast enough. Anyway, I don't mind that the scrolling on-screen fretboard has been "cleaned up", but someone needs to be smacked for making hammer-on/pull-off notes a touch smaller rather than finding a more intuitive way of indicating that you can ho/po the note. And bleaching out the color of Starpower Overdrive building notes, meh. That and sustained notes could have been handled better as well. These issues aren't as apparent in the Drummer mode. Maybe that's part of the point, to unify the bars visually as much as possible. **shrugs** I just don't know. I haven't played the game with a full band yet. I really DO like how they show your progress toward 5 starring songs though. That's a cool new addition.

I have not, for the sake of the ears of Taks and Ash, tried the singing portion of the game... yet. So I can not comment on that aspect of the gameplay.

Ultimately I think I'm going to get over being too picky and really enjoy the game. At the moment I'm convinced that I built Rockband up in my mind so much that it's virtually impossible for it to have met my expectations. Once that fades I should really be able to get into the meat of the game and gameplay itself. Who knows, Harmonix may offer downloadable options to change the look and feel of the UI and some of the gameplay/graphical elements. But, I honestly don't think there's any hope for the game's packaging. And, until someone posts a fret button mod to quite them down, I'll probably be playing the game with my Les Paul.

I'd give the game, so far a 8 on a 10 point scale. Some minor corrections to graphics and hardware would make it a 9.5 easy.

And just in case any Harmonix folks happen to read this writeup, let me end with a bit of begging:
PLEASE change the blurred crowds in the lead-in to the songs. My eyes try to bring them into focus and it gives me a colossal headache.

Today's Pimpage: Ted is wearing a "Hitchhiker" shirt from Threadless.Com

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