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.