Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rock Band 2's lockbox

One of the problems with going away for a week is that you may return to find somebody has already said what you wanted to say about Rock Band 2. That Variety post isn't all of what I wanted to say about the game, but it's an important point that's been bugging me since I started playing Rock Band 2: Why do I have to unlock the songs I really want to play?

I should say first that I'm not sure whether Tour mode is any different, better, or worse than it was in the first game. I've only played multiplayer quickplay in the original. But Tour mode in the sequel strikes me as curious. Progression in Guitar Hero games was always logical, if a little boring. Complete a group of easy songs, then move on to a group of slightly harder songs, and repeat until finished. Here, the conceit is that you are actually in a touring rock band, and you have to travel around the country earning fans and money. As a result, it's actually quite difficult to know what you've already unlocked, and what there is to unlock next.

The menus are tough to navigate in tour mode. Each city has three venues, and each venue has multi-song setlists in addition to single-song selections. New venues and new setlists are marked as such only temporarily. I am continually finding things I haven't completed only by taking the time to scrounge around. This could have been organized better. I know the flat list of quickplay mode is unexciting, but, damn it, it works.

Beyond that, the structure of Tour mode means that you have to play some songs multiple times before you earn enough stars to unlock new stuff. I'm having to play songs I don't like repeatedly in order to earn enough stars to unlock some more songs I do like. I suppose the "mystery setlists" are just random, but it's almost as though the game knows I don't want to hear "Conventional Lover" again as long as I live, and has a sadistic streak.

The thing is, in practice I don't really mind having to play everything one time in order to unlock other stuff. I don't think it's necessary in a game of this type, but I'm willing to go with it when it's as simple as it is in the Guitar Hero games. But in Rock Band 2, there are levels of needless complexity I just don't care to master. I seem to be earning virtual fans with each successful show, but so what? I just want to play some music.

Far be it from me to impute selfish motives to the people who made an otherwise fantastic game, but here's what I think happened: Harmonix put the time and effort into making this robust, detailed Tour mode with its endless features and leaderboard options. Whether or not they discovered in testing that many players didn't care about this mode, they didn't want to see their efforts go to waste, so they decided to force everyone to grapple with Tour mode anyway -- even though most people who play the game want to dive right into the rocking, accoutrements be damned.

Which is not to say that Tour mode is a total bust for the solo player. There is some sense in making more of a "game" for the single-player mode. Nor am I yet to the point of using a code to unlock everything on the disc. For the multiplayer, though, it's just nonsensical to hide the game's best songs from the users. That's not the kind of game Rock Band is.


Mark said...

Rock Band 2's real sin in this regard is that it "hides" the old easy->medium->hard->why-are-you-making-me-do-this in your band's Challenges menu instead of including it in some form in the main Tour.

Each tier of challenges has two six song marathons - completing the first one unlocks the second, completing the second unlocks the first of the six song marathons in the next tier. And IIRC, you can save from the Pause menu during a challenge, although I've never tried it.

It's good that they included it, but it would have been nice to have been notified of it - in one of those loading screens they do, maybe.

Gus said...

I'd argue that the Challenges mode recreates the old tier system almost exactly. And if you really just want to rock go to the game modifier screen and input Red, Yellow, Blue, Red, Red, Blue, Blue, Red, Yellow, Blue. Then use Quickplay and get your rocking done. I actually like the new system, because I never got a chance to play the world tour in the last game and was stuck playing the same boring tier system.

Iroquois Pliskin said...

I don't have an issue with the world-tour system itself (it's fun to play when you have a regular band and you just feel like playing whatever it throws at you) so much as the idea of tethering it to unlocking the songs. it turns what is a possibly enjoyable challenge into drudgery, and the repeats always feel like wasted effort.

The deeper problem here is the idea of locking all the content, which is insane. I am opposed to almost any move that tries to turn Rock Band into a game instead of a medium to enjoy music. Although it's easily circumvented the idea of locking content reeks of gameyness and its to the detriment. You don't have to unlock dlc, why should I have to unlock a new disc of music?

ImpureAscetic said...

After Guitar Hero I, II, and III, I actually AM to the point where I just want to play some music. It was to my great chagrin that the unlock code I found on MTV's multiplayer blog didn't actually do any unlocking. I found the next best thing, which has already been referenced: the challenge mode. It's not JUST the challenge, though. Play through the decades on each difficulty level. 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, and 00's (not sure what the game calls the last one.)

Each set list has, I think five max, and when you're done you'll have unlocked every single song in the game without a cheat code.

And then you can hurry up and play some frickin' Dylan already!